In the last two years, it has become more and more frequent to receive reports of dead manatees in different regions of Colombia.
Recently a dead manatee was found on the beaches of the Cirilo village in the municipality of Turbo, on the coast of the Gulf of Urabá, 340 km north of Medellín. A second one was found in Ciénaga de Paredes in the municipality of Puerto Wilches in northeastern Colombia and in total, at least 17 deaths have been reported in Magdalena Medio.
These facts remind us of the unfortunate case of Julieta, the Caribbean manatee killed by fishermen in 2021 in the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, an unprecedented case that was repudiated by SOS Animals Colombia. It was a reprehensible act that occurred just five days after having been released after a long rescue process and rehabilitation by the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Magdalena – Corpamag. Read more here.
Caribbean manatee and the Amazonian manatee are at risk due to incidental fishing, pollution, drought due to the hoarding of water by monoculture and livestock companies, the loss and fragmentation of their habitats, indiscriminate hunting for the consumption of their meat and entanglement with trammel nets or fishing gear.
The birth rate of these mammals is very low because their gestation period is approximately 12 months and a female has an average of one calf every five years. Although it has few natural predators, the manatee is being brutally preyed upon by human beings due to the inaction of the judicial and environmental authorities.
Through Resolution 574 of 1969, the permanent ban on manatee hunting was established, however, this has not been complied with, making it a vulnerable species at the global level and with a very high risk of extinction in the state of wildlife at the local level. According to Resolution 1912 of 2017 of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia
Manatees, the largest aquatic herbivores on the planet, are fascinating and indispensable creatures, so much so that they are considered umbrella species because they are indicators of healthy ecosystems, that is, if they are healthy, many other species of plants and animals also benefit. They feed on a variety of plants, submerged, floating and emerging, they can eat up to 40 kg of plants per day and return about 40% as pure nutrients to the water, as if that were not enough, they also contribute to maintaining the depth of bodies of water moving the sediments with its tail.
They are sentient beings that tend to be shy and disperse easily or swim quickly in dangerous situations, there is no valid excuse that justifies systematically killing them to the point of almost extermination, for this reason, we highlight the valuable work for the protection of the species that Organizations such as the Omacha Foundation and the Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center carry out rescue, rehabilitation, release, scientific research, awareness processes, environmental education and work with communities in a committed manner.
From SOS Animals Colombia we invite the community, in general, to join and actively support these actions for the conservation of the manatee and we celebrate important initiatives such as the publication of the National Action Plan for the conservation of aquatic mammals in Colombia 2022 – 2035, an alternative tool to guarantee not only the conservation of valuable species like this but also of the ecosystems in which they inhabit.
Similarly, we continue to urge the Government to carry out more exhaustive work together with the environmental authorities in the application of conservation strategies and constant monitoring of protected areas.