A six-month manatee project is underway at TIDE to better understand the distribution and movement of Antillean manatees in Southern Belize.
Masters student, Transi Gonzalez Medina, from ECOSUR, is carrying out research on the behaviour, abundance and distribution of manatees in the Port Hondurus Marine Reserve (PHMR). Belize is known to have a larger population of manatees than other Central American countries, so it is essential to also assess possible threats and recommend future management strategies to increase the survivorship of manatees throughout Belize.
Transi and the marine and terrestrial teams at TIDE collect the data using boat patrols within selected sites of PHMR and they have currently sighted 39 manatees. By collecting spatial distribution and identifying the areas most used by manatees, the results could help to clarify current threats to manatees in PHMR, such as boat traffic and other human activities by outlining potential risk zones.
Research is also recording the age classes and the relative abundance of manatees. As manatees have a low reproduction rate producing only one calf every 3 to 5 years, studies to assess their abundance are essential to helping increase their numbers in the future.
Transi hopes the next step will be to identify the individuals using photo-identification techniques and create a visual database of all manatees in the area.
TIDE will keep you updated on the project's progress throughout the next 5 months.