| Material Information
||Sirenews newsletter of the IUCNSSC Sirenia Specialist Group
||v. : ; 29 cm.
||International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources -- Sirenia Specialist Group
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources -- Sirenia Specialist Group
||IUCN/SSC Sirenia Specialist Group
||Place of Publication:
||two no. a year[apr. 1984-]
||Sirenia -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Marine mammals -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
||periodical ( marcgt )
||Includes bibliographical references.
||Additional Physical Form:
||Also issued via the World Wide Web.
||Dates or Sequential Designation:
||No. 1 (Apr. 1984)-
||Supported 1984-Apr. 1992 by the Species Survival Commission of IUCN, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission; Oct. 1992 by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission & U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Apr. 1993-Oct. 1994 by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission; <Oct. 1995>- by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission and Sea World, Inc.
||Title from caption.
||Latest issue consulted: No. 48 (Oct. 2007).
| Record Information
||University of Florida
||University of Florida
||All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
||oclc - 35841617
lccn - 2009208704
issn - 1017-3439
NUMBER 30 OCTOBER 1998
IN THIS ISSUE: FIRST CAPTIVE BIRTH OF AN AMAZONIAN MANATEE (p. 7)
MANATEES IN CALIFORNIA (p. 8)
DUGONGS AND DIVERS CLASH IN VANUATU (p. 13)
EDITORIAL: DUGONGS AND DEBT
Among the many preparations for the calendrical rollover to the new millennium is a
growing campaign to cancel the crushing international debt of many developing nations. This
"Jubilee" movement draws its name and inspiration from the ancient Biblical injunction to
liberate slaves and cancel debts at the end of a 50-year period (Leviticus 25:10ff.). The modern
version seeks to liberate, by the year 2000, the many impoverished nations that are presently
enslaved by debt to first-world lending institutions.
In many cases, these loans were ill-conceived to begin with, and produced little in the way of
useful "development" (or actually did environmental harm); much of the money loaned was
stolen by corrupt officials in the recipient countries; and the lenders have already recovered more
than the principal of the loans. Yet the interest rates ensure that the loans remain "unpaid", and
servicing of the debt continues to absorb the lion's share of the recipient governments' revenues.
Though the benefits mostly go to the wealthy and powerful, the burden of repayment inevitably
falls most heavily upon the
poorest members of these societies, because debt repayment siphons off funds that are
desperately needed for health, education, and other services.
What does any of this have to do with conservation of sirenians? Plenty. When nations are not
even able to educate their own people or give them basic medical care, serious expenditures for
protecting endangered species are not to be expected. For example, Mario de Mello Dias calls
attention in this issue to the inadequate protection of dugongs in Mozambique. According to the
U.S. Jubilee 2000 Campaign, Mozambique has a gross national product of only US$80 per
person, but a debt stock of $323 per person. Is it likely that dugongs will be on that government's
agenda as long as that burden of debt remains?
The same is true in many of the developing nations which comprise most of the range of sirenians
today. The Jubilee 2000 Campaign notes that in Nicaragua, debt payments absorb more than half
the total government revenues; in Honduras, debt service obligations are double the combined
budgets for health and education; in Africa, four times more is spent on interest than on health
care. Examples could be multiplied.
It is time to acknowledge that the prevailing system of international finance, tied to a philosophy
of neoliberal economics and "free trade" (i.e., free of legal restraint), is designed to systematically
transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. (According to the Jubilee 2000 Campaign's figures, the
International Monetary Fund alone has transferred more than US$3 billion OUT of Africa since
the mid-1980s.) This modern form of mercantilism cannot work to the advantage of most of the
human race, let alone that of endangered species. It is a recipe for global economic, political, and
environmental disaster in the next century (or even sooner, if the current world economic crisis is
any indication). Reform of this system is urgently needed. A good way to start is with a
resolution of the debt crisis that involves justice as well as responsibility on the part of both
lenders and borrowers.
The Jubilee 2000 Campaign provides an apt rallying point. For more information, contact: Jubilee
2000/USA, 222 East Capitol St. NE, Washington, DC 20003-1036; phone: 1-202-783-3566, e-
mail: , website: . DPD
HELENE MARSH WINS PEW FELLOWSHIP
Sirenia Specialist Group Chairperson Helene Marsh is one often recipients of the 1998
Fellowships in Marine Conservation awarded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. An initiative of the
Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts in partnership with the New England Aquarium, The
Pew Fellows Program annually awards ten $150,000 fellowships which contribute to advancing
solutions in fisheries conservation, marine pollution, coastal management, and marine ecosystem
conservation. In this International Year of the Ocean, the former Pew Fellows Program in
Conservation has been renamed the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation to reflect its
new focus on the world's oceans.
The fellowships are highly competitive awards first given in 1990 and based on the
applied conservation merit of the proposal, the applicant's professional achievement, and the
potential impact of the project.
Dr. Marsh has been a Professor at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, since
1988, working on marine wildlife ecology, coastal management, and indigenous resource
management. Her Pew Fellowship project brings together government and indigenous
community stakeholders to address sustainable co-management of endangered dugongs in
Australia. Activities include development of new methods to estimate endangered populations,
integration of traditional knowledge and practices with western science for sound management
plans, and creation of culturally appropriate educational materials. The result will be a sustainable
co-management plan that can serve as a model for negotiating marine protection in similar
situations throughout the region.
I always look forward to reading Sirenews to keep myself posted on all the Sirenia
developments around the world. But I am afraid that No. 29 (April 1998) was not a bringer of
I am extremely sad and (why not say it) outraged with the Local News article written by
Paul Dutton from South Africa, regarding the East African dugongs. It is unacceptable that the
authorities in Mozambique are just sitting, doing nothing about the continuous plundering of the
population of dugongs in the Bazaruto Archipelago! May I also say the current legislation of that
country regarding the killing of dugongs is, to say the least, infantile.
In Brazil, some 30 to 50 years ago, the manatee (Trichechus manatus) was under a great
threat of extinction. Thanks to effective environmental education work carried out by the
Manatee Project, which I had the privilege to be part of, and by "strong" legislation, we were able
to reverse the situation, and today we have a slow but certain recovery and increase in the
population of our T. manatus as well as T. inunguis.
May I therefore register my utter disgust and immeasurable protest over the completely
ineffective legislation and pathetic attitude of the Mozambican authorities.
I would also like to express my utmost regret regarding the frightfully sad situation of Florida's
manatee mortality. The Contingency Plan for Catastrophic Manatee Rescue and Mortality Events
prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be praised. At least one can see somebody
cares unlike our East African fellows. I can only hope the next issue of Sirenews will bring good
news from Paul Dutton and from the Manatee News Quarterly.
As a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and also of the IUCN Commission on
Environmental Strategy and Planning, allow me to congratulate Sirenews on the wonderful job
you are doing for the world's sirenian population.... Mario Antonio de Mello Dias (Alagoas,
MANATEE AND DUGONG ACTION PLANS
The draft IUCN Manatee Action Plan is currently being updated and completed by the Sirenia
Project, U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division, with the assistance of Antonio
Mignucci-Giannoni of the Caribbean Stranding Network (Puerto Rico), Buddy Powell of the
Florida Marine Research Institute, and Miriam Marmontel of the Sociedade Civil Mamiraud
(Brazil). Plans are to have a final version in early 1999. If you are interested in contributing new
information on the status of manatees in Mexico, Central and South America, or Africa, please
contact Mr. Bob Bonde, Sirenia Project, USGS, 412 NE 16th Ave. Room 250, Gainesville, FL
32601 USA; phone: 1-352-372-2571; fax: 1-352-374-8080; e-mail:
gov>. Lynn Lefebvre
Thanks to the considerable efforts of Joanna Hugues and Amanda Hodgsen and the inputs of
many people, a draft of the Dugong Action Plan should be ready for comment in a few weeks.
Additional information on dugong distribution and abundance from throughout its range is still
sought. If you can help, please contact me as follows: e-mail: ; fax:
61-747-815581; postal address: School of Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James
Cook University, Townsville, Australia 4811. Helene Marsh
NEW SIRENIAN WEBSITE
I have established a new website entitled The Call of the Siren. It should be of interest to
scientists, students, and the public as a most comprehensive and organized collection of sirenian
resources and research links. It includes information on my research, and links to sirenian
research around the world. It also includes links to online documents, e.g., Sirenews, the Marine
Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Protection Act, the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species, and bibliographies; to societies and journals, e.g., the Society for
Marine Mammalogy, the Acoustical Society of America, and the Society for Conservation
Biology; and to stories and places of interest for the public. The URL is:
com/caryn1001/ index.html/homepage.html>. Caryn Self Sullivan
"DOWNSIZING FLORIDA: AIMING FOR 7 MILLION"
This is the title of the Third Annual Fall Conference of Floridians for a Sustainable
Population, to be held in cooperation with the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd
College, St. Petersburg, Florida. It will be held on Saturday, 24 Oct. 1998, from 9 AM to 5 PM,
and will feature four speakers in addition to roundtable discussions on population growth and
development in Florida. Registration costs $25 and includes lunch. Registrations should be
mailed by 15 Oct. to: F. S. P. c/o Joyce Tamow, 531 E. McNab Road, Pompano Beach, FL
33060. For information, call (954) 942-7278 or e-mail .
Extinction Risk and Con-servation Priority: The Case of the Dugong in the Great
Barrier Reef Region. The recent controversy over the decline in dugongs in the southern Great
Barrier Reef region in Queensland, Australia, and the resulting management actions has
highlighted the complexity of assessing extinction risk over a variety of spatial and temporal
scales. The associated confusion about extinction risk and conservation priority has been used
effectively to polarize the debate.
The dugong is variously listed as follows:
Spatial Temporal Status Agency
Global 3 generations vulnerable IUCN
Australia 25 yr not listed Australian
Queens- 3 generations vulnerable Queensland
land (90 yr) government
The temporal scales over which extinction risk is determined are defined by the criteria used.
Commercial fishers have justified their objection to the establishment of Dugong
Protection Areas in which gill-netting is banned by pointing out that the dugong is not listed
under Australian legislation, and that this status has been upheld in a recent review. Another
group argued that, as dugong numbers in the southern Great Barrier Reef comprised less than 2%
of the estimated Australian total, management intervention was unwarranted. Their stance ignores
several key issues:
that the dugong is listed as vulnerable in Queensland waters;
that one of the reasons for nominating the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Area in
1981 was its importance as a feeding ground for large populations of dugongs; and
that it is widely recognized that, despite its huge range, "the outlook for the dugong seems
dim indeed, but for what Australia can do" (Bertram, 1981).
Indeed, the rationale for management intervention by the Australian Minister for the Environment
was not extinction risk, but conservation priority, as required by the World Heritage Listing of
the Great Barrier Reef region.
Similar confusion between extinction risk and conservation priority is likely for other sirenians,
as their ranges are large relative to most of the terrestrial species for which the measures of
extinction risk were largely developed. Equating extinction risk with conservation priority risks
limiting conservation efforts to "basket cases", while ignoring international responsibilities and
taxonomic uniqueness. We need to follow the example of Avery and his coworkers, who
developed a sophisticated matrix for developing conservation priorities for British birds (Ibis
137: s232-s239). Helene Marsh
Aerial Survey of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Queensland waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria
comprise a large and generally remote region which is well known for its marine wildlife,
including the dugong; three species of coastal dolphins (bottlenose dolphin, Irrawaddy River
dolphin, and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin); and six species of sea turtles. Even though
shoreline surveys were conducted in the 1970s, most of the region had not been surveyed using
the quantitative aerial survey techniques that are now standard for dugongs in Australia.
These waters (33,026 km2) were surveyed between 2 and 6 December 1997 using two survey
crews each of six people in two aircraft. Two aircraft enabled the survey to be completed in five
days, and minimized the chance of the population estimates being confounded by local
movements of dugongs within the survey period.
The total population estimate for dugongs in the survey area was 4266 s.e. 656.9 at an overall
density of 0.1230 0.0199 dugongs per km2, of which 62% were in the Wellesley Island area and
45% in the inshore waters of this region within the 3 m depth contour. This confirms that the
Wellesley Island region is the most important dugong habitat in Queensland apart from Torres
Strait and Princess Charlotte Bay. A similar (but not identical) survey of the Wellesley Island
region in 1991 resulted in a population estimate of 4066 s.e. 723 dugongs. The number of
dugongs sighted in both 1991 and 1997 was sufficient for statistical comparisons in only three
survey blocks within this area. There was no significant difference between the estimated
numbers of dugongs in these blocks in 1991 and 1997. However, the interaction between time
and block was different between the two surveys due to a change in the distribution of dugongs
within the Wellesley Island region, which is under Native Title claim and is believed to support a
significant Indigenous fishery for dugongs and green turtles.
I am presently negotiating with the commercial fishing industry about how they can achieve their
aim of "minimizing the effects of fishing on protected wildlife" in this region. Helene Marsh
Poachers Take More Manatees in Port Honduras. Biologists in Belize recently reported an
estimated population of about 500 manatees along its protected coastal shores. In a program
supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Preservation Trust International, and
the Belize Coastal Zone Management Program, James Powell, Nicole Auil, and other local
biologists are currently radio-tracking four manatees in central Belize in an effort to learn more
about their biology and migratory behavior. Public knowledge and awareness are increasing,
thanks to implementation of aggressive educational programs.
However, it was recently brought to our attention by Mr. Wil Maheia of the Toledo Institute for
Development and Environment that these endangered marine mammals are still occasionally
being hunted. On 31 August, Wil released some information about the additional slaughter of
manatees in the Port Honduras area of southern Belize. This situation was first brought to the
attention of Sirenews readers in the October 1995 issue (No. 24). In that issue, Bonde and Potter
reported finding evidence of 35 manatee carcasses at 11 coastal butchering sites in Port
Honduras. They theorized that poachers were killing manatees in southern Belize and
transporting the meat back to Guatemala for sale.
Wil received a report that manatee meat was recently available for sale in the markets in
Livingston, Guatemala. He decided to go out into the Port Honduras area near Punta Gorda to see
if he could find any evidence of a recent manatee slaughter. He quickly found a freshly butchered
manatee carcass. Reports soon followed of two additional manatees that were killed. Apparently,
the manatees are harpooned and taken to shore, where the meat is removed from the bones by the
poachers and transported to Guatemala to be sold in the marketplace. As long as there is a
demand for this meat, this activity will continue!
What measures are necessary to stop the senseless killing of this precious and protected marine
mammal? Laws are on the books to protect manatees in both Belize and Guatemala. Yet,
manatees are still being killed. The complexity of this situation is compounded by the fact that
the poaching area is very large and isolated. Efforts to patrol this remote region by law
enforcement are logistically difficult and financially taxing. The governments are aware of the
problems and are working diligently to stop this unfortunate activity. Obviously, more Belizean
officers should be conducting patrols in southern Belize, and Guatemalan officials should levy
and enforce strict fines on merchants and fishermen that are caught selling endangered manatee
meat in the open market. I urge you to express your support for the protection of the West Indian
manatee in these areas by contacting the Honorable Daniel Silva, Minister of Agriculture and
Fisheries, Belmopan, Belize, and the Honorable Mariano Ventura, Minister of Agriculture,
Guatemala City, Guatemala. You should also contact the Guatemalan Ambassador to the United
States, Peter Lamport () and the Guatemalan Ambassador to Belize,
Antonio R. Castellanos Lopez (). Additional information about the
poaching incidents can be obtained by contacting Wil Maheia (). Robert K.
Bonde (Sirenia Project)
First Amazonian Manatee Con-ceived and Born in Captivity. Vera da Silva of INPA
in Manaus reports that on April 8, 1998, between 0700 and 0900, a captive female Trichechus
inunguis gave birth to a male calf after 24 years in captivity. Both mother and baby are fine.
The mother, named Boo, arrived at INPA in July 1974 as an orphaned calf only 116.5 cm
long and weighing 26 kg. Her mother had been killed by a hunter and Boo herself had been
harpooned, but was in good general condition. Diana Magor obtained possession of her from a
local aquarium that had gotten her from the hunter. Since Boo was already eating plants on
arrival at INPA, she was maintained on solid food thereafter and never given milk formula. By
the end of January 1998, she was up to 240 kg.
As only the second captive manatee to have been obtained by the INPA manatee project, Boo has
participated in numerous research studies over the years not always willingly, however. I
remember her well from my years at INPA (1976-78): because she had never had the intensive
human contact that goes with being nursed on a bottle, she was notoriously hard to handle (unlike
most of our captives, who were bottle-raised and very docile). It's good to know she is now a
Manatees on the Move: From Florida to California. On 9 March 1998, five male
Florida manatees in the rehabilitation program at SeaWorld Orlando were flown by chartered jet
on a six-hour trip to a new manatee exhibit at SeaWorld San Diego. The transfer was authorized
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which holds the endangered species permit under
which all manatee rescue, rehabilitation, and release activities in Florida are conducted.
SeaWorld San Diego was added to the FWS-authorized list of facilities with the understanding
that any of the five manatees could be returned to Florida for release upon six months' notice.
Four of the manatees were hand-reared orphans, and the fifth was an animal that had severe
damage to its tail resulting from a watercraft collision.
The indoor facility at SeaWorld San Diego holds 200,000 gallons of fresh water and has
112 feet of underwater viewing. Educational exhibits are adjacent to the underwater viewing area.
The SWC Education Department has created programs for students that focus on the manatee and
other endangered species.
The FWS authorized the transfer to increase the amount of manatee critical care space available
at SeaWorld Orlando and to expand manatee education programs. This transfer is the first time in
decades that Florida manatees have been held at a facility outside the State of Florida [see related
news item below]. The new SeaWorld San Diego exhibit will introduce manatees to millions of
guests each year. Dan Odell
Cooperative Manatee Rehabili-tation and Reintroduction Efforts in Florida. Currently, there
are fewer than 3,000 Florida manatees (Trichechus nianatuiis latirostris) remaining in the
southeastern U.S., primarily in coastal (both marine and freshwater habitat) areas of Florida. As
the rapid expansion of the human population in Florida continues (nearly 1,000 people per day
move into the state), subsequent development and associated human-related threats to manatees
and their habitats also grow. Historically, human activities have accounted for about one-third of
the known manatee deaths in Florida each year. Boat-related mortalities comprise approximately
80 percent of these human-related deaths. In addition to those killed, many more manatees are
injured or orphaned each year. Most adult manatees bear permanent scars from boat propeller
strikes. Still others require temporary assistance to be freed from monofilament fishing line and
crab pot line entanglement, or require treatment due to cold stress or illness.
As part of the manatee recovery effort, a model statewide partnership has evolved to rescue,
rehabilitate and, whenever possible, release manatees back into the wild. Private citizens acting as
volunteers, non-profit organizations, corporate, local, state, and Federal facilities and biologists
all contribute to the rehabilitation effort, achieving collectively what no single party could
Manatee rescues in Florida are coordinated by the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) field stations located in five coastal areas, in cooperation with the Florida
Marine Patrol (FMP), and 15 participating private and public organizations holding Letters of
Authorization from the Service. Rescue program participants respond to hundreds of reports of
manatees in distress annually, verifying manatee locations and assessing the circumstances
involved. This results in some 20 to 30 manatees being rescued and treated annually. Seven
Florida facilities are authorized to care for captive manatees, and work cooperatively with the
Service in the rehabilitation effort. Sea World of Florida (Orlando), Miami Seaquarium (Miami),
Lowry Park Zoo (Tampa), Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park (Homosassa), Living Seas at
EPCOT Center (Lake Buena Vista), Mote Marine Laboratory (Sarasota), and the South Florida
Museum (Bradenton) are the current participants. Over 50 manatees are presently cared for at
The Service's manatee recovery biologists work closely with the Interagency/Oceanaria Manatee
Working Group, which represents agencies, rehabilitation facilities, and private organizations
concerned with manatee rescue and rehabilitation. The Working Group meets periodically to
review program needs and to plan transfers, releases, and research activities involving captive
manatees. The Working Group also provides valuable input to the Service regarding captive
husbandry, medical status, potential release and staging area candidate assessment, and
evaluation of the rehabilitation and reintroduction program effort.
Many of the manatees that are brought in for rehabilitation recover relatively quickly and are
routinely released in the general vicinity of their rescue. Even with a progressive release program,
however, the number of manatees being held for rehabilitation in Florida facilities has continued
to increase each year because more injured, orphaned, or sick animals are rescued than are
released. In addition, some captive animals are currently categorized as "non-releasable" due to
the extent of their injuries, their small size, or the fact that they have been in captivity for many
years. As a result, the Service has decided to pursue the eventual transfer of appropriate manatees
to facilities outside of Florida. For the first time, three out-of-state facilities (Sea World of
California in San Diego; the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio; and the Cincinnati Zoo in
Cincinnati, Ohio) have been issued Letters of Authorization to participate in the Service's
manatee rehabilitation program.
Last March, five manatees being held for rehabilitation at Sea World in Florida were transferred
to Sea World in San Diego, California to free up space in Florida for rescued manatees in need of
critical care [see news item above]. Up to four manatees will be transferred to the Columbus Zoo
this winter. A fire destroyed the manatee exhibit that was under construction at the Cincinnati
Zoo last May. The $4 million exhibit was to open July 10. The zoo plans to rebuild, and should
be ready for manatees early in 1999. Bob Turner (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
FDEP Staff Changes. Spring and summer 1998 have been an active time of change for
the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Endangered and Threatened Species
Group, which includes manatee researchers. Dr. James "Buddy" Powell has taken a job as the
research administrator for the manatee and turtle research programs within the Florida Marine
Research Institute. Monica Ross has moved on to take a job at the new Disney Wild Kingdom
attraction in Orlando. In May, Mark Sweat started a Ph.D. program at the College of Veterinary
Medicine of the University of Florida. Kari Clifton started her Ph.D. program at the University of
Florida in July. Brad Weigle, with the distinction of being the senior member of the manatee
research staff, is moving on to pursue the development of a company he helped found, Interface
Airships. Scott Wright
Support for Preservation of Indian River Lagoon. The Nature Conservancy's Florida
chapter is purchasing easements on undeveloped land along the Indian River Lagoon, an
important manatee habitat area on Florida's Atlantic coast, and developing a related
communications plan. The Orvis Company, a fly-fishing, tackle and clothing retailer based in
Manchester, Vermont, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will each match
Orvis customer donations to the Conservancy's project up to $75,000.
The Indian River Lagoon project is just one of many Conservancy efforts that The Orvis
Company has supported. Since 1992, Orvis and its customers have raised money to protect
waterways in Idaho, Florida, and Alaska, as well as songbird habitat in Jamaica. NFWF matched
the Orvis gifts to these projects as well, generating nearly $700,000. As a company, Orvis
donates 5% of its pre-tax profits to the conservation of fish and wildlife habitats. (Source:
Nature Conservancy Magazine 48(3).)
Steller's Sea Cow on the Internet. While maintaining my dugong web page, I frequently
come across substantial information about the extinct Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas). But
nowhere have I found a plausible illustration showing the animal as it might have looked in life. I
believe that such a picture is needed to create awareness that "Steller's sea cow" is not just a
name, but was a living mammal which humans carelessly wiped out not long ago. Therefore I
will try to elaborate such an image myself. The current result is posted at
Being a computer designer who knows a bit about the living seacows, but not a paleontologist, I
need input from the sciences. Comments and suggestions for enhancement are hereby invited. -
West African Manatee Conservation Plan in Guinea-Bissau. In Sirenews No. 27 (April
1997) it was announced that the IUCN representation in Guinea-Bissau was preparing a study in
order to develop a Manatee Conservation Plan. As one of the least populated and least developed
countries of West Africa, Guinea-Bissau still has large areas of almost untouched mangroves,
wetlands, and river systems. This is one reason why it has often been considered one of the last
sanctuaries of the West African manatee. Unfortunately, this situation is rapidly changing as
human pressure on many coastal areas is increasing. Consequently, the implementation of a
management program is urgently needed to prevent the predictable dramatic decrease of the
Accordingly, in March 1998, IUCN Guinea-Bissau signed a protocol with several local
and international institutions to elaborate and implement a National Plan for the Conservation of
the West African Manatee. This project has established twelve objectives:
1. to produce a map of the current distribution of the species in the country;
2. to make a qualitative assessment of manatee abundance;
3. to identify manatee population trends;
4. to identify and evaluate major threats to the manatee population;
5. to assess the significance of manatees in the cultural and economic activities of local
6. to obtain information on other biological and ecological parameters of the species;
7. to provide training for national biologists and technicians;
8. to develop and implement an appropriate methodology for a long-term manatee monitoring
9. to identify key areas to conduct further research;
10. to develop manatee management programs for areas of specific importance;
11. to propose measures for the protection and valorization of the manatee population;
12. to elaborate a National Plan for the Conservation of the West African Manatee in Guinea-
During 1997, contacts with several international experts were initiated in order to gather
literature on the biology, ecology and conservation of sirenians. These experts also provided
some valuable comments on the methodology chosen for this preliminary study.
Information on the occurrence and distribution of the manatee in Guinea-Bissau is scarce,
and it was decided to follow the IUCN/SSC Sirenia Specialist Group recommendation and adopt
"a more fundamental, cost-effective approach" to conduct this preliminary study. On the other
hand, most of the river systems in Guinea-Bissau have very turbid waters and plenty of emergent
and floating vegetation. In this kind of environment, both aerial surveys and satellite or radio
tracking are unlikely to produce good results. There are certain regions, however, where the water
is clear enough to allow some aerial observations, and experimental flights in these areas are
planned in order to assess the feasibility of this method.
For a few years now, the IUCN's office in Guinea-Bissau has been conducting studies
based mainly on interviews of local people. Considering the excellent results obtained with well-
known species, such as the hippopotamus and the chimpanzee, the same method was chosen for
this project, as the manatee is also well known to everybody in the country. Local technicians and
biologists previously involved in other manatee projects were asked to participate in the present
study. With their collaboration, the interviews were elaborated and several local technicians
received training in how to perform them.
In April 1998, two park rangers and one technician from the General Direction of Forestry
and Hunting visited 241 villages and fishing camps in the islands, and in the north and south of
the country, all along the coast. Up till now, 331 persons have been interviewed, mostly
fishermen, hunters, former manatee hunters, and farmers. The interviews will continue in the next
few months, until the remaining regions in the eastern part of the country are surveyed. This
survey will hopefully allow the identification of areas of greater importance to the species, where
future research should be conducted and management programs implemented.
This survey is being developed in partnership with the General Direction of Forestry and
Hunting of the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry and the Fisheries Research Centre of
the Fisheries Ministry of Guinea-Bissau, and with the Portuguese Nature Conservation Institute.
It is mostly financed by the Swiss DDC and supported technically and logistically by the
Protected Areas Component of the IUCN's program in Guinea-Bissau. Please feel free to send us
any comments or suggestions regarding this subject.
NOTE: On 7 June 1998, a military rebellion broke out in Guinea-Bissau, leaving the
country in a very unstable and perilous situation. Therefore, as happened with several other
cooperation programs, the IUCN program in Guinea-Bissau has been temporarily interrupted. -
M6nica Almeida e Silva (UICN, C.P. 23, 1031 Bissau Codex, Guine-Bissau; e-mail:
Logging Project Halted. The last issue of Sirenews reported on the activities of the
Solcarsa Company, whose illegal logging and wood processing operations were threatening the
rainforest home of the Miskito and Rama Indians, who traditionally are manatee hunters. This
activity has now been halted, thanks to an international outcry. In late February 1998, Nicaragua's
Ministry of Natural Resources was finally forced by the Supreme Court to put a stop to these
operations, which were ruled to be in violation of the Nicaraguan Constitution. The company,
which is a subsidiary of the Korean logging company Kumkyung, was given two months to wind
up its operations and leave the country.
Some problems remain unresolved, however. Solcarsa has not yet paid fines for
destruction of property that were levied by the Ministry of Natural Resources, and workers'
claims of unpaid wages have gone unanswered. The Human Rights Commission of the
Organization of American States has announced its intention to investigate, but Nicaraguan
President Arnoldo Aleman has refused to let the Commission enter the country. In addition,
Solcarsa is reported to be continuing some logging in the region to which the Ministry of Natural
Resources has turned a blind eye. (Source: Rainforest Action Network Action Alert 137, May-
More on Sea Pigs. In the article in Sirenews No. 28, you did not mention that in Sri
Lanka the Sinhala vernacular name for the dugong is miidu lira, which means "sea pig" (miidu=
sea, iira = pig). I think the term cudalpani is actually a word derived from Tamil.
We at IUCN Sri Lanka initiated a Marine and Coastal Programme in 1997 and are in the process
of identifying areas in which we can initiate some action, for instance conservation projects for
threatened marine species. As far as we know, there are no conservation programs being carried
out in the country at present for the protection of dugongs. Does the IUCN Sirenia Specialist
Group have any information on the status of dugongs in Sri Lanka, or do you know of any other
organizations or individuals who do? Thanks very much. Sonali Senaratna (Programme
Officer, IUCN Sri Lanka; fax: (++941) 580202; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Aerial Survey of Dugongs in Thailand. Although Thailand has not made much progress
in dugong conservation, we are doing the best we can given limitations of budget and staff. In
April 1998, we monitored the number of dugongs in Trang Province, where the largest group of
dugongs in Thailand was believed to exist. The Agriculture Aviation Division provided us with 3
days' use of a helicopter for flights along a 52 km route over the seagrass beds. The highest
number of dugong counted by one observer at each side of the helicopter is 33. This number
might have been affected by:
1. Habitat disturbance: During the survey, the channel that dugongs use as a resting area was
being deepened by a huge dredge. Fishermen also reported that a lot of fish were killed. This
may have caused some emigration of dugongs. Eight dugongs were observed in the northern
area, where usually only 3-4 are found; this area was very little affected by the dredging.
2. Turbidity: During the survey, suspended sediment greatly reduced the visibility of
submerged dugongs. In April, dugongs usually can be observed up to 5 m below the surface;
but this year they could not be seen below 2 m.
A successful public awareness program has already been conducted in the survey area. However,
in August, we found a mid-sized dugong carcass washed up on the beach, with four small holes
in its head.
The Fishery Department is also interested in dugong survival. Last year a preliminary survey was
conducted along the western (Andaman Sea) coast of Thailand, using a flying dinghy. This
survey also included my study area in Trang Province. Forty-eight dugongs were found in an area
of about 970 km2. Suwan Pitaksintorn (Forest Ecology Research and Development Division,
Forest Technical Office, Royal Forest Dept., Phaholyotin Rd., Jatujak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand)
New Dugong Stamp. To commemorate UNESCO's International Year of the Ocean
(1998), Thailand has issued a set of four stamps, depicting three cetaceans and the dugong,
respectively. The high-value (9-baht) stamp in the series shows a mother dugong and calf. The
series is available as a very handsome souvenir sheet. A limited number of these are available
from Suwan Pitaksintorn at the address above.
Dugong-Human Interactions in Vanuatu. The Vanuatu archipelago forms the eastern
limit of dugong distribution. The dugong population is distributed throughout the islands from
Aneityum in the south to the Torres Islands in the north (see Fig. 1). Although dugongs are now
protected in Vanuatu, they were previously hunted throughout the year. Dugong hunting was not
governed by custom or tradition, as many of the locals do not consider the dugong an important
mammal in terms of either food or culture.
Fig. 1. Map of Vanuatu, with reported dugong localities (*).
Recently, exploitation of a single male dugong on the island of Tanna has proven to be an
economic bonus for the villagers. This animal is a resident of Resolution Bay. Since little was
known about recent changes in its habits, I visited the area and interviewed the villagers
concerning this resident dugong.
Resolution Bay is about 2 km wide. Villagers claim that the dugong has frequented this
area since 1970. It has done so alone since the loss of its mate in 1988. A report written in 1989
by the Department of Fisheries showed one dugong sighted in 1989; there were two in 1988,
indicating that the female may have been killed early in 1988.
The World Wide Fund for Nature photographed the dugongs of Tanna in 1988, and in the
same year Vanuatu issued a set of postage stamps depicting dugongs.
According to the villagers of Port Resolution, the female dugong was killed around 1988
to keep the male from leaving the bay. The villagers had come to rely on the tourist dollar by
allowing divers and tourists to play with the dugong. My observations of the dugong and of
wooden carvings of it made over a period of time indicate changes in the animal's condition,
beginning with a weight loss followed by a significant weight gain. The village carver strongly
believes that no other dugongs were in the area beside the male and the accompanying female.
One of the carvings shows a pregnant female, which was authenticated by the villagers: an
interview indicated that the female gave birth and was killed soon after. What happened to the
calf is unknown.
Another theory is that the female went with her calf to Port Patrick, 65 km from Tanna,
where dugong sightings have been recorded. Could the dugong at Tanna be territorial but visit
Port Patrick to connect with other dugongs? This is disputed by the locals, as they are able to
attract it on any given day by slapping a paddle on the water.
In recent years the dugong has become aggressive toward tourists and villagers alike (see
Sirenews No. 26). Divers and tourists are partly responsible, as the animal is harassed. In recent
months it has displayed unusual behavior by tossing turtles into the air. Underwater photographer
Ben Cropp spent a week on Tanna with this dugong. He witnessed the dugong bringing a turtle
back to the village, where turtles are consumed.
The type of behavior displayed by the dugong when divers approached is described by A.
A. Belcher in Asian Diver, January 1998, p. 33: "One moment I was taking photographs;
suddenly I was shot out of the water in a head butting ram from the dugong. My partner came to
my aid. She, too, was tossed over the head of the mammal." Physical harassment by young locals,
including placing fingers in the dugong's nostrils and pulling its tail, has made this animal hostile.
It should be noted that it shows no malice toward children, perhaps because it is larger than they
Why it remains in the area is unknown. It is not fed by the locals, as there is an abundance
of seagrasses in the area (Chambers in 1990 found nine species: Cymodocea rotundata, C.
serruh1ita, Enhailus acoroides, Halodule pinifolia, H. uninervis, Halophila ovalis, Syringodium
isoetifolium, Thalassia hemprichii, and Thalassodendron ciliatum). The dugong continues to
display aggression, and may injure a tourist to the point where the villagers may be prevented
from "using" this animal. This would remove a valuable source of income for the village. This
interaction should be regulated to ensure the safety of both humans and the dugong.
On the island of Epi, another male dugong has formed a relationship with the locals. This
animal was first befriended by two Canadian women in the early 1980s, who swam with and
stroked the dugong, which seemed to seek out human contact. Dr. Franz X. Schmolleri, from Air
Club Vila and author of "Dugongs and Vanuatu" (in French only), was able to recount the story
of this particular dugong to me.
Dr. Schmolleri confirmed that on one of his many visits to Epi, he was called at 7 A.M. to
see a male dugong at Lamen Bay. The animal remained in the area for about 2 hours and then
disappeared. It reappeared the following morning.
The villagers in the area are irked by the dugong's behavior. When they are spearfishing,
it will act as a barrier between the fish and the fisherman. It also displays a type of mimicry. If a
villager dives toward the sand below, the dugong will follow; if the head is shaken, the animal
will mimic this behavior. Dolphins and porpoises are known to display this type of behavior,
especially when a reward system is in place; however, food is not offered to this dugong.
Unlike the dugong at Tanna, the one at Epi displays friendliness and not aggression.
However, at this stage it has not been subjected to much harassment. It will not allow villagers
near its tail. There are other locations on the island where dugongs reside; however, according to
Dr. Schmolleri, the same dugong remains in Lamen Bay and is recognizable by its behavior,
markings, and sex.
The other known solitary dugong lives in a chain of islands called the Banks Islands.
Among these is a small but inhabited island called Loh. In 1989 the first dugong count here was
conducted by a field officer from the Department of Fisheries, who had received a report of an
injured dugong. On arrival, he found a dugong with a lasso rope around its tail and extensive
injuries. He told me about the interaction he had witnessed between children and the dugong. The
animal was summoned using a paddle, as with the dugong on Tanna. It allowed children to mount
its back and was gentle. The villagers have rescued several dugongs in the area, as they are often
caught in shallow water, particularly when stranded in pools by the receding tide. Sylvia
Adam (Flat 12 34 Sturdee Parade, Dee Why, Sydney 2099, Australia)
The following abstracts are of papers and posters presented at the XXIII Reunion
International para el Estudio de los Mamiferos Marinos, held at Xcaret, Quintana Roo, Mexico,
20-24 April 1998.
The following abstracts are of papers and posters presented at the American Society of
Mammalogists Annual Meeting, held in Blacksburg, Virginia, 6-10 June 1998.
Bachteler, D., and G. Dehnhardt. 1998. Tactile sensitivity of facial vibrissae in the
Antillean manatee. [Abstr.] Zoology: Analysis of Complex Systems 101 (Suppl. 1): 44.
Bisbal E., F.J. 1998. Mamiferos de la Peninsula de Paria, Estado Sucre, Venezuela y sus
relaciones biogeograficas. Interciencia 23(3): 176-181.
Blaszkiewitz, B. 1998. [On a manatee stillbirth in the Berlin zoo.] Zool. Garten 68(2): 134.
Bossart, G.D., D.G. Baden, R.Y. Ewing, B. Roberts, and S.D. Wright. 1998. Brevetoxicosis
in manatees (Trichechus ianatlus latirostris) from the 1996 epizootic: gross, histologic, and
immunohistochemical features. Toxicological Pathology 26(2): 276-282.
Bowen, W.D. 1997. Role of marine mammals in aquatic ecosystems. Mar. Ecol. Progress
Series 158: 267-274.
Bryden, M.M., H. Marsh, and P.D. Shaughnessy. 1998. Dugongs, whales, dolphins and
seals: a guide to the sea mammals of Australasia. St. Leonards (Australia), Allen & Unwin:
De Jong, W.W. 1998. Molecules remodel the mammalian tree. Trends in Ecol. & Evol. 13
Deutsch, C.J., R.K. Bonde, and J.P. Reid. 1998. Radio-tracking manatees from land and
space: tag design, implementation, and lessons learned from long-term study. Marine
Technology Society Jour. 32(1): 18-29.
Garcia-Rodriguez, A.I., B.W. Bowen, D.P. Domning, A.A. Mignucci-Giannoni, M.
Marmontel, R.A. Montoya-Ospina, B. Morales-Vela, M. Rudin, R.K. Bonde, and P.M.
McGuire. 1998. Phylogeography of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus nianatus): how
many populations and how many taxa? Molecular Ecology 7: 1137-1149.
Heaney, L.R. 1998. A synopsis of the mammalian fauna of the Philippine Islands.
Fieldiana: Zoology, n.s. No. 88. [Dugong, p. 53.]
Hill, B.D., I.R. Fraser, and H.C. Prior. 1997. Cryptosporidium infection in a dugong
(Dugong dugon). Austral. Vet. Jour. 75(9): 670-671.
Inuzuka, N. 1996. Body size and mass estimates of desmostylians (Mammalia). Jour. Geol.
Soc. Japan 102(9): 816-819.
Inuzuka, N. 1997. Fossil footprints of desmostylians predicted from a restored skeleton.
Ichnos 5: 163-166.
Kataoka, T. 1998. Sirenia dugong and manatee. Aquabiology 20(1)(114): 36-41. [In
Japanese; Engl. summ.]
Kimura, M., M. Yahata, H. Sawamura, I. Segawa, A. Suzuki, and Y. Muraishi. 1998. The
vertebrate fossils and their horizon from Akan-cho, eastern Hokkaido, Japan. Earth Science
(Chikyu Kagaku) 52(1): 44-50. [In Japanese. Reports Miocene specimens of Desmostylia.]
Langtimm, C.A., T.J. O'Shea, R. Pradel, and C.A. Beck. 1998. Estimates of annual survival
probabilities for adult Florida manatees (Trichechus nianatus latirostris). Ecology 79(3):
Marshall, C.D., G.D. Huth, V.M. Edwards, D.M. Halin, and R.L. Reep. 1998. Prehensile
use of perioral bristles during feeding and associated behaviors of the Florida manatee
(Trichechus nianatus latirostris). Mar. Mamm. Sci. 14(2): 274-289.
Marshall, C.D., L.A. Clark, and R.L. Reep. 1998. The muscular hydrostat of the Florida
manatee (Trichechus imanatus latirostris): a functional morphological model of perioral
bristle use. Mar. Mamm. Sci. 14(2): 290-303.
Mignucci-Giannoni, A.A., and Beck, C.A. 1998. The diet of the manatee (Trichechus
nanatu.s) in Puerto Rico. Mar. Mamm. Sci. 14(2): 394-397.
Mukerjee, M. 1998. Stalking the wild dugong: an undersea elephant remains elusive.
Scientific American 279(3): 20-21. [Dugongs in the Andaman Islands.]
Ness, T.L., Bradley, W.G., Reynolds, J.E., III, and Roess, W.B. 1998. Isolation and
expression of the interleukin-2 gene from the killer whale, Orcinus orca. Mar. Mamm. Sci.
14(3): 531-543. [Includes comparisons with Florida manatee IL-2.]
Ortiz, R.M., G.A.J. Worthy, and D.S. MacKenzie. 1998. Osmoregulation in wild and
captive West Indian manatees (Trichechus mnianatus). Physiol. Zool. 71(4): 449-457.
Peterken, C.J., and C.A. Conacher. 1997. Seed germination and recolonisation of Zostera
capricorni after grazing by dugongs. Aquatic Botany 59(3-4): 333-340.
Preen, A.R. 1998. Marine protected areas and dugong conservation along Australia's Indian
Ocean coast. Envir. Management 22(2): 173-181.
Reep, R.L., C.D. Marshall, M.L. Stoll, and D.M. Whitaker. 1998. Distribution and
innervation of facial bristles and hairs in the Florida manatee (Trichechus nianatus
latirostris). Mar. Mamm. Sci. 14(2): 257-273.
Schiro, A.J., L.P. May, and D.C. Fertl. 1996. Manatee occurrences in the northwestern Gulf
of Mexico. [Abstr.] Whalewatcher (Jour. Amer. Cetacean Soc.) 30(1): 28-29.
Seifert, D.D. 1996. The sirenian's final aria, part two: Some good news, some bad news,
and a spoonful of sugar. Ocean Realm, Summer 1996: 8-10.
Shoda, L.K.M., W.C. Brown, and A.C. Rice-Ficht. 1998. Sequence and characterization of
phocine interleukin 2. Jour. Wildl. Diseases 34(1): 81-90.
Smithers, R.H.N., and J.L.P. Lobao Tello. 1976. Check list and atlas of the mammals of
Mogambique. Museum Memoir (Salisbury, Trustees of the National Museums &
Monuments of Rhodesia) No. 8: viii + 184.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Florida manatee recovery accomplishments: 1997
annual report. Jacksonville (Florida), USFWS: 1-24. [Order from Bill Brooks, phone: 1-
904-232-2580; e-mail: ]
Vincent, T. 1996. Occurrence of a dugong, Dugong dugon (Mueller, 1776) (Mammalia,
Sirenia, Dugongidae) in October 1994, near Hurghada (Egypt) in the Red Sea. Ann. Inst.
Oceanographique 72(2): 179-183. [In French; Engl. summ.]
Wright, I.E., S.D. Wright, and J.M. Sweat. 1998. Use of passive integrated transponder
(PIT) tags to identify manatees (Trichechus manatis latirostris). Mar. Mamm. Sci. 14(3):
SIRENIAN WEBSITE DIRECTORY
The Call of the Siren (Caryn Self Sullivan):
html/ homepage.html>. -
Caribbean Environment Programme, Regional Management Plan for the West Indian
Caribbean Stranding Network:
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Protected Species
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Marine Research Institute
(Florida manatee mortality data):
Save the Manatee Club:
Sea World of Florida:
Sirenia Project, U.S. Geological Survey:
Steller's sea cow:
CHANGES OF ADDRESS
Dr. Christopher D. Marshall, Dept. of Orthodontics, University of Washington, Box
357446, Seattle, Washington 98195 USA (phone: 1-206-543-5788; fax: 1-206-685-8163)
Dr. James A. "Buddy" Powell, Florida Marine Research Institute, 100 8th Ave. SE, St.
Petersburg, Florida 33701 USA (phone: 1-813-896-8626; e-mail:
Dr. Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni, Red Caribefia de Varamientos, P. 0. Box 38030, San
Juan, PUERTO RICO 00937 (e-mail: )
>>> COPY DEADLINE FOR NEXT ISSUE: APRIL 1, 1999 <<<
The Sirenews fax number is 1-202-265-7055 (USA).
Printed on recycled paper with soy ink