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Manatee Conservation in Belize:
Encompassing Long-term Research Objectives, Field Training for Local Biologists, and Public Outreach and Education

  Leader: Robert K. Bonde, robert_bonde@usgs.gov
  Summary: This project is designed to supplement the conservation efforts within Belize to protect the endangered Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) through a combination of scientific research, professional training, and public education. Researchers with the USGS have assisted with the scientific aspects of this project since its inception in 1997.

project location

Releasing a tagged manatee
Capture team with radio tagged adult
manatee ready for release in
Southern Lagoon, Belize

Radio tagging a wild manatee
Researchers collecting data and
attaching a radio tag to a
wild manatee in Belize

Biologist with a manatee in Belize
USGS biologist Bob Bonde showing
local children a scar pattern on
a large manatee in Belize

The current status of the manatee in Belize is unknown but these highly endangered marine mammals are at risk of further decline as a result of inevitable coastal development and other harmful anthropocentric changes to the environment. To prevent this probable decline, it will be necessary to strengthen the conservation and management efforts for manatees in Belize. The ultimate goal of this project is to assist Belizeans in developing and operating a more formal conservation management program. This program will require sound science, well trained in-country Belizean biologists, and a strong public will to conserve marine animals and their habitats. Our project is working toward this end by conducting scientific studies, training local biologists, and informing local people of our work and what they can do to help save manatees and this precious coastal habitat.

The U.S. Geological Survey has assisted Wildlife Trust, Wildlife Conservation Society, Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, and Belizean Forestry, Fisheries and Agriculture Department biologists with the capture, assessment, radio tagging, and monitoring of manatees off Drowned Keys and in Southern Lagoon, Belize. Currently, 77 manatees have been captured in Belizean waters and many have carried radio tags. Baseline data has been documented on the biology of the animals and their co-dependence on the fragile environment. Future investigations will require a continued, mutual collaboration with local scientists and Wildlife Trust researchers. USGS biologists have also assisted with the design of aerial surveys to determine distribution of manatees, genetic studies, biomedical evaluation, habitat assessment, and discovered active butchering sites on the southern boarder of Belize, shared with Guatemala. All expenses incurred for this research and travel to Belize have been obtained from agencies outside of the USGS. USGS staff assist with the training of Belizean biologists when they come to Florida.

  USGS Mission
Tie In:
This project deals with endangered species recovery, general biology and life history traits, wildlife management, and public outreach.

  Discipline: Biology

  Locations: Marine coastal and estuarine waters of Belize, Central America.

  Web Sites: Manatee - Sirenia Project
Saving Manatees in Belize
Wildlife Trust

  Partners: USGS/FISC: Robert Bonde
Wildlife Trust: James Powell, Alonso Aguirre, Nicole Auil, Kevin Andrewin and Cliffton Bailey
Belize Coastal Zone Management and Institute: Angeline Valentine and Roger Arrana
Belize Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, Agriculture
Save the Manatee Club
Wildlife Conservation Society

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