The peaceful and shy Manatee has been declared a national marine mammal in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica lawmakers this week passed the bill making the endangered Caribbean mammal a national symbol; the honor had been proposed by two school children from the region of Limón after they learned about Manatees in school.
Also known as sea cows, Manatees are large herbivorous mammals that live in rivers and oceans in tropical climates. On the World Wildlife Fund’s “Endangered Species List”, there are three species of Manatee. The Trichechus manatus or West Indian Manatee – the same kind that lives in Florida – is native to the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica.
Manatees of Tortuguero Costa Rica
Manatees may grow to be about 4 meters (12 ft.) and weigh up to 800 kg (2,000 lbs). They spend most of their time underwater and eat only sea grasses. They are cute but odd-looking with large snouts, sensitive mouth whiskers, and flexible front limbs that they use to steer and to push food into their mouths, or to hold them up on sandy bottoms. Their large paddle-shaped tail pushes them slowly through the water at 1-3 km (3-5 mi) per hour. Being mammals, they breathe air and must rise to the surface every 15 minutes or so to breathe; more often when active. The animals are solitary, coming together only during mating season and for the first two years of a calf’s life when it stays with its mother.
Estimates from the Save the Manatee Foundation put Costa Rica’s population of Manatees at less than 100. The gentle marine mammals are in danger of extinction, threatened in Tortuguero Costa Rica by boat traffic, reduced habitat, and chemicals and sediments washing into Tortuguero’s waterways from banana plantations.
Tortuguero Hotel Manatus is named after the scientific term for Manatee, and is actively involved in Manatee protection programs. The small boutique hotel – in the Enchanting Hotels of Costa Rica group – is one of the best luxury hotels in Tortuguero. The hotel is a 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner. Take advantage of special discounts at Manatus Hotel provided by Enchanting Hotels.
How to see Manatees in Tortuguero Costa Rica
Taking a kayak tour of the Tortuguero canals is your best bet for trying to spot the elusive Manatees. Manatus Hotel offers kayak and boat tours on the Tortuguero canals, in addition to many other nature tours.
Article by Shannon Farley