Manatees are large aquatic mammals also known as sea cows, partly because of their appearance and because they are herbivores (plant eaters) like cows. They can reach up to 4 meters (13 feet) long and weigh up to 590 kg (1,300 lbs). There are three species of manatees: Amazonian manatee, the West Indian manatee and the West African manatee. These names give us a clue about their distribution.
Where Do Manatees Live
Each species of manatee lives in a different area and their distributions do not overlap. The Amazonian manatee is found only in the Amazon river and its tributaries. It is a freshwater species and never enters the salt water sections of the river. The West Indian manatee can be found in the from the US state of Georgia throughout the Caribbean and south to Brazil. The West African manatee can be found from the Senegal River (the border between Senegal and Mauritania) south to the Kwanza River in Angola. This species will also enter estuaries and freshwater river systems where they can sometimes be found hundreds of kilometres from the coast.
Manatees usually inhabit shallow coastal areas and rivers and very rarely venture too far offshore. They are a warm water species and will often spend their winter in spring fed rivers to keep warm.