Wildlife Fact Sheets




Trichechus manatus

  • Life Span
    40 years
  • Habitat
    Coastal areas and rivers
  • Range
    North American east coast from Florida to Brazil, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon River and the west coast and rivers of Africa.
  • Preferred Food
    Seagrasses, weeds, algae and mangrove leaves


Sometimes referred to as a sea cow, I can grow to be up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 1,200 pounds. I move slowly through canals and coastal areas, at a rate of about five miles per hour. Don’t underestimate me though! At times, I can travel at speeds close to 15 miles per hour, but only in short bursts. I don’t like the cold very much, so to stay warm, I keep to waters that are at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything colder than that and I risk dying due to cold stress.

Each day I eat around 120 pounds of food, or about 10% of my body weight. My favorite foods are different types of vegetation like seagrasses and mangrove leaves. I might ingest small fish or invertebrates occasionally, but mostly I stick to a vegetarian diet!

I surface for air every three to five minutes and can stay submerged for up to 20 minutes while resting. Because I hang out in canals and shallow coastal areas, I often come in contact with boats. Colliding with motorboats is my biggest threat, along with other human-induced threats including fish hook ingestion and loss of habitat. You can help me by obeying local waterway rules and picking up your trash!

Did You Know?

We manatees are distant relatives to elephants! Traits that we share are having a trunk (though mine is smaller than theirs), tough skin, bristle-like hair covering our bodies, teeth that are continuously replaced and toenails on our flippers/feet. We are also an important part of the ecosystem; without us, the seagrass would become too long and unhealthy. Seagrass plays an integral role in stabilizing the ecosystem because it provides food and shelter to other marine animals.

Status and Conservation

I enjoy swimming alone or in small groups in shallow water (six to seven feet deep). When the water is warm and seagrass is plentiful, I have no complaints!

Fast Facts


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