Exploring Manatee Conservation in Latin America

Join us as we explore Manatee Conservation in Latin America!

During this virtual tour, your students will have access to real-life, current examples of manatee conservation. Through this web site, your students will have the opportunity to experience research as it takes place and to develop a broader understanding of the scientific process. Daniel Gonzalez-Socoloske (see about the scientist below), a dedicated researcher, will help you and your students through this process so that you can better understand the complex interactions between local communities and their natural environments. By traveling to five remote areas – Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras and China, your students will have the opportunity to explore first hand, how conservation is being addressed.

To begin, download the Manatee Curriculum Overview. Once your students have completed the first part of this curriculum unit, they will have developed a broader understanding of the main issues involved in manatee conservation. They can then engage in the second part of this unit, where they can apply what they have learned in a conference simulation. The components of this conference can be downloaded:

  • (Conference handout)
  • Opening remarks of the official for the International Union for Conservation (download)
  • Role Plays (local fisherman, biologist/researcher, local municipal elected official, entrepreneur/commercial developer, local shop owner and representative of a NGO focusing on manatee conservation in the area) (download)

About the Scientist

I have been working with manatees in Latin America since 2004. The locations you will visit in this learning unit represent some of my study sites. I have been working to conserve manatees in three different ways.

1. By attempting to improve the communication between the different groups of people working towards the conservation of manatees in Latin America. As an example, in 2006 I organized along with my friend Dr. Olivera Gomez (see Pantanos de Centla) a symposium held in Guatemala to bring together all interested parties working with manatees in Central America. The outcome of the symposium was the development of a Mesoamerican manatee workgroup, so that ideas could be more easily exchanged between those working with manatees. We are in the process of creating a newsletter for this working group.

2. Developing new techniques and methodologies to study manatees in freshwater habitats where the water visibility is very low. A recent example is the development of a new methodology to detect manatees in murky waters using sonar (Gonzalez et al.2009). This new methodology is allowing protected area managers to survey for manatees in locations where other methods are less useful. I am working to continue to advance this methodology so that it can be used to determine population size estimates. Thus far, Dr. Olivera-Gomez and I have trained many individuals, inlcuding Magnus Mochado Severo (see Northeast Coast of Brazil location), throughout Latin America to use this new methodology. Counties where it is being used include Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala.

3. Finally, by learning more about the biology and the status of manatees. In 2006 and 2007 I lead aerial surveys in Honduras (see Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge location) and in 2008 I once again teamed up with Dr. Olivera-Gomez and other biologists including Carlos Espinoza (see Tortuguero National Park location) to capture and satellite tag a manatee in Panama (see YouTube video). This represented the first time a wild manatee has been satellite tagged in Panama. I am currently working on the feeding ecology of manatees in Pantanos de Centla, Mexico.

Copyright 2019 | The Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University