South America

South American Chapter

A meeting of the Sirenian Specialist Group (SSG/IUCN), South American Region and the First Latin American Symposium for Manatee Research and Conservation (SILAMA) took place within the 16th Meeting of Specialists on Aquatic Mammals of South America (SOLAMAC), which in turn was inserted in the Colombian Congress of Zoology in November- December 2014, in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

The goal of the Meeting of the Sirenian Specialist Group (SSG/IUCN), South American Region was to enhance the coordination of regional manatee conservation efforts in South America, in order to promote and strengthen local experiences.

The specific objectives were: to update members on the current activities and projects carried out for the two species (Trichechus manatus and T. inunguis) in South America; to define and prioritize gaps in conservation and research; to discuss strategies to address the problem of conservation of manatees in South America; to discuss current topics that require specific position by the group and to discuss strategies to improve communication and collaboration among group members.

The First Latin American Symposium for Manatee Research and Conservation (SILAMA) aimed to: (1) share and disseminate advances in research and conservation of manatees in Latin America; (2) exchange experiences on advances in both in situ and ex situ manatee management; (3) discuss innovative methodological approaches that address the current needs of research and conservation, under ecological, economic and social realities of our nations; and (4) promote international cooperation for the conservation of manatees in Latin America.

Specialists from across Latin America and the Caribbean were invited to submit abstracts as part of the Colombian Congress of Zoology; by way of short oral presentations or video-presentations. There were 28 oral presentations, 15 video-presentations and one magistral lecture; showing results of research developed in Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Belize, Mexico and French Guyana. SILAMA was the largest symposium of the Zoology Congress, reaching a mean audience of about 50 persons per day.

The following topics were presented and discussed at SILAMA:
(1) Conservation state, abundance and distribution of manatees in Belize (areas of Bacalar Chico, Turneffe Atoll and Port of Honduras), Brazil (Bacía Potiguar), French Guyana, and Colombia (Puerto Nariño, Rio Lebrija).
(2) Methods for monitoring and detection of manatees: side-scan sonar, aerial surveys, captures and telemetry, passive and active acoustics and interviews.
(3) Techniques for describing movements and behavior of manatees (bioacoustics, motion sensors, etc).
(4) Advances in manatee conservation involving local community, environmental education campaigns, the engagement of local researchers, and the use of games as an educational strategy.
(5) Challenges for manatee conservation in the presence of armed groups (Colombia), increased tourism (Mexico), or fishing activities (Belem, Brazil).
(6) Recurring conservation issues such as the stranding of calves on the northeastern coast of Brazil.
(7) Proposal of alternative conservation strategies, such as manatee reintroduction in areas where it has been extirpated (Case Guadeloupe, France).
(8) Advances in the management of captive manatees: genealogical records, pedigree studies (CMA, Brazil); improved milk formula for calves in rehabilitation programs, etc.
(9) Advances in the understanding of the biology of the species (estimation of sexual maturity, physiology, intestinal biota, microbiota in cavities, infections).
(10) Results of long-term programs of rescue, rehabilitation and release of manatees in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.
(11) Advances in the understanding of genetics, phylogeography, genetic biodiversity and hybridization processes manatees in Latin America.

Prizes were awarded to thee presentations with major Relevance for Research and Conservation of Manatees as follows:
Flávio Lima (PCCB-UERN, Brazil) for his presentation about manatee monitoring in Brazilian waters,
Juan Sánchez Babilonia (CREA, Peru) for his presentation on environmental education with school children in Peru, and
Manja Voss (Museum für Naturkunde, Germany) for her research on manatee hybridization in South America.
Discussion were held on various topics including:
(1) the use of sonar to detect and count of manatees in dark waters;
(2) the use of mixed methodologies as the use of sonar and hydrophones;
(3) novel strategies for catching animals;
(4) the current problems of conservation of manatees including pressure caused by oil and mining activities;
(5) strategies for conservation and reintroduction of manatees in areas where populations have been extirpated.

The meeting made the following recommendations:
(1) Create a network to discuss strategies to prevent or mitigate the negative consequences of the increasing incidence of oil and mining in areas where manatees are distributed in Latin America
(2) Exchange experiences among researchers and conservationists from different nations is d to fill gaps in training on different topics such as implementation of conservation strategies (environmental education, integration of the local community) and use of research tools and management
(3) Develop training workshops that allow researchers to learn new techniques, for instance, the use and interpretation of side-scan sonar.

SILAMA ll has been proposed to follow up on the different areas of knowledge and processes manatee conservation at the regional level.