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First abundance estimate of the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) in Brazil by aerial survey

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2015

Maria Danise Alves*
Department of Oceanography, UFPE, Cidade Universitária, s/n, Recife-PE, 50670-901, Brazil Fundação Mamíferos Aquáticos, FMA, 17 de Agosto, Casa Forte, 2001, Recife-Pernambuco, 52061-540, Brazil Department of Biology, UFRPE, Dom Manoel Medeiros, Dois Irmãos, s/n, Recife-PE, 52171-900, Brazil
Paul Gerhard Kinas
Instituto de Matemática Estatística e Física, FURG, Avenida Itália km 8, Rio Grande-RS, 93201-900, Brazil
Miriam Marmontel
Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá (IDSM), Estrada do Bexiga 2.584, Bairro Fonte Boa, Tefé: Amazonas, 69470-000, Brazil
João Carlos Gomes Borges
Fundação Mamíferos Aquáticos, FMA, 17 de Agosto, Casa Forte, 2001, Recife-Pernambuco, 52061-540, Brazil Graduate Program in Tropical Animal Sciences, UFRPE, Dom Manoel Medeiros, Dois Irmãos, s/n, Recife-PE, 52171-900, Brazil
Alexandra Fernandes Costa
Graduate Program in Aquatic Ecology and Fishery, UFPA, Cidade Universitária, Guamá-Belém-Pará, 66075-110, Brazil
Nicola Schiel
Department of Biology, UFRPE, Dom Manoel Medeiros, Dois Irmãos, s/n, Recife-PE, 52171-900, Brazil
Maria Elisabeth Araújo
Department of Oceanography, UFPE, Cidade Universitária, s/n, Recife-PE, 50670-901, Brazil
Correspondence should be addressed to:M.D. de Oliveira Alves, Department of Oceanography, UFPE, Cidade Universitária, s/n, Recife-PE, 50670-901, Brazil email:


We estimated the abundance of Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) through a large-scale project conducted in 2010 in north-eastern Brazil and evaluated the efficacy of an aerial survey for conservation purposes. Two observers conducted the survey via flights that maintained an altitude of 150 m and an air speed of 140 km h−1, covering over 2590.2 km2 of the coastline. Strip transects were flown in a zigzag pattern. A total of 67 manatees (on- and off-effort) were recorded in 55 sightings. Historical published records of occurrence were formally incorporated using a Bayesian approach. We estimated the manatee population for north-eastern Brazil in the form of a posterior distribution with a mean of 1104 individuals and a 95% posterior probability interval ranging from 485 to 2221 individuals, which indicates high uncertainty. More large-scale studies in the region are warranted to understand temporal trends, in addition to further studies in hotspot areas, with smaller spatial scales, to reduce the coefficient of variation and to allow the use of improved techniques for monitoring the manatees. A greater emphasis on species-specific characteristics and methods to enhance detection probability (e.g. dual observers) are also recommended. The conditions prevailing along the study area were not conducive to aerial surveillance; thus, the results are not a precise estimate of the manatee population. However, these highlight the importance of conservation efforts for the Antillean manatee, considered the most endangered aquatic mammal in Brazil.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2015 

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