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Stereotypical behaviour in captive West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2013

Daiane Garcia Anzolin*
Federal University of Pernambuco—UFPE, Rua Professor Moraes Rego, 1235, Cidade Universitária, Recife-PE, Brazil
Paulo S.M. de Carvalho
Federal University of Pernambuco—UFPE, Rua Professor Moraes Rego, 1235, Cidade Universitária, Recife-PE, Brazil
Pitágoras C. Viana Jr
Aquatic Mammals Foundation—FMA, Avenue 17 de agosto, 2001, 1° Andar, Casa Forte, Recife-PE, Brazil
Iran C. Normande
Centre for Research and Conservation of Marine Mammals—CMA / ICMBio, Estrada do Forte Orange, s/n°, Forte Orange, Ilha de Itamaracá-PE, Brazil
Antonio da Silva Souto
Federal University of Pernambuco—UFPE, Rua Professor Moraes Rego, 1235, Cidade Universitária, Recife-PE, Brazil
Correspondence should be addressed to: D. G. Anzolin, Federal University of Pernambuco—UFPE, Rua Professor Moraes Rego, 1235, Cidade Universitária, Recife-PE, Brazil email:


There is great difficulty in maintaining aquatic mammals in captivity, since the attempt to replicate the environment they live in poses an enormous challenge. Poor captivity facilities without environmental enrichment can lead to different consequences for animal health, including the appearance of stereotypical movements. The aim of this study was to identify these behaviours in three groups of animals, one group of manatees inhabiting a reintroduction oceanarium in Pernambuco (PE) state, and two other groups confined in corrals constructed in natural areas (estuaries), one located in Paraiba state and the other in Alagoas state, all in north-eastern Brazil. Observations were conducted using the focal animal sampling method. It was found that the animals inhabiting the reintroduction oceanarium with no environmental enrichment showed stereotypical behaviour such as ‘Back-and-forth’ movements, ‘Hitting head against the limiting structure’ and ‘Hitting the muzzle’, while animals constrained within estuaries did not. The ‘circle swimming’ behaviour was present in a higher percentage of the animals captive in the reintroduction oceanarium, although no significant difference between the sites was found. The number and frequency of occurrence of stereotypical behaviours was significantly higher in animals kept in the reintroduction oceanarium in PE than in those of other locations. Based on these results we recommend the use of appropriate environmental enrichment and the reduction of time manatees stay confined in the reintroduction oceanarium.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2013 

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