West Indian manatee

(Trichechus manatus)

The West Indian manatee, also called see cow or Antillean manatee, belongs to a very old group of mammals. The rare herbivores have adapted to their life in the water over the course of their evolution so much, that they now predominately prefer to live in the warm, shallow waters of Florida and the Caribbean.


Central, South and North America, Caribbean

Shallow tropical waters, subtropical waters

Water plants, mainly seagrass

Less than 10,000

2.50 to 4.20 m

300 to 700 kg

Brooding/gestation time:
12-14 months

Achievable age
30 to 50 years

What you should know about West Indian manatees

With only four recent species worldwide, the West Indian manatee belongs to the smaller order of mammals. A distinction is made between dugongs, which can be found in the coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and manatees. They include the African manatee, Amazonian manatee and Antillean manatee. Tierpark Berlin is one of only two zoos in Germany that features the latter.


The water makes all the difference

While the Antillean manatee is just as comfortable in seawater as it is in fresh water, the other two species of manatees occur almost exclusively in fresh waters. The dugong, however, leads its life solely in the sea as the only herbivorous mammal.


The mermaids among the cows

'Sea cows', with their rather plump and bulky body shape, small head, bulbous and wrinkled upper lip and spherical eyes, can't exactly be considered as beauty queens in the waters. Nevertheless, this did not stop scientists also referring to them as 'Sirena' – their lethargic movements underwater are also very similar to that of mermaids.


Gentle, peaceful giants

West Indian manatees are curious and confiding animals. They spend their predominantly peaceful lives as loners and only form loose groups mainly when eating, sleeping and cuddling up with their offspring. When a West Indian manatee gives birth to a calf, which only occurs every three to five years, they really show great and intense affection towards their young.


Is it true, that ...?

Normally all species of mammal have seven cervical vertebrae. The uniqueness of the manatees is however, that they only have six cervical vertebrae – and that makes them absolutely unique in the class of mammals. Those who believe that West Indian manatees can hold their breath for a long time as water beings, are mistaken. Manatees can only remain underwater for a maximum of 15 minutes when sleeping, this is even less while awake at 2 to 3 minutes.

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Feeding times

12 p.m., Pachyderm House

All feeding times