Distribution and Habitat Use of Antillean Manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) in the Drowned Cayes Area of Belize, Central America

Abstract: Belize, Central America, has long been recognized as a stronghold for Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) in the Caribbean (O’Shea & Salisbury, 1991). The Drowned Cayes area, in particular, has been noted as an important habitat (Bengston & Magor, 1979; O’Shea & Salisbury, 1991; Auil, 1998, 2004; Morales-Vela et al., 2000). It is critical to evaluate habitat use and the relative importance of different habitat types within these cayes because this area is increasingly impacted by human activities (Auil, 1998). The two research objectives for this paper are (1) to document manatee distribution within the Drowned Cayes, Swallow Caye, and Gallows Reef, and (2) to examine habitat use patterns in order to identify habitat characteristics influencing the probability of sighting a manatee. Binary logistic regression was used to examine whether the probability of sighting a manatee varied in relation to several habitat variables. The probability of sighting a manatee across all points was 0.31 per scan (n = 795). Habitat category, seagrass category, and habitat category interaction with resting hole were the most important variables explaining the probability of sighting a manatee. The Drowned Cayes area clearly constitutes a manatee habitat area. Seagrass flats and cove habitats with resting holes were especially important habitat characteristics.

Key Words: distribution, habitat use, Antillean manatee, Trichechus manatus manatus, Belize

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.34.1.2008.35

Page Numbers: 35-43

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