West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis)


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PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Sirenia
FAMILY: Trichechidae
GENUS: Trichechus
SPECIES: senegalensis


FRESHWATER, SALTERWATER or BRACKISH: Saltwater and freshwater

HABITAT: Along the coast of western Africa, in rivers, lakes, estuaries and lagoons.

LENGTH (maximum): 10-11 Ft

WEIGHT (maximum): 3,000 lbs

RELATIVE SPECIES: Amazonian manatee, west indian manatee.

OTHER NAMES: mami-wata

NEIGHBORING SPECIES: Atlantic hump-back dolphin, bottlenose dolphin.


This species is classified as VULNERABLE according to the IUCN's Red List.
This species is classified as VULNERABLE according to the IUCN’s Red List.

THREATS: Killed for meat and oil. Habitat degradation. Trapped in shallow lakes. Trapped in turbines of damns.

DIET: Seagrass and other water plants.

MANNER OF FEEDING: Sometimes eat fish, fruit and rice plants. Usually consumes submerged plants in murky waters. When trapped in a shallow lake, they have been known to eat algae and clay just to stay alive.

BEHAVIOR: Usually solitary, may form small groups when sleeping, feeding and breeding. Slow moving. Will rest during the day and feed at night.

REPRODUCTION: When a female is ready to mate, she will be surrounded by a group of males that will compete to mate with her. Gestation lasts around 12 months. Calves stay with their mothers for a year or more. Females give birth during rainy seasons when the water is high and there is more food.

LIFE SPAN: 60 years


  • Many stories and myths about mermaids are actually about the manatee.
  • Has fingernails on its flippers.


  • Knopf, Alfred A. Guide to Marine Mammals of the World.Random House. 2002