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Amazonian Manatee
Trichechus Inunguis

The Amazonian Manatee is the only freshwater manatee. It averages nine feet and weighs 600 to 1000 pounds. Some people say it looks like a huge walrus without tusks. Manatees are completely hairless except for the bristle on its snout. The manatee has tiny eyes, hind feet and flippers for their fore-legs. It is shy and nocturnal and extremely difficult to see as it feeds on aquatic vegetation like hyacinths and floating grass. It's perfectly adapted to the flood-and-drought cycle of the flooded forest. During the dry season, it stays in deep freshwater lakes. As water levels rise with the flood, it moves out to find floating weeds, roots and grasses. It is the only completely aquatic herbivorous mammal in the world and can eat more than 100 lbs of plants a day, building up fat. It can then go without eating for the 6 months when the floods recede. One feature which may help it do this is its ability to vary its body temperature with its surroundings, more like a reptile than a mammal. The Amazon Manatee is a giant food processor. Up to 40% of the food it eats is excreted in smaller easy-to-eat particles for other smaller creatures in the water. Although they are difficult to see, you may often see its enormous production of dung floating in the river.

The manatee generally lives alone except during courtship, which is usually flood season. It communicates with others by making noises underwater. The Amazon Manatee reproduces slowly. The gestation period takes about 13 months and females produce one young only once every 1-3 years. The calf is dependent on mom and stays close beside her for 2 years. The Amazon Manatee females and her young form small groups of 5-10; the male is usually solitary or forms small bachelor herds.

Hundreds of thousands of gentle, harmless Amazon Manatees have been slaughtered for their meat and oil since the early 17th century. In the 1930's to 1940's, they were killed by the thousands for their hide which was made into leather for heavy duty use like shoe soles and belts for heavy equipment. Locals have long used manatee oil for cooking and traditional cures and their meat is highly valued especially because it keeps well without refrigeration.

Much like a floating cow the manatee is known as a "Sea Cow"; that makes this one a rare "River Cow."

Fresh air is breathed into the lungs; remember, manatees are mammals too.

At 1,000 pounds the Amazonian Manatees are the largest aquatic organism in the Amazon. Since most animals are smaller in the rainforest the massive manatee has been desireable because of its meat.

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