Between the 1930s and 1950s, Amazonian manatees were hunted to the point of enlargement and have become masters at hiding from humans ever since.
According to Britannica, all three species of manatees have been listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since the 1980s.
A study done by the Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve has made it their mission to observe these creatures in order to follow their population growth. And what they found was the manatee population has, in fact, grown immensely.
In the course of their studies, they found several encouraging indications that the manatee population is rebounding in the Purus River region. Even without an estimate of the population — manatees are impossible to count the way one would count, for example, porpoises — clues such as feces, the plants they feed on, and also sightings of the animals themselves suggest a recovery. Members of local communities also agree the population is returning, reports Mongabay.
“As they are protected and it has been made illegal to sell them, the species has had room to grow and the expectation is that [the population] is increasing. We don’t know how much it is increasing, though. We don’t have these numbers,” says Vera da Silva, a researcher at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) and a co-author of the study.
Even though there are better protections for these gentle giants, threats in the form of poaching or accidental injury are still an issue. Continuing to monitor manatees and their population health and growth will be vital in their continued survival.