Type(s) of project: Reintroduction
Type(s) of wetland: Mangrove – Seagrass beds
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) has disappeared from Guadeloupe’s waters because of intense hunting. This endemic Caribbean species currently counts fewer than 2,500 animals in the West Indies, and this number is constantly dropping. Concrete actions have been considered to protect this marine mammal, classified as being “in danger of becoming extinct” on the IUCN’s red list (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
This project aims to reintroduce the West Indian manatee into the Grand-Cul-de-Sac Marin bay, led by the Guadeloupe National Park since 2008 in partnership with local, national and international stakeholders. It is based on a founder population of 15 manatees, that will be released into their natural environment.
The project aims to reach three major goals: :
- the preservation of the manatee and support to regional initiatives,
- raising awareness among the population and increasing the involvement of territorial stakeholders, concerning the implementation of good managerial practices within the Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin site, through an emblematic figure – the manatee,
- promoting Guadeloupe’s natural heritage and eco-tourism potential.
It should be noted that four of the five Brazilian animals, that are not considered “releasable” following their long-term captivity, will be placed in a farming pen in Blachon Bay, in the town of Le Lamentin. They will be part of a captive breeding program. Their descendants will be released in a natural environment after one or two years of suckling. The Guadeloupe National Park is planning to soon build a pre-release park and add a healthcare center to the breeding center, for manatees injured in the wild.
- 1998: First management plan drawn up by the Grand-Cul-de-sac Marin Nature Reserve, mentioning the reintroduction of manatees in Guadeloupe.
- 2002: Elaboration of a reintroduction project, following a feasibility study conducted by the DIREN (Regional Environmental Directorate).
- 2008: Creation of a workshop jointly with the Guadeloupe National Park’s institutional stakeholders and partners, with a view to implementing said reintroduction project (conditions, scheduling, etc.).
- 2008: Registration of the project within the regional action plan for manatees, as part of the United Nations Environment Programme.
- 2010 to 2014: Start of the preparatory phase, encompassing all studies and research on the founder population, the welcome site, on-site human interactions, communication with and awareness of the general public, etc.
- 2013: The Center for Aquatic Mammals, as part of the Chico Mendès Institute for Biodiversity in Brazil – one of the National Park’s partners – undertakes to donate five animals (three females and two males) – Operational phase is launched.
- 2014: Construction of the manatee breeding center, intended to welcome the animals.
- 2015: Arrival of the first animals in Guadeloupe – Pursued international cooperation with a view to creating a viable founder population, followed by a reproduction program, communication with and awareness of the general public and involvement of users and local stakeholders.