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The West Indian manatee is one of the most threatened species in Brazil. The species has currently a patchy distribution from the state of Alagoas to the state of Amapá. The difficulty of observing manatees, especially in estuarine waters, is a challenge for conservation. Therefore, it is necessary to use new methodologies and technologies to solve manatee detection problems in their natural habitats. The goal of this study was to use an active acoustic method of detection to estimate manatee density and abundance in the estuarine complex of the Timonha and Ubatuba rivers, between the states of Ceará and Piauí, northeast Brazil. Data collection was conducted from a wooden boat with an outboard motor using a side-scan sonar. Sonar images were collected along line transects in three regions within the study area. Manatee abundance was calculated using distance sampling (Distance 6.0 software). There were 1,396 transection lines that totaled 863.6 km traveled in the study area. The observed general encounter rate was 0.089 group detected per kilometer traveled. The best detection model was the hazard-rate with no adjustment terms, resulting in a detection probability of 33.7%, and an estimated density for the entire study area of 9.19 manatees per km2. Abundance of manatees in the estuary was estimated to be 37 animals (CV% = 30.2, 95% CI = 21 - 66). The methodology using side-scan sonar proposed here was successful in the detection of manatees in the study area and in defining parameters for its use to estimate the population size using the distance sampling method. This study provides an estimate of manatee density and abundance in a key estuarine system along the northeast coast of Brazil, which can serve as a baseline for future studies and aid in the development of conservation strategies for the species. This is the first time this methodological approach has been used for manatee detection and abundance estimation in Brazil. We recommend the use of side-scan sonar in future West Indian manatee research.

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Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals





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Open access article retrieved May 21, 2024 from

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