Top Left Solid Corner

West African Manatee, Trichechus senegalensis, Pictures, Stock Photos, Images

Top Right Solid Corner

The West African manatee shares many features with the West Indian manatee, so this fact sheet will focus mainly on differences and the unique circumstances of this African species.

The West African manatee inhabits the warm, shallow coastal waters, rivers, lakes, swamps, and estuaries of Western Africa, from the Senegal River bordering Mauritania in the north to the Cuanza River of Angola in the south. It is mainly nocturnal, and generally feeds and travels from dusk to dawn. It rests in shallow waters during the day.

The West African manatee weighs up to 500 kg (1,100 lbs), and is 3-4 meters long (10-13 feet) when fully grown. It has the same brownish, gray coloring as the West Indian manatee, and is generally similar in appearance, though the snout is straighter, i.e., not as downturned. This may be an adaptation that aids it in reaching overhanging vegetation, particularly mangrove leaves, which make up much of its diet.

While all manatee species are endangered, West African manatees are possibly the most threatened. They are hunted throughout their range and are accidentally caught in fishing nets. The mangroves they feed on are being cut down, and erosion from logging has caused sediment to build up in lagoons and estuaries, ruining their habitat. The manatee has legal protection in every country within its range, but the laws are seldom enforced. Hunters appear to be aware of the laws, but few fear punishment. No one knows how many West African manatees exist, but there are assumed to be fewer than 10,000.

West Aftican Manatee image
West African Manatee, Trichechus senegalensis, critically endangered species. Image #: 015631

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Sirenia

Family: Trichechidae

Genus Species: Trichechus senegalensis

>>> More West African Manatee Pictures

For an illustration comparing species and species size in the order Sirenia, see:

Other names: West African Manatee, African Manatee, Lamantin d 'Afrique, Lamantin du Senegal, Manati de Senegal:

- West African Manatee information assembled from published and on-line sources by Kevin Miller on Oct. 29, 2006 for


Ripple, J. Manatees and Dugongs of the World, Voyageur Press, 1999.