Trichechus manatus

A historical review of records of the West Indian manatee and the American crocodile in the Dutch Antilles

We discuss the significance of two manatee records for the Dutch Windward Islands (Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten) as well as six manatid and one crocodile record for the Dutch Leeward Islands (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire). The persistence of the manatee in the Lesser Antilles until the early 17th century suggests that in pre-Columbian times manatees would have also occurred regularly in the Dutch Windward Islands. In pre-Columbian times, suitable habitat for the American crocodile was sufficient in the Dutch Leeward Islands to have supported small resident populations, and habitat for the manatee was possibly also present. Both species have been widely hunted by early humans and we surmise that small, isolated populations of these species could easily have been extirpated in the Dutch Leeward Islands well prior to European colonization. However, two manatee sightings with the last five years, suggest that these islands may somehow still form part of the active range of this rare and elusive species.

Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Eustatius
St. Maarten