Managers faced with decisions on threatened and endangered wildlife populations often are lacking detailed information about the species of concern. Integration of genetic applications will provide management teams with a better ability to assess and monitor recovery efforts on imperiled species. The field of molecular biology continues to progress rapidly and many tools are currently available. Presently, little guidance is available to assist researchers and managers with the appropriate selection of genetic tools to study the status of wild manatee populations. We discuss several genetic tools currently employed in the application of conservation genetics, and address the utility of using these tools to determine population status to aid in conservation efforts. As an example, special emphasis is focused on the endangered West Indian manatee (Order Sirenia). All four extant species of sirenians are imperiled throughout their range, predominately due to anthropogenic sources; therefore, the need for genetic information on their population status is direly needed.