Information from 15 satellite-tracked Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) was analyzed in order to assess individual movements, home ranges, and high-use areas for conservation decisions. Manatees were captured in Chetumal Bay, Mexico, and tagged with Argos-monitored satellite transmitters. Location of the manatees and physical characteristics were assessed to describe habitat properties. Most manatees traveled to freshwater sources. The Maximum Area Size (MAS) for each manatee was determined using the observation-area method. Additional kernel densities of 95% home range and 50% Center of Activity (COA) were also calculated, with manatees having 1–3 COAs. Manatees exhibited two different movement patterns: remaining in Chetumal Bay, and long-distance (up to 240 km in 89 d). The residence time in Chetumal Bay was higher for females (89.6% of time) than for males (72.0%), but the daily travel rate (0.4–0.5 km/d) was similar for both sexes. Most of the COAs fell within Natural Protected Areas (NPA). However, manatees also travel for long distances into unprotected areas, where they face uncontrolled boat traffic, fishing activities, and habitat loss. Conservation of movement corridors may promote long-distance movements and facilitate genetic exchange.
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Movement patterns of Antillean manatees in Chetumal Bay (Mexico) and coastal Belize: A challenge for regional conservation