The monitoring and surveillance of key threatened species is a crucial element of their protection, allowing conservationists to record changes in their abundance, but also to better understand their activities and response to local threats and activities. The conservation of manatee habitat is a key objective for the FUNDAECO team in Guatemala, the project developer for the Conservation Coast REDD+ project.
Since 2019, FUNDAECO has implemented a programme of monitoring and surveillance of manatees in the REDD+ project zone. In June this summer, the team held an expedition into the Laguna Grande Reserve to check in on manatee levels and activity. The Laguna Grande Reserve covers tropical forest and wetland considered to be the single largest remnant of lowland and inundated tropical rainforest in Caribbean Guatemala. The team boated down the waterways and using a sonar detector, set out to capture indicators of manatee life. This is not the easiest of tasks – this elusive creature can sometimes only be spotted by subtle ripples on the surface of the water as it comes up for air. However, in a thrilling sighting, the team came upon two adult manatees, which subsequently followed the boat as it journeyed through the reserve.
Manatees in Guatemala are threatened by hunting and boating incidents, and their numbers in the region have dropped. Scientists estimate that there are around 2,500 remaining Antillean Manatees (those found in this part of Guatemala) in the wild, although fragmented populations make a truly accurate assessment of their numbers difficult. That’s why the work of FUNDAECO is critical in this area of Guatemala. Conservation activities implemented by the NGO work to protect these manatees’ habitat while educating local communities, including school children, about this species and its importance to the coastal ecosystem.
Recently, celebrations were held with local communities and schools for Oceans Day and International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems. Families and school kids came together to hold festivals and parades celebrating the unique marine and mangrove habitat and its importance to the ecosystem as a whole. The Conservation Coast project takes a system-wide approach to the protection of this threatened landscape and its unique biodiversity. From surveillance and monitoring to education for school kids and communities, FUNDAECO’s multi-faceted strategy is transforming local activities and attitudes to change conservation outcomes in the long term.
Images from recent monitoring and surveillance expedition, led by FUNDAECO.