Manatees in Brazil as a historical aquatic resource and the first concerns towards populations’ management (16th to 19th century)

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


From the five species of the Order Sirenia, one is extinct since the late 18th century (Steller’s Sea Cow Hydrodamalis gigas) and four are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These species have been hunted over time since pre-history to the present, they are part of the local cultures within their riverine and coastal distribution range, and part of local folklore and legends. For that reason, the study of their environmental history and cultural importance needs to be examined. In our study we collected information from travel literature books, letters, chronicles, scientific treaties, illustrated broadsheets, leaflets and images of manatees in reports from Portuguese navigators, chroniclers, traders, missionaries, officials, soldiers and scholars. We analysed local myths and first perceptions, descriptions of its anatomy and behaviour, culinary usage, and fishing methods. More importantly, we addressed early management and conservation concerns regarding the use of manatees as resources. In the concrete cases of the Amazonian Manatee (Trichechus inunguis) and the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) in Brazil, early modern Portuguese sources provide relevant information on exploitation and uses of the species by natives and Portuguese settlers. By the late 18th century, the commercial profit of the activity, that included trading with Northern Europe, justified the establishment of the Royal Fisheries in the Amazon basin to process products such as manatees, fish and turtle eggs. Also, it led to the emergence of the first environmental concern as written by the naturalist Alexandre Rodrigues Ferreira. Here, we will discuss the evolution of captures and the need for management measures towards manatees in Brazil at the light of the Portuguese Expansion in the south Atlantic, and the appreciation of this novel natural world as a new profitable economic resource.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event30th European Cetacean Society Annual Conference: nto the Deep: Research and Conservation on Oceanic Marine Mammals - Museu da Baleia da Madeira, Funchal, Portugal
Duration: 14 Mar 201616 Mar 2016
Conference number: 30


Conference30th European Cetacean Society Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleecs2016
Internet address


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