Smithsonian Scientists Use Sonar to Count Endangered Manatees


Panama’s largest manatee population is thought to live in the San San Pond Sak in the province of Bocas Del Toro, but, like all the world’s manatee species, the Panama population is disappearing fast and at risk of extinction. Researchers who want to keep track have historically relied upon interviews, historical records and sightings from boats and airplanes. But sonar provides a new way to count.

Hector M. Guzman, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Panama City, Panama, used side-scan sonar to scan almost 2,000 km of river in the San San estuary. Using their data from nearly 100 repeated sweeps of the 18 km of protected river, his team converted more than 1,000 detections into seasonal manatee population estimates. Their goal was to provide better data to inform decisions about the next steps for manatee conservation. Read more at STRI.

Image: Hector M. Guzman in Panama. Credit:


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