Study Areas

San San Pond Sak (HSSPS)

It is a wetland along the western Caribbean coast of Panama, between the Sixaola River and the Boca del Drago peninsula in the province of Bocas del Toro, with an area of 16,400 hectares.

Damiani Guariviara

It is located in the Ngäbe-Buglé Indigenous Comarca, specifically in the Ñö Kribo region, covering an area of 24,000 ha. Both wetlands were designated as sites of international importance and protected by the Ramsar Convention in 1993 and 2004, respectively. And several other regional wetlands in Central America, from Belize to Panama.

Acoustic monitoring Research

The manatees of the Antilles communicate frequently by vocalizing at frequencies between 2 and 20 KHz and at very low intensities of approximately 112 decibels, to maintain group, parental and reproductive relationships. On average, the vocalization time is 364 milliseconds.

Through research we have determined that it is even possible to differentiate manatees individually by their vocalizations, as each one emits sounds with slightly different harmonic components. Between mother and calf there is continuous communication through different sounds, especially squeaks.

One very promising and proven methodology is to use a hydrophone network to continuously record underwater and to use signal processing and machine learning to individually identify manatees by the sounds they make.

With this new approach, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Technological University of Panama with the # MisiónManatí initiative have estimated a number of 33 manatees for the San San River and 47 manatees for the Changuinola River.

Watch Seminar

Zoom Seminar Series: Ecology and Monitoring of the Manatees in Panama


To restore and protect manatee populations, it is essential that the Misión Manatí team have research tools that can estimate changes in local and regional populations and understand how manatees use their habitat.