The Amazonian Manatee (Trichechus inunguis) is a freshwater species of manatee that inhabits the Amazon basin. It habitat includes Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana and Venezuela. To learn more about this graceful species, a must-see for anyone considering a trip to Iquitos, or taking any Amazon River cruise into Peru’s Pacaya-Samiria National Park, is a visit to the Amazonian Manatee Rescue Center.
Known locally as the Centro de Rescate Amazónico (“Amazon Rescue Center”) the center’s main focus is the Amazonian Manatee, specifically the caring for and releasing of young manatees back into their natural habitat, often in Pacaya-Samiria, where they stand the best chance of survival, thanks to the park’s remoteness and protected status.
Young manatees are orphaned when their mothers are accidentally killed by boat traffic, or intentionally killed by hunters for meat (more often the latter). The young calves are either brought directly to the center by concerned individuals or delivered by Peruvian authorities if confiscated from someone attempting to sell illegally. Unfortunately, some locals think that selling a pet manatee would turn a fast buck, which is why it is so important never to purchase wildlife from markets or street vendors, even if your intention is to help. By purchasing these animals, we are only encouraging the seller to go out and kill another mother. Travelers that are approached by anyone attempting to sell protected wildlife should inform the local authorities.
At the center, visitors will receive a brief introduction to the project, and the characteristics of the species. Following this, visitors will have the opportunity to bottle-feed the young manatees and believe us when we say that this is quite the moving experience. It is hard to describe the sensation, but you make an immediate connection with these immensely charismatic creatures. During the feeding, you will have the opportunity to caress their skin which is soft as silk. It is heartbreaking to know what these beautiful animals have been put through, but at the same time encouraging to see such enthusiastic, energetic, and concerned local and international volunteers working for their conservation.
Aside from caring for and reintroducing Amazonian Manatees to the wild, the center is part of a broader effort by local authorities to educate the local population on sustainable alternatives to hunting these noble creatures. Changing the way a culture has lived for centuries takes time, but based on the fire we saw in the eyes of the young volunteers, it is only a matter of time before this compassion and hope is brought to the local communities where real change will take place.
If you are considering a Peru Amazon River cruise please note that many cruise itineraries already include a visit to the Manatee Rescue Center. If you are unsure if a visit is included in your chosen cruise please check with our destination specialists. For those wishing to visit the Center independently, logistically it makes sense to visit on your way to or from Iquitos airport due to its location towards Nauta, in the opposite direction to the city of Iquitos.
From the airport to the rescue center is a 14.5km and 30 minutes drive, or from Iquitos itself it is a 22km and 50 minute drive. The Manatee Rescue Center is located at Carretera Iquitos-Nauta, Km. 13.8 on the right hand side of the road as you drive towards Nauta. Each visit lasts approximately 2 hours.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9 am – 3 pm
Cost: Adults S/. 30.00, Children S/. 15.00
As you can see, the center only charges a modest entrance fee, but it is encouraged to donate more, if possible, to help cover the costs associated with importing specially designed ‘manatee milk’ from a similar center in Florida.
For those interested in seeing manatees in the Amazon while also learning about and supporting conservation efforts, a trip to the Manatee Rescue Center in Iquitos is highly recommended. Because Amazonian Manatees are very difficult to see in their natural habitat, for those wanting to see one, this is often the only way to observe and interact with them, making this an important stop before boarding your Amazon cruise boat.
For all travelers wishing to tour the Amazon, Rainforest Cruises encourages a day or more tour of Iquitos before embarking on your Amazon River cruise, in order to get to know the city and its attractions. When you visit the Amazon Manatee Rescue Center, and places like it, you deepen your understanding of the threats facing the Amazon … and the people fighting to preserve its unique flora and fauna. Not only that, but any visit to the Manatee Rescue Center directly benefits this vulnerable species and is sure to be an unforgettable part of your trip.
For more information about the invaluable work being done at the Manatee Rescue Center in Iquitos please visit their website here.
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