Katie Tripp, SMC’s Director of Science and Conservation stands outside the office of Fundacion Trichechus in San Rafael de Heredia, Costa Rica.  (Photo by Carlos Espinosa.) In Torgutuero, the river is used as a highway and is the main form of transport for humans and supplies.  Lodges often own and operate multiple boats to ferry passengers on sightseeing tours and trips to the National Park.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.)<br/> In Tortuguero, this sightseeing business advertises manatees, but in recent years, the number of sightings in this area has declined.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) At this information stand in Tortuguero, a yellow sign bears the message “Please Slow Manatees Below” –- an adaptation of SMC’s yellow banners used in Florida.  Carlos Espinosa with Fundacion Trichechus had been focusing his education and outreach efforts in Tortuguero due to the historic trend in sightings in this area. However, in collaboration with SMC, the group will expand conservation efforts to other areas of the Caribbean coast as well. (Photo by Katie Tripp.)<br/> Katie received instruction on the use of side scan sonar technology from Tortuguero National Park staff.  This technology is being used in several areas of Central and South America for detecting manatees in murky waters. (Photo by Carlos Espinosa.) From Tortuguero, Katie and Carlos traveled north along the river to REBACO, noting the shoreline vegetation that would be attractive to hungry manatees.  Boat traffic was reduced as they moved north of Tortuguero.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) This sign welcoming people to REBACO -- or the Colorado River protected area -- is painted on the main building, which serves as headquarters and dormitory for park staff. (Photo by Carlos Espinosa.) In REBACO, several lagoons exist with relatively clear water that facilitates the growth of hydrilla up to the water’s surface.  Additional plants attractive to manatees including water hyacinth and water lettuce also grow here.  This site currently sees little traffic and by all appearances looks to be a desirable manatee habitat.  The area was a sharp contrast to the much busier waters of Tortuguero.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) Near Puerto Lindo in northeast Costa Rica, manatees are sighted with some frequency from this bluff overlooking the river.  There is a lagoon behind the river that is also believed to be used by manatees.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) Katie stands with the owner of a small fishing lodge located on a bluff overlooking the river near Puerto Lindo.  Carlos had been told that manatees were seen here, so we stopped to talk with these people, who told us about their manatee sightings and their concern for the safety of the manatees given the boats, which travel at high speeds.  Their concerns are elevated during the dry season, when the river drops six feet in depth, forcing boats and manatees to travel in a narrower area.  (Photo by Carlos Espinosa.) Katie (center in photo) and Carlos traveled by boat from Tortuguero to Moin.  Boats are the primary mode of transport in much of northeastern Costa Rica and our boat was also filled with tourists traveling south along the coast.  (Photo by Carlos Espinosa.) Traveling to Moin, Katie and Carlos passed this manatee sanctuary established near Caño Negro. (Photo by Katie Tripp.) Sections of the river are quite narrow, and the dry season leaves even less room for boats to pass each other safely.  In this stretch of the river, two passing vessels occupy essentially the entire navigable width of the river, leaving little room for manatees who would also be using this route to travel to or from Tortugero. (Photo by Katie Tripp.) Carlos Espinosa interviews an official from Cahuita National Park.  This park borders the ocean and has seen extensive damage in recent years, believed to be the result of climate change.  Massive trees lay fallen in the water, the shoreline is eroding, and hiking trails continually have to be moved landward as previous trails wash away.  Just offshore, seagrass beds are found, and manatees are reported in this area.  Erosion in this area could increase turbidity and affect the health of seagrass beds here, which could negatively impact the manatees’ food supply.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) In Cahuita, Katie and Carlos encountered German students conducting seagrass research, mapping abundance and distribution of species including Thalassia, which is a preferred food source for manatees.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) In Cocles, just south of Puerto Viejo, surfers report seeing manatees in the ocean.  Many more sightings are being reported in this southern region, in the ocean -- not where we would expect to find manatees based upon their habitat use patterns in the U.S. (Photo by Katie Tripp.) In Manzanillo, a local fisherman and his son took Katie and Carlos out in their boat along the coast to the various sites where manatees can be found near shore and traveling up river to lagoon environments.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) From Manzanillo, Carlos and Katie were taken to Gandoca and Sixaola -- just north of the border with Panama -- to view the coastline where manatees are seen.  Due to extremely high seas, they had to stay outside the wave breaks and further from shore.  (Photo by Katie Tripp.) Katie presented the guides in Manzanillo with a Save the Manatee calendar as an extra token of appreciation for sharing their time and knowledge. They loved it! ( Photo by Carlos Espinosa. )<br/>
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