The African manatee is the least known of all the Sirenians (4); the unique group of manatees and dugongs that are the only herbivorous marine mammals in existence (5). Despite their strange, seemingly cumbersome, cow-like appearance, they are perfectly suited to their aquatic habitat, with a stream-lined, spindle-shaped body; a tail flattened horizontally like a spatula; and forelimbs, bearing nails, that act as paddles. The skin of the African manatee is greyish-brown, finely wrinkled, and sparsely covered with fine, colourless hairs (2). These hairs, and the stout bristles around the mouth, are the reason for the scientific name Trichechus, meaning “to have hair” in Greek (6)
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