St Helena Manatee

Unknown SIRENIAN or Seal of the South Atlantic Ocean.

P^hysical description: Length, 10 feet. Yellowish color. Large, green eyes. Wide jaws with large teeth. Bristly mustache.

Behavior: Rests or sleeps on rocks on the shore.

Distribution: The island of St. Helena. Significant sightings: In 1655, Cornish traveler Peter Mundy found a dying, 10-foot animal that he called a "sea lion" on the beach near Chappell Valley. Other animals that were called "sea cows" were occasionally found by residents of St. Helena (and killed for oil) until 1810, when the last one was shot at Stone Top Valley beach. Present status: Not reported since 1810.


Possible explanations:

(1) An unknown species of manatee that, unlike any known species, has the ability to come ashore.

(2) The West African (Trichechus senegalensis) and West Indian (T. manatus) manatees are not likely to be carried so far into the South Atlantic on a regular basis.

(3) The South African fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus), suggested by Theodor Mortensen, though it is nonmigratory and rarely strays far from the coast of South Africa and Namibia.

(4) The Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina), suggested by F. C. Fraser, is an occasional visitor to St. Helena. Sources: Richard Lydekker, "On the

Supposed Former Existence of a Sirenian in St. Helena," Proceedings ofthe Zoological Society of London, June 20, 1899, pp. 796-798; Theodor Mortensen, "On the 'Manatee' of St. Helena," Videnskabelige Meddelelser fra Dansk Naturhistorisk Forening 97 (1933): 1-9; F. C. Fraser, "Zoological Notes from the Voyage of Peter Mundy, 1655-56, (b) Sea Elephant on St. Helena," Proceedings of the Linnaean Society ofLondon 147 (1935): 33-35; G. C. Kitching, "The Manatee of St. Helena," Nature 138 (1936): 33-34; Karl Shuker, "Hoofed Mystery Animals and Other Crypto-Ungulates, Part III," Strange Magazine, no. 11 (SpringSummer 1993): 25-27, 48-50.

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