Manatee, adult and calf (Wild Safari Sea Life by Safari Ltd.)

Whales typically dominate the discussion of fully aquatic mammals, though Sirenians should be acknowledged for making the transition around the same time. As oppose to ungulates, these creatures are related to proboscids and hyraxes. Amongst the extant species, there are 3 that belong to the manatee genus (Trichechus). The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) is the largest and most popular of the three species. There are two subspecies of this manatee: one ranges along the Gulf of Mexico and the Northeast United States while the other ranges throughout the Caribbean and South America. The West Indian manatee is the largest of the living Sirenians, with most adults ranging from 2.7-3.5 meters and 200-600kg. The largest individual recorded was a male of 4.6 meters and over 1.6 metric tons. They are estimated to have a lifespan of around 50 years in the wild, captive individuals have lived even longer. Both subspecies of West Indian manatees are classified as ”Endangered”. Major threats include warm-water habitat loss and boating collisions. Manatees are obligate herbivores and feed on seagrass as the cornerstone of their diet.  The West Indian manatee lacks natural predators.

Today, I’ll be covering another old Safari Sea Life figure, this time paired with a calf. This manatee has been part of Safari’s lineup for 24 years and is still in production. That’s quite a record, and this review will uncover whether an update was truly unnecessary or if Safari Ltd. should’ve retired this figure and replaced it with an update.

Starting with the adult. The overall sculpt does a good job in allowing a knowledgeable person to identify this figure as the West Indian Manatee. The wrinkled skin distinguishes this figure from the Amazon river manatee (Trichechus inunguis) and the proportional size of the head is larger than on the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). At about 15.3cm, this figure fits roughly in the 1:18-1:23 scale for a typical adult.  This manatee would be to scale with most of the Monterey Bay Aquarium figures other than the larger whales, orca, and whale shark.

This manatee was exceptionally sculpted for the time it was released. The skin texture was properly reproduced along with anatomical fidelity to the face, and forelimbs. Overall, this figure should have made many manatee-lovers satisfied back in 1997

Underneath there’s only an imprint stamp, no hint of the mammaries or genital slits. So while the release of this figure alongside a calf would suggest a female, this figure is technically sex-neutral.

The paintjob also works well. A basic gray for the base color along with light blue for the seams within the wrinkles and the fuzz for the lips. Nothing else to comment on, other than the fact that the current edition of the figure boast green on top to emulate the presence of algal growth.

Now as for the calf, the sculpt is of a similar quality as the adult. At 8.3cm, it lines up quite well with the typical size of a newborn at 1.3-1.9 meters. This scales very well with the mother.

The paintjob is essentially identical to the adult’s, though this choice comes at the slight detriment to the realism for the calf, as newborns are typically quite darker than adults. Nonetheless, this calf is quite commendable all-around.

It should now be clear why Safari stuck with this manatee sculpt for so long, they knocked it out of the park the first time in 1997, and there was no urgent need to replace it beyond a paintjob revision. Yes, there are likely better figures that took advantage of recent advances, but it’s really incredible how well this figure aged. This is definitely what I would call a ”future-proofed” sculpt. Anyone who wants the adult can gladly just head on down to any retailer as this figure is still in production. The calf is unfortunately retired, so the secondhand market is likely where you’ll need to go for the complete set.

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Comments 2

  • I had these figures years ago. When I ‘restarted’ the non-arthropod part of my collection, I went with the recent Papo model. However, you are correct, given their age these are still amazing figures and hold up well by today’s standards. Seeing them again in your blogpost reminds me of that!

  • Great review and I agree, they hold up quite well. Love the retro tags!

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