West African Manatees
To build a network of trained African researchers in all 21 range countries of the West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) who will collect critically needed baseline data and enable grassroots conservation actions for the species and disseminate results.
Why this is important:
The West African manatee is one of the least understood and least studied marine mammals in the world. Conservation efforts are hindered by a lack of basic information about the species, and are also unsustainable without capacity building.
The West African manatee is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Convention of Migratory Species, a branch of the United Nations Environmental Program, recently raised the species from Appendix II to Appendix I, a more endangered status. Without adequate information regarding West African manatee populations, the impact of threats, and habitat needs, effective conservation actions are impossible, putting the species at even greater risk. The species is highly elusive, lives in very remote locations, and is subjected to intense hunting pressure and habitat alteration throughout its range, necessitating the participation of as many knowledgible people on the ground as possible.
This project builds upon ongoing work to identify African researchers in every country in the species range (the African Atlantic coast from Mauritania to Angola, as well as the interior countries of Mali, Niger and Chad) to build a collaborative network. The project will provide training, fieldwork experience and basic field equipment to local biologists, resource managers, university and graduate level students, and other collaborators, empowering them to advance scientific knowledge of this vulnerable species and increasing their long-term capacity for conservation in their countries. It will also increase communication between researchers and foster more regional collaboration. One focus of the network is also to collect genetics samples and conduct the first preliminary regional analysis for populations throughout the species range. By building a cohesive network of nationals invested in manatee research in their countries for the long-term, training researchers on the ground and genetic sampling at multiple field sites, this project will create a cadre of professionals who can then lead further research, conservation, and educational outreach initiatives tailored to the individual situations in their countries. The ultimate goal is to train as many people as possible and remove their sense of isolation so they can successfully manage manatee populations in their countries and effectively communicate their actions and results to the world audience.
Aims and Objectives
The aims of the proposed project are to collect critically needed data, continue capacity building to enable informed grassroots conservation actions for the West African manatee, and disseminate results.
- Identify collaborators from all range countries of the West African manatee and continue building a network for manatee research.
- Provide in-depth training for collaborators in manatee field research techniques through workshops and practical experience at manatee study sites.
- Assist with the development of research study plans tailored to specific countries or regions.
- Provide basic field sampling equipment to African collaboators in need, so that they are able to collect accurate data in their home countries. Training in proper use and maintenance of equipment will also be provided.
- Conduct baseline boat and interview surveys in selected river, lagoon and coastal sites in multiple countries to determine manatee presence, the impact of threats and suitable habitat. Interviews will ascertain biological, cultural and economic issues which are important for understanding all human impacts to the manatee and will help inform recommendations for conservation actions.
- Conduct the first regional genetics analysis from throughout the species range for increased understanding of populations.
- Collection and analysis of biological samples from live captured manatees and carcasses to understand the baseline health of wild populations.
- Increase manatee educational outreach activities in African range countries through the distibution of printed material, school programs, presentastions and the media.
- Communicate results with collaborators, governments, and the scientific community.
Lucy Keith Diagne
Sea to Shore Alliance
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