Although they are found in 21 countries, African manatees are rare and incredibly secretive. Lucy is creating a network of collaborators to help her learn more about this forgotten sirenian and how to conserve it.
The key objective of this project is to build a network of trained African researchers from all range countries of the African manatee who will collect critical baseline data, enable grassroots conservation actions and disseminate research findings.
The 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 local capacity building.
The African manatee Trichechus senegalensis is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species but without adequate information regarding African manatee populations, effective conservation actions are impossible, putting the species at even greater risk. The African manatee is highly elusive, lives in very remote locations and is subject to intense hunting pressure and habitat alteration throughout its range.
This project builds on on-going work to identify African researchers in all 21 countries in the African manatee’s range along 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 equipment to local biologists, resource managers, and university- and graduate-level students, empowering them to advance scientific knowledge of this vulnerable species and increasing their long-term capacity for conservation in their countries. It will also improve communication between researchers and foster regional collaboration.
By building a cohesive network of people invested in manatee research, training researchers on the ground and genetic sampling at multiple field sites, this project will create a cadre of professionals who can lead future research, conservation and educational outreach initiatives tailored to the situation 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. This will be achieved by:
Bahia de Banderas, a large bay on Mexico’s pacific coast attracts large numbers of oceanic mantas. Josh is working with local undergraduate students to learn about the rays. The students gain valuable research experience and career support and the programme also runs outreach with local schools.