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West African Manatee Rescue in Senegal

By Lucy Keith Diagne, 1st June 2012

Last week a West African manatee calf was rescued near a new community-based wildlife reserve at Lac de Guiers, in northern Senegal. The reserve, called Tocc Tocc, was established by Tomas Diagne, a Senegalese turtle and manatee reseacher, who worked together with local villages and the government to create it. Tocc Tocc is managed by a community group consisting of village chiefs and respected elders, and they began by cleaning out abandoned fishing nets last year. Monitoring of manatees in the reserve is underway, but when a fisherman discovered a manatee calf in a net outside the reserve, it was the first opportunity for many of the local fishermen to see the species up close. They contacted Tomas and I, and we went to the area to train the fishermen how to safely disentangle the manatee and to collect basic information such as measurements and samples that will be analyzed for genetics and dietary components. The calf was released, but unfortunately he re-entangled himself in another net 3 days later (we could identify him by a distinct scar on his tail), so we went back out and this time we moved him into the reserve where there are fewer nets. Other manatees had been seen in the area, so we hope the calf reunited with them. This impromptu training was a great experience because the local fishermen had the chance to ask lots of questions and to see manatee protection firsthand. Now we hope to raise public awareness about manatees outside the reserve, and to increase the size of the monitoring network on this 25 km long lake.

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