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Manatees in the Canary Islands?

Actually, no. Tim and I came here to Tenerife to attend a Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) meeting focusing on small cetaceans and manatees in West Africa. I am incredibly grateful to Wildlife Trust’s Director, Mary Pearl, for donating frequent flier miles so I could attend this meeting, as well as to WCS for paying for my hotel room. This has been a very important meeting for me to attend in my efforts to develop a working relationship with other researchers and decision makers working in the region.

There are government representatives from many countries here, as well as representatives of NGOs. I am the only American manatee scientist here; Akoi Kouadio from Cote D’Ivoire and Patrick Ofori-Danson from Ghana are both here (both of whom I hosted in Florida years ago when I ran the Southwest Field Lab for FWC, so it’s fun to see them again, and they are both doing the longest term manatee research projects in Africa), as well of Tim Dodman of Wetlands International who has been overseeing the creation of a Conservation Strategy for manatees in northwest Africa for the past few years, and researchers from several other countries. Tim D. gave a really nice overview presentation on the need to for CMS establish an action plan for West African Manatees. There was a lot of discussion and agreement from the delegates from the African countries, and it was decided to establish a manatee working group for the rest of the meeting to formulate a draft action plan, as well as a proposal to request that CMS list this species as an Appendix I species (it is currently listed as Appendix II). Representatives for the working group include delegates from Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Angola, Niger, Chad, Congo, Mali and Burkina Faso as well as Tim D. from Wetlands International and myself.

As for Tenerife, it’s an interesting place. The majority of the island is mountainous and very arid, with cactuses dotting the sloping terrain. There are a few beaches, but mostly the coastline is sea cliffs where Mediterranean Monk seals used to live (now they only exist here on the outer / less human populated islands). The southern area where we are located (Playa des Americas) is actually a really touristy and somewhat cheesy place. Yesterday afternoon we were treated to a 3 hour whale watching trip off the coast and saw at least 50 short-finned pilot whales. Hopefully at the end of my week here I’ll be able to get up to the national park to see some of the natural beauty.
The closest thing I can find to a manatee here…. mermaids caved into the sidewalk tiles! Old friends- Tim from WCS and Solange, the Gabonese Conservator of Mayumba National Park. Akoi Kouadio, the Cote D’Ivoire government delegate, and Patrick Ofori-Dansen from Ghana

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