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Manatee Sighted!

Sorry for the silence, the wireless internet has been down here for several days and there was no other way for me to get online.

On Thursday we headed back up the Congo River to Kibaka, one of the first villages we visited on Tuesday. Two men there told us more about the local manatee hunter (luckily there is apparently only one in the region) and also that they had seen a manatee in front of the village just a few minutes before we arrived. I have to admit to being skeptical about the sighting, because I was a bit worried they were just telling us what they thought we wanted to hear. But just a few minutes later Tim spotted a manatee across the river! So we motored up a little way, stopped the engine and drifted with the current. Amazingly, the manatee surfaced 6 more times over about the next hour. This is the first time I’ve actually seen a West African manatee stay in the vicinity of a boat; in Gabon they take off as soon as we see them. So I was able to get a few photos, which will look pathetic if you aren’t a manatee biologist or someone who studies extremely elusive animals. One of the guys here said it looks like a pregnant woman bathing. But there are so few photos of manatees in all of Africa, that being able to get some the first time I see a manatee in Angola is exciting.

Brian & Tim looking for manatees, just a few minutes before Tim spotted one.

Manatee back / dorsal as it makes a deep dive in the river.

Manatee peduncle and tail as it dives (heading left). You can see the distinct outline of the tail vertebrae in the center of the fluke.

I hope the facts that villagers here see manatees everyday, and that our first sighting was such a good one, will mean that manatees are easier to observe and study here, but it also worries me that their visibility makes them easier targets for the hunter.
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