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On September 29th I flew back to Africa. It’s always an exhilarating feeling taking off, knowing that I’m on my way (and that whatever I forgot, I’ll just have to live without!). At JFK in New York I ran into Dr. Bill Perrin, a colleague who was also heading to the Convention of Migratory Species meeting in Togo. We had a 12 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco so we took a taxi into the city, went to a bazaar and then toured around the world’s second largest mosque, which was still under construction when I was here in 2006.
Mosque Tower
View of a pretty lighthouse across from the mosqueWe arrived in Togo at 1am local time after over 30 hours of travel. The first day we were able to rest up and I went with some colleagues to a local “Fetish Market”, also known as a voodoo market. We were greeted there by a man who told us we must have a guide to tour the market, so that he could explain its value for traditional medicine. It was immediately obvious why he wanted to guide us- there were dead endangered species at every table… I counted at least 20 leopards, numerous elephant and antelope parts, every species of bird and primate you can imagine. We found manatee bones and whale baleen among the skeletons and dried carcasses. The guide told us that all these animals died naturally, which of course is impossible and ridiculous. It was overwhelming and distressing, and the openness of the market and the fact that they allowed us to take photos (for a nominal fee equivalent to $3) indicates that they had no fear of law enforcement.

Manatee rib bones (for some reason this photo will only load sideways! Sorry)
Leatherback sea turtle skullSeverin, Koen and Tim D. looking at whale baleen
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