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Meanwhile, in Senegal…

For the past month my colleagues in Senegal have been dealing with a difficult manatee situation. Thanks to a new dam built on an arm of the Senegal River at Matam (a town on the northeastern border of Senegal), some manatees are now trapped above the dam. It is believed that waterway is an annual migration route for the manatees, so they swam through the dam gates when the water was high, but now the water level has fallen and the manatees are stranded as the water dries up. At this point I don’t think it is possible for them to swim back through the dam, even if the gates were opened and/or herding them to the dam would be impossible. It has now been determined that there are at least 15 manatees trapped in this area. The water is very muddy so it is only possible to see manatee noses when they surface, and some areas are still quite deep, but as the waters dry up the animals will eventually be stranded. One manatee has already been found dead up against the dam grates.

Several organizations in Senegal have been coordinating efforts to rescue the manatees and transport them back out to the main part of the river. In late November they went out and were able to capture 2 manatees using local fishermen’s nets and a pickup truck to transport them. However, there was also alot of chaos as many people tried to help with almost no expertise and very little equipment.

Here are a few photos my friend Tomas Diagne sent: 3 manatee noses visible in the river

A manatee is transported by pickup truck at night to the release site

Releasing a manatee back into the Senegal River

So now the next round of rescues has been scheduled for early January. I have been asked to come up to assist with capture planning, training for rescuers and to participate in the whole operation. This is an incredibly valuable opportunity to help build capacity in the region, collect samples from this very rare species and train researchers there. So I am going to go for a couple weeks. Right now I’m spending a bit of time discussing logistics on email, but I’ll write more as plans progress. I’m also back in Libreville now, after a successful 6 weeks of work at N’dogo Lagoon.

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