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Senegal: Patowel

After we finished our work at Navel, we took a late afternoon drive to Patowel, near the town of Kanel and another place where manatees are trapped in a tributary. It is about 25km away from Navel, deeper into the desert. Patowel is completely different- the channel is much deeper, several miles long and the water does not completely dry up. There are definitely manatees there, but they would be very difficult to catch, and since they are not in danger of being left flopping in the mud, they are not caught. The only problem is they don’t have any food and the local fishermen say the manatees eat the fish from their nets (manatees will sometimes eat dead fish, especially if there is no other food available). So food may need to be provided, which is difficult in a place with so little vegetation.

Fishermen head out at dusk to set nets at Patowel.

The group discusses possible options for the Patowel manatees with Senegalese national parks and fisheries staff.In one area adjacent to Patowel there are at least 4 manatees, and that smaller area will eventually dry up, so this will be the next location for captures, probably in late February. Pablo hopes to get new battery packs so he can deploy the other 2 tags on manatees from this site. Unfortunately I won’t be able to stay in Senegal for this, since I have more work in Gabon. But maybe another year, because the problems of dams are not going away in this area anytime soon. They provide many challenges for the manatees, but also give us a unique opportunity to study this creature that is normally so difficult to find, much less capture and tag. Hopefully these studies will lead to solutions for the Senegal River population.

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