Staff Links

Mali: Sevare and Mopti

In mid-November we spent the Tabaski holiday in Sevare with our colleague Semega’s sister and her family. After that we met up with Abdoulaye Guindo at his office. He’s the Niger River Basin Authority manager here. Abdoulaye attended the training workshop I co-led in Ghana last year and it was good to see him again! He’s hoping to start manatee research in this region.

Nearby, Mopti is a city that was originally built on 3 small islands at the junction where the Bani River joins the Niger. The whole city is surrounded by water and small Bozo fishing villages that seem to float on the surface. There’s also a huge area of rice fields. We started out at the port and looked for fishermen to ask about manatees.

This is one of the Bozo villages just across from Mopti
Old town Mopti

Lots of good manatee habitat everywhere, but also lots of people
All around Mopti is still flooded from the rainy season
While driving to one fishing village we stopped at the edge of the river to see the confluence of the Bani and Niger Rivers. We ended up talking to this fisherman (on the right) who told us people see manatees traveling by and feeding on grass along shore in this area, particularly at night. He knew of a village further upriver where manatees are supposedly quite tame and approach people in the river. I wished we had time to go there, but at least Abdoulaye got the name so he can go check it out later. The guy also told us the Bozo people have a legend that when the water dries up, the manatee turns into a turtle!

Later we met with elders from 2 other Bozo villages. They told me manatees are not hunted here because people know they’ll get in trouble if they’re caught, but further north (closer to Timbuktu) people still regularly hunt them. People here are fascinated by them.

These are some of the manatee samples I collected in Mopti… a vertebra and two pieces of dried tissue. Hopefully I’ll be able to isolate DNA from these to learn about the population here and to determine if it is genetically isolated from coastal African manatee populations.
In Mopti’s port I saw this boat with a flag that said “From here 2 Timbuktu” and wished I could hop aboard! Timbuktu is about a four day boat ride up the inland Niger delta. I think it would be an interesting trip sometime, but on this day I needed to get ready for the training workshop I was leading the following week.

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