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Congo: Lac Tchimpa and the Lukani River

After paddling down the Ngonogo we traveled to Lac Tchimpa, another tranquil lake with no permanent residents. However, this lake is closer to villages so we did see lots of signs of fishing activity (particularly large hooks set for freshwater turtles). Again the habitat was great for manatees, but none were seen. I did find a small river at the far end of the lake (later I learned it is called the Lukani) that looked promising. The photo below shows Lake Tchimpa shoreline plants that are attractive to manatees: ferns, grasses, and a taro-like plant known as Cryptosperma senegalense.
We were also lucky to get a good view of this male Finfoot duck, which is a common but shy species here. We mostly see them disappearing under bushes as we move along the edge of waterways. (Photo by T. Collins)
We returned a day later to properly kayak and survey the Lukani. It’s a very narrow creek, but in places it’s 8 feet deep. Numerous fallen trees and other brush blocked the river at various points (although manatees could swim underthem), so we instantly regretted that we’d forgotten a machete. It was obvious from the overgrown brush that no humans had come up this river in a long time.
I found known manatee food plant species I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Conkouati (or even in Gabon) and finally I found fresh feeding sign! Fern leaves hanging in the water had been stripped off their stems and and Cryptosperma leaves had been eaten.

As we continued upriver the going got tougher.
Where’s the river? Tim is cutting through brush with his small knife in this photo.
After a couple hours we reached a mini lake and heard chimps in the trees nearby. Unfortunately further progress upriver was blocked by a huge log, so we turned back. But at least I have some proof that manatees use this area.
The Lukani was the last survey I had time for before I had to leave the Congo. I’d like to thank Tim and Hilde for their hospitality and all their help with logistics for my surveys. Although I didn’t see any manatees myself, my interviews provide local knowledge of where they have been seen recently, and hopefully the tapez tapez fishing can be stopped, for the benefit of all the wildlife in the national park.

I’ve returned to Gabon for a few days to secure my export permits for the manatee samples I’ll bring back to the USA, so my fieldwork is over for the next few months. Next I’ll head back to Florida and the lab for sample analysis.

  • Vanessa

    July 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm Reply

    great work! i love the photos, its really amazing. and those places look so wild, full of nature
    have a nice day

  • Wholesale phone cards

    January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm Reply

    Really Good Blog …………..

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