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Training for Dawda
Following upon the success of Aristide Kamla’s training in Florida in November, Dawda Saine of the Gambia arrived in early February for three weeks of advanced manatee training. Dawda worked for two years to raise the funds for his trip and to get the appropriate visa to come to the USA. My project grants helped sponsor his training, and he also received a separate stipend from Sea to Shore Alliance and a funding award from the University of Florida. In Gambia Dawda is the Executive Secretary of the National Association of Artisanal Fisheries Operators (NAAFO), and his passion is to get community-based manatee research and conservation started in his country. His primary goal for his training was to gain more experience in manatee necropsy techniques so that he can collect samples from West African manatees, and teach the techniques to others in his country. Most of his work took place at the FWC Marine Mammal Pathobiology Lab (MMPL) in St. Petersburg, although he traveled to several other parts of Florida while he was here.
One of the first days he after he arrived, Dawda was able to attend and participate in a release of 3 rehabilitated Florida manatees at Crystal River. He was impressed at the number of people involved in caring for injured manatees in Florida. Dawda also helped MMPL staff at an educational outreach even in Crystal River the following day. He also spent several days working with captive manatees at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. (Photo courtesy of WTXL News)
Then it was time to get started on necropsy training. Here Trevor of MMPL briefs Dawda on how they will conduct the necropsy. (Photo courtesy of FWC)
There are standard measurements taken on every manatee. Here Dawda takes the umbilical girth measurement with Claire and Anna… (Photo courtesy of FWC)
MMPL also occasionally receives other marine mammals, so Dawda also got to assist with the necropsy of a Bottlenose dolphin. (Photo courtesy of FWC)
Near the end of his trip Dawda helped MMPL staff rescue an injured manatee in northern Florida, which he said was a great experience. He’s right there in the middle of the boat, pulling the manatee onboard in a net! (Photo courtesy of FWC)
Work hard, play hard! Dawda joined lunchtime games at MMPL. (Photo courtesy of FWC)
Dawda also traveled to Gainesville where I gave him a tour of the USGS Sirenia Project facilities and he gave a lecture about manatees in the Gambia at the Veterinary College at UF. Click here to see and hear Dawda’s lecture (scroll down to February 15):
While he was in Gainesville I also took Dawda to the Florida Natural History Museum so he could see the amazing fossil display, including the dugongs and manatees that lived in the Caribbean millions of years ago.
My project grants also provided basic field equipment for Dawda that will help him collect accurate data during his field surveys in the Gambia River. It’s hard to adequately express how much this basic equipment helps researchers like Dawda, who have so much dedication and enthusiasm, but just need basic tools to be able to get started.
I also want to extend a HUGE thanks to the staff of MMPL for all their enthusiasm and excitement to help train African researchers! I appreciate everything you do to make these guys feel welcome and to give them such valuable training experiences. Shown here: Anna, Brandon, Kane, Dawda, Donna, Amber, Martine, Trevor & Andy. (Photo courtesy of FWC)

Dawda has now returned home, and I look forward to reporting his progress in the field!

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