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African Manatee Conservation

Program Description

Conservation of the elusive and endangered African manatee over its enormous and mostly remote range will take a long-term, dedicated effort by as many fully trained people working on the ground as possible. The long-term strategy for this project is to build and sustain a cohesive network of African researchers who will determine population sizes and status of African manatees in a majority of the 21 range countries, as well as to develop and implement management plans for conservation of the species. Over the past ten years Dr. Lucy Keith Diagne has trained collaborators from 19 countries, and now focused and detailed conservation efforts have begun, such as the protection of specific habitats where manatee use is found to be high, and targeting anti-poaching enforcement to known hunting areas. Collaborators also share their knowledge and train others, further increasing the number of biologists working with the African manatees.

African manatee posters created by our project inform local people and promote conservation.

African manatee posters created by our project inform local people and promote conservation.

In addition to training, this collaborative project creates educational materials and leads programs to raise awareness of the need to protect African manatees, implements alternative livelihood programs for manatee hunters, and uses the results of our research to inform and influence policy through working with wildlife managers, government agencies, and international conventions.

Our conservation work includes:

  • Since 2007 this project has trained over 90 African researchers from 19 countries in manatee field research techniques to increase research and initiate grassroots conservation actions for this vulnerable species. Manatee fieldwork and sample collection has increased in at least 10 countries since 2008. Basic field equipment (and training in its use and care) has been provided to 23 researchers from 14 African countries.
  • Our manatee education programs reach 5000 people per year, and our goal is to sustain long-term conservation capacity of the African manatee in as many countries as possible. We create and distribute educational materials in French and English, and we continually strive to find new and creative ways to educate people about the importance of conserving the African manatee and its habitat.
  • In 2013 this project launched the first international effort to support grassroots African manatee conservation projects through creating alternative livelihoods for hunters in three countries. Our projects in Senegal, Nigeria, and Mali focus on year-round monitoring by local, community-based networks, creating protected areas for manatees, providing alternative livelihoods for manatee hunters, and providing training and educational outreach to local populations. All three projects are run by African biologists, and we plan to expand their initiatives to other locations.
  • Lucy Keith Diagne created an African manatee sub-group of the IUCN Sirenian Specialist Group, the first regional subgroup for any manatee species. The goal of the subgroup is to be able to further determine the status of the species, to be an expert resource for the IUCN and other stakeholders, and to lead and advise others in the growing field of manatee research and management in Africa. Lucy co-chairs this group with Dr. Edem Eniang of the University of Uyo, Nigeria.
  • We worked with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) to increase protection for the African manatee through writing the proposals that led to the species being up-listed to the highest protection level under both conventions.

For more information about African manatees, please visit the IUCN Red List website.

Program Partners

A special thank you to our African Manatee Conservation program partners:


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    P.O. Box 366
    Chilmark, MA 02535

    BP 80 Joal
    23015, Senegal, West Africa



    United States: +1 508-388-9824