Thursday, September 25, 2008

The good folks at Idea Wild have just notified me that they are funding my request to buy a VHF radio receiver and antenna for manatee tracking work in Gabon. This is a really nice small grant that will allow me to buy a vital piece of equipment, so that once I put satellite tags on manatees, I can follow them to document their travel patterns, behavior, habitat use, etc. I'll also use the receiver to train Gabonese biologists and students manatee field research techniques. Idea Wild is a non-profit organization that funds specific equipment that field biologists and conservationists need to do their job, often in remote parts of the world. So thanks to them I am one step closer to being able to tag and track the elusive West African manatee!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For those of you in the USA, the reality TV show "Survivor" filmed in Gabon this past summer and will air in the USA starting this week. I won't be here to watch it (and I dislike "reality" TV anyway) but it may give some nice glimpses of my favorite African country for those of you who are interested. MSNBC also wrote an article on the show and the hope that it may translate into ecotourism dollars for Gabon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm back in Florida for 3 weeks, preparing to return to Africa for the next 6 months. Lots of exciting plans are on the horizon:

- On September 29 I'll fly to Lome, Togo to participate in the United Nations Environmental Programme / Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) meetings. This is the same conference that was in the Canary Islands last year and representatives from 21 African countries will be present. We're in the process of finishing an Action Plan for West African manatees across the range of the species. Hopefully the signing of this document at the upcoming meeting will lead to more research and funding across Africa.

- After Togo, I'll travel next door to Ghana to help teach an Earthwatch Capacity Building Workshop & Expedition for West African Manatee Conservation. Eight scientists from across Africa will be selected to participate in the 13 day training. My colleague Patrick Ofori-Dansen's research in Ghana is one of the longest running manatees research programs in Africa, particularly focused in the Lake Volta region (the Volta River was dammed in the 1960's trapping manatees in the large lake above the dam) so it will be great to see his research and study area firsthand.
- Then in mid-October I'll return to Gabon to continue fieldwork there. I plan to survey the one last lagoon system I haven't been to yet (Fernan Vaz) and hopefully spend more time at the enormous N'dogo Lagoon, my first choice site for future manatee tagging and tracking. This year I will also focus more on training and public outreach in several parts of the country.
- At some point in the next 6 months I will also return to Soyo, Angola to continue that work as well. So it will be a busy end of the year for me and I'll try to fill the blog with lots of good stories and photos along the way.

Friday, September 05, 2008

CAMPing in Mayumba
Flying into Mayumba on Monday. From the plane we also saw a humpback whale just offshore.

My online silence this week is due to being in coastal and marine planning (nicknamed CAMP) meetings all week in Mayumba, a national park on the southern border of Gabon. These meetings were conviened by WCS to unify species and habitat work and fundraising all along Gabon and Congo's coastline, including both protected and non-protected areas. It has been a very intense and productive few days, and I think we've made great strides towards a concrete strategy. I'm thrilled because it ties the goals of my manatee research and fundraising in with the other WCS researchers and managers working here. We now have a new working name for this landscape level effort: Congo Basin Coast.

The meeting room at Mayumba national park headquarters
We had really nice group dinners every evening which our hostess Aimee deserves a huge thanks for organizing. Everyone pitched in to help with cooking.

Matthew, John & James enjoying a cold beer on Rich & Aimee's back deck overlooking the beach at the end of a busy day. Below, our host and Mayumba National Park Director Rich, and Paul, the Congo country program director.

The team! Unfortunately Hilde, Ruth and Quevain are missing from this picture taken at the airport just before we left Mayumba.

Tonight I start the long series of flights back to FL, which will take 30 hours of continous travel from Gabon to S. Africa to USA. As you can imagine, not my idea of a great time! I'll be in FL for the next 3 weeks to attend meetings and gather/pack up equipment, and I'll return to Africa on Sept. 29 for my longer manatee field season. I can't wait!