Once we reached Matam, an air-conditioned room and a cold shower was an absolute slice of heaven. We were also treated to wonderful meals and hospitality by Commandant Seck and his family- he oversees the dams and irrigation for the Matam area and has been extremely interested to help manatees from getting trapped by the dams. He was the person who donated use of a tractor and trailer last January so we could tasnsport the stranded manatees back to the main Senegal River.
Sunrise at Kanel
Tomas shows the guys how to use the VHF receiver.
Scanning, scanning, scanning...
People from the village were swimming and washing their animals in the flooded plain
On the first evening we went to the Navel Dam, the place where were rescued and tagged manatees last January. It was astounding to see the difference in the water levels:
This is the Navel Dam in November 2008 near the height of the dry season (photo courtesy of P. Fernandez de Larrinoa)
This is the Navel Dam last week, with water level 9 meters higher
I brought along the VHF receiver to the dam, because the tagged manatee could be anywhere and the receiver only works at a range of about 3 km. After listening to static for awhile, suddenly we heard the signal! It was incredible luck considering the size of the flooded area. The signal was faint, meaning the manatee was not close by, and came intermittently, meaning she was probably traveling, so the tag was only coming to the surface of the water every few minutes. We listened for 45 minutes before it got dark. It was frustrating not to be able to get closer to see her, but there are no roads along the river's edge and we didn't have a boat to search by water.
We tried listening for the signal the following two evenings at Navel, but we didn't hear it again. I hoped she was heading south and that maybe we would hear the signal from the Kanel side during our boat surveys, but the area was too huge and our ability to cover it too limited. However, it was still great to hear the tag at all, to know she's still in the general vicinity of Matam and that the VHF portion of the tag is working.