I just spent an action-packed two weeks at Lake Volta, Ghana teaching a research and conservation training workshop for the West African manatee! It was great. This is my second year participating in the workshop, and co-teaching it with Patrick Ofori-Dansen from the University of Ghana. It's funded by Earthwatch and coordinated by Nature Conservation Research Center (NCRC, a Ghanian NGO). As always, it was a wonderful experience that left me energized and hopeful for the future of West African manatee conservation.
Pius from Cameroon and Cece from Guinea. Pius works with gorillas and will start manatee research in northern Cameroon for Wildlife Conservation Society; Cece is a veterinarian who has already begun manatee surveys in his country.
Mr. Ansah (in the crazy hat) is the class assistant and teaches the participants about environmental sampling equipment and water chemistry testing. Momar from Wetlands International in Senegal and Mendes from Angola record data. Boat trips are used to practice sampling methods.
This is Mendes doing cranial measurements on a manatee skull. Mendes works for the Angolan Ministry of the Environment and accompanied me in the field during Congo River surveys last year. He's eager to start manatee research in central Angola, where human impact is high.
Chris from Benin learns water analysis techniques from Ansah. Chris has been studying manatees in Benin for several years and is hoping to publish his data soon.
Stephane from Gabon is seen here giving a presentation on his work of the past two years: assessing the manatee bushmeat trade in central Gabon. Since he knows most of the hunters, he has been able to collect some of the most accurate data on manatee hunting anywhere in Africa.
And of course "Prof"! He's been studying manatees in Lake Volta since 1998. This was a discussion at the beginning of the workshop, to introduce the participants to all the sampling equipment: GPS, secchi disk, dissolved oxygen meter, depth sounder, etc.
We also went out very early one morning hoping to see manatees feeding. Unfortunately we didn't spot any, but we did get a beautiful sunrise.
Abdoulaye from Mali in traditional garb
Enjoying the boat with Stephane and Momar...
And this is the whole team! Momar, Martin from NCRC (our awesome logistics coordinator), Ansah, Mendes, Stephane (with arms raised), Prof Patrick Ofori-Dansen, Pius, Abdoulaye, Lucy... and in front: Cece and Chris. Congratulations to the newest members of the manattee research community!