Monday, December 06, 2010

African Manatee Training Workshop in Djenne, Mali

(Sorry, I would've liked to have posted this earlier, but we are having constant power outages in Dakar!)

During the last week of November, I led a manatee research and conservation training workshop with 11 participants from 4 countries (Mali, Niger, Chad, and Ivory Coast) in Djenne, Mali. This is the first time I've run a workshop on my own, and some of it was modelled after the workshops I co-led in Ghana for the past 2 years. I'd like to give huge thanks to my husband Tomas, who greatly helped with many aspects of logistics and translation for this workshop, and offered participants his insight from his own manatee work in Senegal. Aside from lectures, we had a group discussion about fundraising for research in Africa, and most importantly, trips to the field for practical training on field sampling equipment use, village interview techniques and manatee survey techniques. Our workshop was held at the Hotel Dar Salaam in Djenne, a new hotel just a bit out of town. The staff there was great, the food delicious and the setting perfect for talkiing about manatees, since they had a carcass in Djenne last year. This is the front of the hotel, with local sheep passing by! We had 1-2 lectures each day on topics including manatee biology and evolution, research techniques, sample collection, and field equipment.
The first day we went over environmental sampling equipment such as GPS units, depth sounders, salinity meters, and other basic tools the participants will need to record the manatee's habitat in their home countries.
This was our boat (or "pinasse" in the local French) for field outings. It was nice to have a cover from the hot sun.
On our first field trip participants learned how to use field sampling equipment. In this photo Berthe from San, Mali uses the GPS.
We had two different types of depth sounders, this one (being tested by Boureima from Niger) also records water and air temperature as well as detecting animals moving below the water's surface.
Timbo from the Dept. of Water and Forestry in Mali checks the reading on the other type of depth sounder.
I sponsored three participants from outside Mali, including Wachoum from Chad (looking through binocs), Kouame from Ivory Coast (middle) and Boureima from Niger.
On our first and second outings we also went to local villages so participants could practice manatee interview techniques. The Bozo people are the fishermen in this area and they have alot of local knowledge about manatees.
In the interview at the village of Syndaga, Diakite of the Water and Forestry Ministry from Djenne (on left) led the questions with village elders. They see manatees in this area year round and explained mating herds by a story calling it a "manatee wedding" where the manatees gather to celebrate a bride and groom.
At the end of the interview some of the villagers wanted to have a photo with our group. People here recognized the local workshop participants that were from Djenne, which greatly helped us gain their trust for the interview.
Participants also gave lectures about manatee research in their country. Here Boureima discusses his research in W National Park in Niger (so named because the Niger River forms a "W" in this area).
I also led the group in a discussion of manatee necropsy techniques. We didn't have an actual manatee carcass for demonstration, so for measurements we used an inflatable orca (I was unable to locate an inflatable manatee so this was as close as I could get. If anyone knows where I can get a manatee for future training use, please let me know!)
Practicing girth measurements...
During breaks and free time participants had lots of opportunities to talk about their work and what they hope to achieve in their countries.
Kouame from Ivory Coast had an example of a t-shirt his program has distributed there, urging people not to kill manatees.
I'd like to thank my colleagues in Mali who assisted in setting up the workshop: Semega and Guindo from Niger River Basin Authority, and Timbo from the Ministry of Water and Forestry.
This is most of the group on the last day, after I handed out donations of field equipment (one set for each country, hopefully I can fund more in the future) to help their manatee data collection. The money for this equipment was made possible by generous grants from several funders.
Thanks to all the participants for all your interest in manatee conservation! I look forward to hearing how your work progresses!

2 comments:

zoumari said...

Hi Lucy,
It was an exciting moment during this session!
I gained a lot and hope that this will just be the begining!
keep it up!
Boureima from Niger

Lucy said...

Thanks Boureima, I look forward to hearing about your fieldwork! Best of luck to you.