Very exciting news from Senegal.... a manatee hunter whose family has been working in the Casamance River for generations has decided to end all manatee hunting and work towards manatee conservation! Last week he gave his harpoon to Tomas Diagne, a manatee researcher in Senegal, as a symbol of his decision. Oceanium Dakar and Tomas have been working with the hunter's community of Pt. St. George in the Casamance for several years, because they have a spring where manatees come to drink freshwater each day.
I visited Pt. St. George in October 2010 and was amazed, because it's literally the only place I know in Africa where sighting manatees every day is guaranteed. The people of Pt. St. George are interested to develop manatee eco-tourism, and they already have an observation tower, so Tomas and I plan to provide them with permanent manatee educational panels and to help them begin manatee conservation measures. Our first task will be to install buoys around the spring to keep boats out so that manatees have a safer place to drink, which will also allow tourists more opportunities to see them from the viewing tower. Eco-tourism will hopefully provide an alternate livelihood to more members of the community, benefiting them for keeping manatees alive, rather than hunting them.The viewing tower. Manatees come to the spring just in front of it.