MENTOR Manatee officially began with the first group training session in Gabon in July. The 8 participants were selected for the program through a lengthy application process. They are a super enthusiastic group of five men and three women from Cameroon, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We started the first week of training off in Libreville, with lectures on conservation and education in Central Africa, given by Dr. Kate Abernethy (University of Stirling), Luc Mathot and staff (Conservation Justice), Marie Claire Paiz (The Nature Conservancy), Dr. Hugo Rainey (Central Africa Marine Program Director at Wildlife Conservation Society), Heather Arrowood (OELO), and Aimee Parnell (Green Butterfly Designs, she designed our African manatee education materials and programs).
For the second week, we moved to Lambarene, on the Ogooue River in Central Gabon, where each participant gave presentations about their conservation and research background and their MENTOR project proposals. With our partner organization OELO the group visited a local market and restaurants where manatee meat is sometimes sold (we didn't find any), and helped post a sign in the market about the African manatee's protected status.
The team also met with students from high school nature clubs to talk about careers in conservation...
Afternoon hike to a nearby savannah... we saw signs of elephant, pangolin, and duikers
While at Tsam Tsam, we did several manatee surveys and visited a village of known manatee hunters, for the team to practice their interview skills.
By the end of three weeks, we had a very close and cohesive team! Now everyone is back in their home countries working on their projects. The next training workshop for the team will take place in Cameroon in April 2016.
For more on our July training program, see the awesome blog written by our partner, OELO: