Quantcast

Conservation Group Helps Manatee Hunters in West Africa Transition to Aquaculture

The West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) is the least studied mammal in Africa despite having a home range larger than the U.S., encompassing 21 African countries. At the same time, it faces serious threats from hunting and accidental capture in fishing nets.

Slow moving and gentle, manatees represent relatively easy prey. Photo credit: Sea2Shore Alliance

This lack of knowledge about the species raises concern for its future, given what we know about the impact of key threats to the survival of the West African Manatee, according to project leader Lucy Diagne. Conservation of the species is greatly hindered by the lack of basic knowledge about their distribution and habitat needs. They are often referred to as the "forgotten" sirenian. 

The species is highly susceptible to incidental capture in fishing nets and is hunted almost everywhere it occurs, despite existing protection laws in all range countries. There are no accurate estimates of population abundance, and the impact of hunting and habitat destruction are poorly documented, but the trade in manatee bushmeat is well known in Africa. The species is believed to be in decline throughout much of its range, but without baseline information, it is impossible to know how to conserve these manatees, and conservation is also unlikely without capacity building.

This Save Our Species (SOS)-funded project is however, tipping the balance in favor of these gentle, mysterious creatures. By kick-starting conservation action across three African countries which comprise part of their vast range to provide tailor-made solutions for the manatees in three very different contexts. Implemented by Sea2Shore Alliance, the project is creating solutions in Senegal, Mali and Nigeria. In this installment, Diagne focuses on the Nigerian context.

Attendees at the Manatee Education Program in the Ise community, Nigeria. Photo credit: Sea2Shore Alliance

Using Aquaculture as an Incentive

In Nigeria, a unique scheme for alternative livelihoods was proposed to stop manatee hunting. Manatee hunters were incentivized to give up hunting and to remove manatee traps in the Lekki Lagoon, near to Lagos. In return, they were offered training and equipment to take up catfish aquaculture.

Changing the attitudes of manatee hunters was not easy. In the early days of the project, the hunters who had originally agreed to participate wanted to take up the aquaculture training without giving up manatee hunting. The project leader Bolaji Abimbola had to reassert the value of manatee conservation and the benefit of having a stable, year round income from aquaculture.

His efforts were aided by the Senegal project leader Tomas Diagne, Lucy’s husband, who visited the Lekki Lagoon. Tomas spoke with the villagers about his 20 years working with the local people at Tocc Tocc Reserve in northern Senegal to bring them the benefits of alternative livelihoods that conserved manatees. But understanding the nuances of community dynamics helped seal the deal. Bojali observed that while the men might tend the fish cages it was the women who prepared them for market, gutting them and smoking them. And so the project expanded to include this activity. Soon the village community became much more invested in the project, agreeing to remove manatee traps and give up hunting to learn aquaculture skills.

Man labels a manatee trap for removal in the Ise community, Nigeria. Photo credit: Sea2Shore Alliance

Equipping them for a new livelihood, Bojali ensured the hunters were trained in cage construction, catfish breeding and culturing. The range of tasks was broad: the hunters constructed cages from PVC pipes and other supplies, learned how to determine the sex of catfish, practiced injecting the fish in preparation for breeding, mastered stripping eggs off fish and fertilizing them, as well as how to prepare adult fish for market. Meanwhile, removal of manatee traps commenced and installation of additional cages stocked with catfish fingerlings also began.

The investment in the community is beginning to pay off according to Diagne. Nine manatee traps were removed in Lekki Lagoon in 2013, which will directly lead to greater conservation of manatees in this region. Additionally, three other communities have expressed interest in adopting the aquaculture training scheme for their villages in return for stopping manatee hunting. So, the good example from these new livelihood opportunities is spreading to neighboring villages.

“We hope this project can be used as an example for other places in Africa to show that alternative livelihoods to manatee hunting are achievable,” said Diagne.

Lucy Diagne measures a rescued West African manatee. Photo credit: Sea2Shore Alliance

As global human populations soar toward 9 billion by 2050, the world is increasingly looking to Africa as a breadbasket. With its own population expected to double to 2 billion by 2050, there is further pressure and good reason for African economies to improve agricultural resilience and self-reliance. The challenges are many and the scale of the task is immense. Projects like Sea2Shore’s approach in Nigeria may represent drops in the ocean of the food security challenge but they also represent examples of holistic thinking and practical solutions to help reduce the conflict between man and nature along the way.

Primarily, this multinational SOS funded project is the first step in drumming up research and conservation interest for the much-neglected West African Manatee. But crucially, these initiatives in Nigeria as well as Senegal and Mali have the potential to serve as a model for several other manatee sites in the region. This would in turn help develop a concerted conservation strategy for the species across its entire range in West Africa. And that it empowers people with new livelihood options along the way is just what might seal the deal for gathering widespread support.

--------

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

2013 Deadliest Year on Record for Manatees

Manatees Dying in Record Numbers From Toxic Algal Bloom

-------- 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Jennifer Molidor, PhD

Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Rushing waters of Victoria Falls at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zimbabwe pictured in January 2018. Edwin Remsberg / VW PICS / UIG / Getty Images (R) Stark contrast of Victory Falls is seen on Nov. 13, 2019 after drought has caused a decline. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP / Getty Images

The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs — Southern Africa's iconic Victoria Falls.

Read More Show Less

Monsanto's former chairman and CEO Hugh Grant speaks about "The Coming Agricultural Revolution" on May 17, 2016. Fortune Brainstorm E / Flickr

By Carey Gillam

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.

Read More Show Less
A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.