In the Gambia, West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) numbers are thought to have declined, but as of 1993 the manatee was still numerous in the River Gambia. Manatees have been fully protected for many years but in the 1980s were still hunted extensively. There is little recent information about the extent of manatee hunting in The Gambia, but at the beginning of the 1990’s, the population had considerably decreased due to hunting. Hunting is traditional in numerous communities and represents the main threat to manatees, notably in areas of Avicenia mangroves. The presence of manatee traps has been observed in such areas.
Manatees are also affected by the destruction of their habitat due to deforestation of mangroves and their still frequent accidental capture in fishing nets, especially in the Massarinho Bolon. The low reproductive capacities of the manatee reduce further its chances of survival when faced with these various threats.
The Conservation Strategy for the West African Manatee, 2008, developed recommendations for manatee conservation in The Gambia. The strategy highlights a lack of knowledge concerning the status, socio-economic and cultural values of manatees in The Gambia. There is a need for research and monitoring so as to determine the accurate nature of the manatee population and their habitats, and to contribute to the development of relevant conservation and management actions for the species.
Specific recommendations include:
1)Identify key habitats and breeding sites
2) Through an education and awareness programme, raise understanding about manatees and instil a wider appreciation of the animal and its folklore
3) Mount sign boards at key and known manatee sites
4) Encourage manatee ecotourism
5) Conserve freshwater drinking wells that manatees depend on
6) Encourage communities to stop hunting manatees
7) Create local manatee committee
8) Share existing traditional knowledge with the young generation for posterity
9) Sensitise the Agriculture Department about the potential impacts of irrigation schemes on manatees
10) Research into manatee corridors and threats during migration.
Key recommendations for specific areas include:
1) At Ginack Bolon, Neegi Bolon, Upper Niumi and Njumgum-Misseranding Bolon, the priority should be given to conservation, education, research and monitoring
2) At Jali Bolon, Morri Bolon, Manyoka Bolon, Basu, Kayama and Onkofalo, sensitization activities should be conducted targeting hunters and fishermen, to reduce as much as possible all the forms of illegal capture and massacre
3) In coastal and estuarine areas, the restoration of mangroves is recommended
Wild Migration Programme Goal
Wild Migration strives for a future where West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) habitats are secure and destructive agriculture and fisheries practices are a thing of the past. Traditional communities see manatee populations as a signal of ecosystem health and livelihoods are thriving.
Wild Migration Policy Target
Wild Migration is working to strategically secure one popultions of West African Manatees. This will be achieved through a community driven sustainable fisheries proposal supported by a government initiative, and through the community's development of a land-use/coastal management plan. These solutions will benefit communities and individuals by securing sustainable fisheries as a primary protein source and with solutions that strengthening traditional communities and livelihoods.
Wild Migration Projects contact details
RSD 426 Newland Service,
Via Kingscote, 5223, Australia
Phone: +618 8121 5841
Fax: +618 8125 5857