Although the West African manatee has been successfully transferred to Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since March 2013, there is yet evidence confirming a decline of the species which is essentially speeded by three main factors: the loss of habitat due to climate change and anthropogenic pressures, incidental capture in fishing nets, traditional hunting and poaching for commercial purpose.
As a vulnerable and harmless species, the manatee populace and in the West African area suffers all kinds of pressures. This situation is worsened by the high demand on natural resources which is largely due to human population growth coupled with the intense use and development of land, as well as the increased use of new technologies.
Nonetheless, various international and regional agreements as well as national provisions remain key tools for the implementation of national and regional policies on conservation. However, apart from the adoption of regulatory framework and other plans, these policies do not spearhead concrete actions that ensure the needed efficiency to manatee conservation.
The various consultations organized by Wetlands International Africa in recent years on the conservation of the West Africa manatee, showcased an active trade in meat and meat products of the species from Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast and between Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. Local and cross-border illegal trade was also reported at national level and in coastal areas, from Senegal to the Gulf of Guinea. The worse news is that a manatee mafia appeared in Sierra Leone and contributes actively to the expansion of illicit trade in the sub-region.
All products from the manatee (meat, oil, skin, bones and genitals) are subject to a high demand in West African countries due to traditional beliefs in their medicinal properties and their consumption as a source of protein. Therefore, prices of these products have considerably increased in the illegal international market and become a very lucrative business for those who engage in it. In Nigeria and Chad, for example, a manatee can be sold for up to US 4560 per animal while its oil is sold at US 304 per liter in a context where the GDP per capita in these countries is up to US 1452 respectively and US 823.
Therefore, it becomes more than relevant for common policies at organizational level (OMVS OMVG and ABN, etc.) as well as Sub-regional stage (ECOWAS and UEMOA) and range States, to increase legal provisions and explicit measures for the protection of the manatee species. Hence the urgent need to strengthen programs and advocacy platforms for the protection of the West African manatee.
Pape Diomaye THIARE
Communications and Media Coordinator
Wetlands International Africa
Phone: +221 33 869 16 81