African Manatees and Sea Turtles: Conservation Challenges and Successes

THU, AUG 3, 2017

For more than two decades, scientists Lucy Keith-Diagne and Tomas Diagne have been working to study manatees and turtles and advocate for their protection. During the last 11 years, Lucy has focused her research on the African manatee, which is one of the least understood marine mammals of the world and is often referred to as the “forgotten sirenian.” Lucy speaks about her efforts to determine the African manatee's population across West and Central Africa. She also has tried to better understand their diet, and she is aiming to lead the first assessments of manatee threats. She describes her search for solutions across the species’ range.

Tomas Diagne researches threats to sea turtles in Senegal’s coastal waters, which are a migratory hub for five species of sea turtles. In recent years, Tomas has documented a troubling number of dead sea turtles washing up on Senegal’s beaches. Tomas shares how in addition to assessing this disturbing trend, he is trying to use the data to advocate for the reduction of sea turtle bycatch in Senegalese fisheries. He also speaks about his work with sea turtle geneticists to understand from which populations the stranded turtles are coming.

Hear Lucy and Tomas share the challenges and successes they have experienced while working to study and protect these iconic and threatened species.

Photo Credit: Dominique Feldwick-Davis/Pexels

+ BIO: Lucy Keith-Diagne

Lucy Keith-Diagne, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund, which supports manatee conservation programs throughout West and Central Africa. She has trained more than 90 people from 19 countries in manatee conservation and has established a network to encourage ongoing research and collaboration across the region.

Photo Credit: Pew Charitable Trusts

+ BIO: Tomas Diagne

Mr. Tomas Diagne is an African freshwater turtle and tortoise expert who has been working to save threatened and endangered turtle species in Senegal for the past 20 years. He began rescuing endangered African spurred tortoises (Centrochelys sulcata) as a teenager and in 1992 he created S.O.S. (Save Our Sulcata), a non-profit conservation organization. He also co-founded and built the Village des Tortues in Noflaye, Senegal - a sanctuary and captive breeding facility for sulcata tortoises that now houses over 300 individuals and has re-introduced numerous others back to the wild. Tomas has also been actively involved in freshwater and marine turtle research throughout Africa. He is a member of the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. In 2009 he decided to create the African Chelonian Institute (ACI) in order to expand turtle research, captive breeding, and re-introduction to all African turtle species.

Photo Credit: African Aquatic CF

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