Aug 31, 2009, 6:52 AM
A two-week training for field rangers, organised by the Wildlife is currently underway at the Abuko Nature Reserve.
In his presentation on West African Manatee Distribution map, Mr. Amdou Jallow of the Department of Wildlife described the manatees as "large cylindrically shaped mammals with forelimbs modified into flippers."
He said the flexible flippers are used for aiding motion over the bottom, scratching, touching and moving food into cleaning the mouth, and that the West African manatees can also weight more than 500kg (1100 lb.), adding that adults are generally 3-4(10-13) long. He cited The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau, where these manatees are attracted to the fresh water seeps or spring that are found in marine habitat. He said the West African manatees can travel freely between the saltwater and freshwater.
According to him, the preferred coastal habitat of West African manatees are coastal lagoons with abundant growth of mangroves or herbaceous growth, and estuarine areas of large river with abundant mangroves in the lower reaches.
According to him, the West African manatees feed principally at night and travel day in water that is 1-2m (3-6) deep, sometimes in the middle of a water course or hidden in mangroves roots or under vegetation, and make little disturbance in the water while swimming,
Mr. Jallow further stated that the seasonal movement of West African manatees, in response to change in water level that affects availability of food and or water salinity have been reported for several areas.
He said the West African manatees feed primarily on vegetation, and that it is dependent on emergent or overhanging, rather than population as some river depend heavily on overhanging bank growth, and those in estuarine areas area feed exclusively on mangroves.