“This is the perfect place for manatees,” said Lucy Keith Diagne, looking out at the slow mudflow of the Niandang River. It seems unlikely, but how did this mobile aquatic mammal, also known as a sea cow, live some 4,000 kilometers up Guinea's Niger River, almost as close to the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean? Is there one? But Keith Diagne, the world's leading expert on African manatees, should know.
These chubby creatures are known to inhabit the lower reaches of the Niger River, which stretches like a gigantic boomerang through much of West Africa, and long-standing anecdotal evidence suggests that they can be found separately in the upper reaches of tributaries near its source. This suggests that there is a population of Additionally, Dr. Keith Diagne believes that because this group has been separated from other manatees for so long, its members may have evolved into separate subspecies. “They went up the Niger River. They found something good. They kept going. They never came back and ended up different,” she said. Masu. But for now, this is just a guess.
To learn more, we drove hundreds of kilometers from the marshy coast of Guinea, across the highlands and down into the forested savanna in search of these elusive creatures. Keith Diagne and his team will spend a two-week expedition interviewing local residents, following clues from recent sightings, and searching for signs of feeding along riverbanks. Importantly, they also collect samples of…