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A Mission to Protect the African Manatee

There are an estimated 10,000 left, spread across 21 African countries, from the coast of Senegal down to Angola and inland to Chad. The DNA extracted from faecal samples allows researchers to isolate individual populations and determine which groups are most endangered. African manatees are classified as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. They face many threats, including entanglement in fishing nets and entrapment in dams. In some countries they are heavily poached. African manatees are classed as a vulnerable species and are on the IUCN Red List. The animals are so elusive that many locals know them only from myths. In countries such as Senegal, where the animals are revered as auspicious water spirits, poaching is rare. But dams still pose a major threat: the cumbersome mammals can get trapped in narrow passageways and drown.