SSN Press Officer

First name Last Name Adam M. Roberts

For Immediate Release:

7 Mar 2019


West African manatee proposal passes overwhelmingly

(Bangkok, Thailand) – The Species Survival Network (SSN) congratulated the overwhelming majority of West African manatee Range States for the successful approval of a proposal to increase global protection for the West African manatee, regarded by some as the mythical ‘mermaid’. The move came during deliberations at the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) convened in Bangkok, Thailand.

“Africa, and indeed the rest of the world’s decision-makers, must unite with full vigor and resolve when the fate of an imperiled species such as the West African manatee is concerned. The West African manatee deserves full protection under CITES,” noted Will Travers, President of SSN and CEO of the UK-based Born Free Foundation.

Widespread agreement now exists on the precarious survival prospects for the species. It is vulnerable to overexploitation and the wild population is declining due to illegal international trade and high market process. Manatees are targeted in the wild for their meat, skin, bones, genitalia, and oil, and for food and traditional medicine.

Mark Simmonds, Senior Associate Marine Scientist at Humane Society International, said: “The African manatee has been a largely forgotten species for far too long. Once a common animal of many of the waterways of West Africa, it is now drifting towards extinction with a population of only some 10,000 animal spread across a large part of West Africa. Its range nations have come to CITES to call for help with its conservation. Manatee flesh, oil and organs are increasingly valuable and part of what is urgently needed alongside other conservation actions to protect its habitat is a ban on trade.”

The proposal was sponsored by the West African manatee Range States of Benin, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Monsieur Abba Sonko, Chef de la Division Gestion de la faune in Senegal, a champion of the proposal, declared: “We are delighted that so many Parties today voted to help West African manatee Range States conserve this fragile but precious species by listing it on CITES Appendix I. We hope that today’s decision to increase protection for our manatees will, with the help of the international community, increase our ability to address the threats faced by manatees, including the impact of commercial trade.”

Travers added: “The support for saving this species, of which only a fragile 10,000 individual animals remain, is widespread throughout Africa and other regions of the world. The international community and CITES Parties must respect the position of the great majority of West African manatee Range States and increase protection before it’s too late.”