Manatee_Senegal

African manatees are classed as a vulnerable species and are on the IUCN Red List. Photograph: Lucy Keith-Diagne/African Aquatic Conservation Fund

In many African countries, from Senegal down to Angola, the manatee is known as Mamy-Wata or the Sirena or a water spirit. It is a sea creature which can also be found in lakes, as well as on the ocean. There is a lot of myths surrounding the creature, and how difficult they are to find. There is also a lot of ideas surrounding their use in local medicines, with a high demand coming from Asia, to the point that they have now become endangered. This article on conservation efforts to save the manatee is from The Guardian. Enjoy!

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Once branded ‘rogue animals’, the elusive creatures were on the brink of extinction, but hope is rising for their survival

… For the past 14 years Keith-Diagne has been on 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. …

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.

… 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.

Manatee_Map in Africa

Approximate distribution of the manatee in Africa

Keith-Diagne said local dam authorities have been receptive to her proposed modifications of the structures. Politicians have also come on board. In 2014, her husband, Tomas Diagne, also a biologist, successfully petitioned the government to set aside 275 hectares (679 acres) for an aquatic reserve. The area is now home to an estimated 100 manatees as well as hundreds of Adanson’s mud turtles – a species unique to the local lake. The couple are also helping the surrounding communities to develop an ecotourism industry.

Keith-Diagne’s conservation work has extended into other parts of Africa. With the help of a Pew Marine fellowship, she formed a network of nine biologists in Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo to document every manatee captured or killed over three years. The project has already identified one clear trend: Nigeria is a leader in manatee mortality.

Hunters can make up to $2,000 (£1,626) from a single catch in the country, where manatee meat is said to be beneficial for diabetics and their oil is thought to be cholesterol-free. In addition, their penises are believed to cure impotence, their ear bones to ward off bullets, and eyes believed to possess magical powers. The faeces left over in manatee intestines are dried and used to mend broken bones.

According to Nigerian myth, upon encountering a human, a manatee will tickle them until they laugh so hard they drown.

Rumours of manatees breaking fishing nets and capsizing canoes led to their classification as a “rogue animal” in the 1970s – an official classification for animals that threaten human livelihoods, such as crocodiles and hippopotami.

Manatee

The manatee

… [Edem] Eniang, [a professor of wildlife resource management at the University of Uyo in Nigeria] and his team often go undercover, posing as buyers to keep tabs on poachers and document manatee killings. They visit schools to teach the importance of conservation and they run TV and radio information campaigns. Such campaigns can and have made a difference. In Cameroon, education and awareness initiatives have pushed manatee hunting to its lowest level.

Aristide Takoukam, the director of the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organisation in Cameroon, gives frequent presentations at schools and organises field trips to Lake Ossa, a wildlife reserve created in 1948.

I want to teach them to see nature in a different way than their parents,” he says. “I want to show them that in animals, they can also find beauty.”

He also trains fishermen in how to make a living from bee farming and soap making instead of manatee hunting and with the help of an American ecotourism expert, is developing an industry around manatee sightseeing, complete with lakeside bungalows, kayaking and bird watching.

I want to show them that a manatee is worth more alive than dead,” he says. …

Posted by: Dr. Y. | April 3, 2020

A Flower to Remind You to Smile

In this era of lockdown, one thing is for sure: flowers are blooming! Everywhere you look, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and now we can actually hear them amidst the silence! Yes… people… birds’ arias have replaced the car horns, and the blasting sounds of traffic and modernity. And now, the flowers display their beauty. They always did… but it was sometimes clouded by unknown fumes or we simply had no time to see it! So today, I will share with you a bright image of a gorgeous flower… This is simply to remind you to smile at the beauty outside, even if you cannot go outside. Enjoy!

Fleur12_20200403

Posted by: Dr. Y. | April 1, 2020

Proverbe malgache / Malagasy Proverb on God

Eyes shut_1

Les yeux fermes / Eyes closed

Nier l’existence de Dieu, c’est sauter les yeux fermés (proverbe malgache – Madagascar).

Denying the existence of God, is like jumping eyes closed (Malagasy proverb – Madagascar).

Kenya_map

Map of Kenya

In this era of the coronavirus and social distancing, many local vendors in some countries of Africa are seeing bigger profits than ever because of the slower competition from imported products. This should be the time to encourage local economies, and rebuilt local industries. In the article below, you will be appalled to find out that Kenya was importing fish from China (which has probably been fished on African coasts anyway) when they have a fishing industry! Why not eat local products? Why are our governments allowing these imported products to be cheaper than the local ones (it is true of Senegal and countless other African countries with products from France and the EU)? Why are foreign products not taxed properly so as to allow for the local industry to grow? I know this time is short, but it is always important to start somewhere. It is important to take advantage of these uncertain times to strengthen ourselves as all other countries are doing!  This article is from the  BBC: Fishermen cash in as Chinese imports drop.

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Grilled fish on a charcoal stove / du poisson braise sur un rechaud a charbon

Grilled fish on a charcoal stove / du poisson braise sur un rechaud a charbon

Sales of fresh fish in Kenya have risen as imports from China have dropped amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sellers in Dunga Beach on the shores of Lake Victoria report a jump in trade of about 40% over two weeks.

The fishermen are really now smiling at the Lake Victoria region because we are receiving more visitors. Dunga is really crowded with a lot of the residents of Kisumu coming to buy the fresh fish because people fear the Chinese boxed fish due to the coronavirus,” says Maurice Misodhi, a fisherman and leader at the Dunga Beach Management Unit.

Local fish costs about twice as frozen fish from China, of which Kenya imported more than $23m (£19m) worth in 2018.

Chinese fish used to make up about 50% of the market but this has fallen since imports stopped in November and the virus outbreak later took hold.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, local fishermen complained that cheap imports harmed local trade so much that they often resorted to eating their catch themselves or giving much of it away.

Kenya_flag

Flag of Kenya

But the scarcity of Chinese fish isn’t good news for everyone. Caroline Ochieng, a fish seller says she is struggling to make a decent profit because Chinese fish is cheaper than local lake fish.

That is the reason we want the China fish to be in supply as well as that from our own lake – so that as we do business we don’t feel the burden.

There are worries that local fishermen won’t be able to keep up with new demand for fresh fish. But for now at least, they are making the most of the surge in trade.

rhino3

Several rhinoceroses (Source: ndtv.com)

This is encouraging news, and I could not pass on it. The full article is from The Guardian!

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Numbers of African black rhinos in the wild have risen by several hundred, a rare boost in the conservation of a species driven to near extinction by poaching.

Black rhinos are still in grave danger but the small increase – an annual rate of 2.5% over six years, has swollen the population from 4,845 in 2012 to an estimated 5,630 in 2018, giving hope that efforts put into saving the species are paying off.

The painstaking attempts to save the black rhino have included moving some individuals from established groups to new locations, increasing the species’ range and ensuring viable breeding populations, as well as protecting them through stronger law enforcement efforts. Numbers of all of the three subspecies of black rhino are now improving.

Rhino5

Rhinos being sedated (Source: Getty images)

The continued slow recovery is a testament to the immense efforts made in the countries and a powerful reminder that conservation works,” said Grethel Aguilar, acting director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which compiles the global red list of species under threat.

[But] there is no room for complacency as poaching and illegal trade remain acute threats. It is essential that the ongoing anti-poaching measures and intensive, proactive population management continue, with support from national and international actors.”

The outlook for the other African rhino species is still troubled, according to the update to the red list published on Thursday.

White rhinos are more numerous in Africa but categorised by the IUCN as near-threatened. The outlook for them has worsened in recent years, driven by high levels of poaching in South Africa’s Kruger national park. White rhinos have larger horns than their black counterparts, making them more attractive to poachers, and they are easier to find as they prefer more open habitats.

Dibango_1

Manu Dibango (Source: JacarandaFM)

For me, Manu Dibango is like a person with whom I grew up… well because his song “Bienvenu, Welcome to Cameroon” was played on national television endlessly when growing up. It was a special song, and it made everybody know what a beautiful country he came from, and how welcoming the people of that land were. He also had a thunderous and contagious laughter.

Emmanuel N’Djoké Dibango was born in DoualaCameroon, on 12 December 1933. He was an outstanding saxophone and vibraphone player. He was sent early to France for high school. I remember an interview he gave about his first time in Europe. As a kid, he had never seen snow, and he was in such awe of the snow that he wanted his mother back home to see it; so he mailed her some snow… but as you might have guessed, all his mother received was a wet, all dried up, empty envelope! While in France, his studies got derailed by music, as he got introduced to the saxophone and as a results he failed his high school exams (Baccalauréat) to his father’s disappointment. However, this launched him in what became an internationally acclaimed career.

Cameroon_flag

Flag of Cameroon

In the late 50s and in the 60s, Dibango was a member of the seminal Congolese rumba group African Jazz with the great “Grand Kalle” and recorded many African hits such as “Independence Cha-Cha.” He collaborated with many other musicians, including Fania All StarsFela KutiHerbie HancockBill LaswellBernie WorrellLadysmith Black MambazoKing Sunny AdéDon Cherry, and Sly and Robbie.

Dibango_6

Manu Dibango’s album “Soul Makossa”

His hit song, “Soul Makossa,” came out in 1972, and propelled him to international fame. His fusion of African rhythm and sounds on the saxophone created a sort of fusion that was new, modern, and hip. The song “Soul Makossa” on the record of the same name contains the lyrics “makossa“, which means “(I) dance” in his native tongue Duala language. The song has influenced popular music hits, including Kool and the Gang‘s “Jungle Boogie.” In 1982, Michael Jackson picked up a version of a line that Dibango sang on “Soul Makossa” — which Jackson sang as “mama-se, mama-sa, ma-makossa” — on his song “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” from the album Thriller. Dibango sued the American megastar; Jackson settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. In 2007, Rihanna sampled Jackson‘s version of the “Soul Makossa” line on her song “Don’t Stop the Music,” as Jackson had given her permission, but not Dibango. Two years later, Dibango sued Jackson again, as well as Rihanna in France; that time, his case failed, due to the earlier settlement.

Dibango_5

Manu Dibango’s album “Wakafrica” (Source: Amazon)

In recent years, he collaborated on his album Wakafrika (which I have in my collection) with the then new guard of African singers: Youssou N’dour, Angélique Kidjo, Salif KeïtaPapa Wemba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and King Sunny Adé.

So long to the artist… like Fela Kuti, Manu Dibango has influenced countless singers around the world, and has brought in a new generation of African saxophone players. Your saxophone filled with soulful tunes from Cameroon and Africa, will continue to fill our souls. Enjoy these very good articles on The Guardian and NPR.

Centipede1

Scolopendres / centipedes

Le petit du scolopendre s’enroule comme sa maman le lui a appris (Proverbe Bassa – Cameroun).

The little of the centipede curls like its mother taught him (Bassa proverb – Cameroon).

 

20150624_FleurIn these uncertain times, I thought about sharing with you this poem by the Cameroonian author Etienne Noumé, ‘Angoisse quotidienne‘ or ‘Daily Anxiety.’ His poem was published in Anthologie de la poésie camerounaise, edited by Patrice Kayo, Le Flambeau. As you read Noumé’s poem, you will find the daily anxiety of the author mounting, as he wonders where he will flee to as hurricanes come and take away his roof, where he will flee to as the torrents sweep away his fields, when will the happy future come? His questions remain of actuality: the hurricanes coming is like wondering ‘where will you sleep, or live?’; the torrents sweeping his fields is like asking ‘where will your income, your food come from?’ the question about the future is like asking ‘when will the spring come? when will this anxiety go away? when will happiness come?’

The poem Angoisse quotidienneby Etienne Noumé, published in Anthologie de la poésie camerounaise, P. Kayo, Le Flambeau. The translation to English is from Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com. I chose the flower above because of all the uncertainty surrounding it, and also because in the end, the light still shines on that flower!

Enjoy the poem below, and let me know what this poem brings to mind.

Angoisse quotidienne

 

Quand viendra la rigueur

des saisons orageuses

ébranchant les dômes

des futaies sauvages,

 

où fuirais-je

la chute meurtrière

des poutres sur les crânes

Quand, froissant, étirant

les cheveux de jungle

l’ouragan dans ses bras

tordra toute la terre,

où dormirai-je,

la paille de mon toit

volant à tous les vents,

où fuirais-je,

la fureur des torrents

balayant tous mes champs,

roulant des allluvions

pour fumer le vallon

germera l’Avenir

en heureuses ombelles?

Daily Anxiety

 

When will come the rigor

of stormy seasons

pruning the domes

of wild forests,

 

where would I flee

the deadly fall

of beams on skulls

When, crumpling, stretching

the jungle hairs

the hurricane in his arms

will twist the whole earth,

where would I sleep,

the straw from my roof

flying off in all winds,

where would I flee,

the fury of torrents

sweeping all my fields

rolling alluvium

to smoke the valley

Where

will sprout the future

in happy umbels?

 

Posted by: Dr. Y. | March 17, 2020

Chad Repaying $100m Debt to Angola with Cattle

cow

African Cows

I just learned of Chad repaying its $100 million debt to Angola with … cattle, and I simply loved the idea! When you are plagued with a slave currency such as the FCFA, why not go back to the old ways of exchange and trading? Chad owed Angola money, Angola needed cattle, Chad provided the cattle to clear its debt, and now both countries are squared: everyone is happy! Isn’t it the way the world works anyway: you need something, I supply it, and you pay me back by supplying me with the goods you have. Enjoy this article from the BBC!

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Chad1

Map of Chad (Source: Lonely Planet)

Chad is repaying Angola a debt of $100m (£82m) with cattle, Angola’s state-run newspaper has reported.

The unusual agreement is seen as creating a win-win situation for both nations – Chad is short of cash while Angola needs cattle.

More than 1,000 cows arrived by ship in Angola’s capital, Luanda, as the first payment, Jornal de Angola reported.

In total, Angola would receive 75,000 cattle over 10 years, meaning it has accepted payment of $1,333 per animal.

Chad would send a further 3,500 head of cattle later this month, the report added.

Chad-Angola Cattle trade

The cattle trade between Chad and Angola

Chad had proposed repaying the 2017 debt with cattle, and Angola had agreed because it would help the southern African state rebuild its cattle population in drought-affected areas, the state-run daily paper said.

Angola is often hit by drought, causing animals to die of hunger and thirst and leaving many villagers destitute.

… Chad is described by the the World Health Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) as a “livestock farming country par excellence”, with about 94 million head of cattle. 

….

Sahara_ancient sea creatures

Some of the sea creatures that lived underwater in the location where the Sahara desert is today. (Source: American Museum of Natural History 2019)

In October, we talked about how the Sahara had been home to world’s largest sea creatures. Given that Africa is the cradle of humanity, it totally makes sense that it would also be the place where some the world’s largest sea creatures hail from. Now, scientists have charted the climate of the Sahara desert thousands years ago based on the diet of the people there, identifying it as a place which was plentiful with fish: a lot of catfish and tilapia (or rather ancestors of these!). Enjoy excerpts from this The Guardian article.

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Sahara desert from space

View of the Sahara desert from space

The Sahara’s shift from savannah with abundant lakes to a largely arid expanse has been traced in the remains of fish eaten thousands of years ago.

Researchers analysing material found in a rock shelter in the Acacus mountains in south-west Libya say they have found more than 17,500 animal remains dating from between 10,200 and 4,650 years ago, 80% of which are fish. About two-thirds of the fish were catfish and the rest were tilapia. The team say telltale marks on the bones reveal the fish were eaten by humans who used the shelter.

It is not the first time fish remains have been found in what are now dry regions of the desert, but the team say it is the first time the ancient climate of the region has been traced through animal remains.

All the other finds are surface finds, [from] just one layer, one period, one event. Whereas what we have here is a 5,000-year sequence with a lot of bones – so that makes it special,” said Dr Wim van Neer from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, a co-author of the study.

The discovery is the latest in a string of finds from the large Takarkori rock shelter, a site, about 50-60 metres long and 30 metres high, that is thought to have been first used by hunter gatherers more than 10,000 years ago.

Sahara petroglyph in the Fezzan giraffes

Rock art in the Sahara desert (Source: Wikipedia) 

Prof Savino di Lernia, a co-author of the study from Sapienza University of Rome, said previous finds at the shelter included evidence of rock art, the earliest signs in Africa of wild cereals being cultivated and their seeds stored, and evidence from pottery shards of dairy practices in Africa dating back nearly 7,000 years ago.

… Writing in the journal Plos One, Van Neer and colleagues report that fish account for about 80% of the animal remains discovered at the site during the 5,000-year period it was used by humans, with mammals making up just over 19%. Birds molluscs and other animals such as turtles account for the rest.

The team found the predominance of fish was not steady but fell from about 90% in the earliest layers to about 48% in those from the most recent period of its occupation.

The amount of fish is decreasing through time and the contribution of mammals increases, showing that people at Takarkori focussed gradually more on hunting and livestock keeping,” the authors write. But, they add: “It is unclear if this was an intentional process or if this shift could be related to increasing aridity, which made the environment less favourable for fishes.” …

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