‘It was horrific and very disturbing’: manatee biologist about the shocking video made in Nigeria (audio)

Manatee being butchered, photo: Uzoma Edijmadu
Manatee being butchered, photo: Uzoma Edijmadu

“I was completely horrified, I started to cry. It was horrific and very disturbing”, Lucy Keith-Diagne, the founder of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund, says about the video where an African manatee is struggling to get away while he’s being dragged over the streets in Nigeria.

The video was shared on Twitter a few days ago and caused online outrage. The animal is tied in ropes, trying to escape while men are pulling him.

The African Aquatic Conservation Fund supports manatees, also known as sea cows, conservation programs throughout West and Central Africa. One of the countries the organization is active in is Nigeria.

In the last five years, over a hundred manatees have been killed in Nigeria, according to Lucy. Even though the manatee is a protected animal in Nigeria, it’s still being hunted for meat. “Legally there are protections, but those protections are often not enforced, Lucy says.

She’s happy that Sharon Ikeazor, the minister of Environment in Nigeria, contacted her after the video surfaced: “We’ve been trying for years to get the attention of the government to do something about it.” Blue Planet Society connected the two women in hope that together they’ll be able to fight for the safety of the endangered animal.

People don’t know what a manatee is
“In the original video, they call it a sea lion. They don’t know what it is, they just know it’s big and they’re going to eat it”, Lucy says. “People don’t know what it is and also not that it is a protected species.” Education is needed, she adds. With her colleagues, she’s creating educational programs about African manatees.

Listen to the interview with Lucy Keith-Diagne.

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