West African manatees are believed to be declining over much of their range, including in Sierra Leone. They are nominally protected there, but they are traditionally caught and eaten because of their delicious meat and also because they are considered as pests by rice growers and fishermen. The authors' surveys in 1986–1987 showed that manatees are still widely distributed in coastal districts of the country, but that they are being regularly caught in some places, at levels that may not be sustainable. Much more needs to be known to guide appropriate action to ensure that the manatee remains a part of Sierra Leone's wildlife. It is encouraging that one of the authors has begun, under the government Fisheries Division, to implement a manatee research programme.
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