Trying to Spot Manatees in Chad's Binder-Lere Park

Last week we returned from Binder Lere in Chad where we finalised the aerial survey. We flew nearly 30 hours during this portion of the census from Zakouma to N'Djamena.  

Start date: 4/14/2014
End date: 4/19/2014
Flying time: 29.5 hours 

The survey went well, but the reserve is worse than I expected, with a large area already overtaken by people. There was a very few wildlife to be seen. Giraffes and ostriches we saw were actually outside on the east of the reserve in a community area. We saw some roans, reedbucks, oribi and duikers. Also, spotted were some warthogs and baboons, but not a lot. T

We saw two herds of elephants, including several with tracking collars. One herd had two very small calves and both groups appeared to have good family structures. 

I also met people from a local community organisation called ILOD that is responsible for tourism in the Binder Lere reserve and organising fishing in its lakes. They gave me some documents about a foot transect that had been done in the past and also about the distribution of manatees in Léré Lake. We flew over both lakes, but not see any manatees. We flew at 6 a.m., the best time to spot them, but there was some wind and the water is very brownish-green. We saw nothing but fishermen.

I think for this kind of water, the aerial method is not appropriate (they use aerial counts in the sea and brackish waters or known aggregation places). We tried to count hippos, but they are not used to the noise of the plane and have been hiding under the water. We did spot a few groups, but a true count was not really possible and those animals are not a priority now.