President's words - Annual report 2019
Dear supporters and collaborators,
When we started writing this annual report at the end of 2019, we could never have imagined that in less than 3 months, almost half of the world's population would be in confinement because of a virus. All my thoughts are with you, and I hope that you take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your families wherever you are. At the time of publication of this report, the coronavirus continues to progress in Africa, and it is with great uncertainty that we are monitoring the evolution of the pandemic.
In these difficult times, good news is scarce but we invite you to celebrate the progress we have made in protecting Africa’s threatened marine wildlife - may it be a light to you in these darker times. At the local level, we are seeing encouraging progress and the fruits of the actions that we have taken so far. By communicating the main achievements that have marked AMMCO's life in 2019, our objective with this annual report is to bring a ray of hope and share our determination - because together everything is possible. As we look forward into the year ahead, we also must take pause to recognize AMMCO’s major accomplishments in 2019.
Before anything else, I would like to use this occasion to express my gratitude to our distinguished donors and supporters in 2019. Without you, we would have only existed in hopes and dreams; but through your donations and support, you have given us the power to bring positive change to the life of the African manatee, other aquatic marine species in Cameroon, and the people that live around them.
- In early 2019, with the support of National Geographic Society, we extended our fishermen sighting network to cover for the first time the entire coast of Cameroon. We can now receive real-time information on strandings and sightings from the more than 80 fishermen who have joined our conservation efforts through our citizen science platform. Over 5,500 observations were documented in 2019, up from only 500 in 2018.
Through this citizen science network, we were able to save 14 sea turtles that were accidentally caught in fishing nets or caught during nesting. We also managed to save over 200 sea turtle eggs.
- For the first time, we mapped and video-recorded the seafloor and sea grasses of the northern coast of Cameroon using sonar and underwater drones.
- Our citizen science data provided us tools to advocate to the government for the legal protection of the humpback whale, the sperm whale, the Atlantic humpback dolphin, the short-beaked common dolphin, the African clawless otter and the emblematic African manatee, raising their status to the highest class of legal protection in Cameroon. Our suggestion was deemed valid and included in the final decree to be signed by the Minister of Wildlife. The legal protection of these species will hopefully help discourage poachers.
- The middle of 2019 was a moment of celebration for us as four of our student interns graduated with their engineering degrees. We are proud of our contribution in building the skills of these new marine researchers - who are now ready to join the work that AMMCO has started.
- We reached more than 1,500 students in Lake Ossa through our environmental education. Over 8000 people around the world received our conservation message.
- The end of 2019 was even more exciting for two reasons. First, the Cameroon government finally delivered us the permit to import the salvinia weevil to be used for the biological control of Salvinia molesta in Lake Ossa. Secondly, I graduated my PhD in Veterinary Medical Sciences from the University of Florida in December 2019. I feel better equipped to support manatees and marine conservation activities in Cameroon and Africa in general and build the capacity of the next generation.
My team and I hope to accomplish even more in 2020. As part of the global conservationist community, we endeavor to give the best of ourselves to address the conservation challenges ahead of us. Our focus will include:
- Biologically control Salvinia molesta in Lake Ossa
- Continue to raise conservation awareness
- Scale up our alternative livelihood activities (ecotourism, apiculture, vegetable farming, mushroom farming, soap and vinegar making)
- Conduct the first acoustic monitoring of the African manatee
- Develop a recovery plan for the African manatee in Cameroon.
We hope that you will join us on AMMCO’s 2020 conservation journey. Together, we can have an even greater impact on protecting the aquatic wildlife of our only planet.
Dr Aristide Takoukam Kamla
President and Founder, AMMCO