Specific River Species
For a listing of specific rivers in West Africa and the fish that thrive in them, a compilation of listings can be found on Biotope Aquaria. The estuaries and further into the river's center lies a world of various fish species in West Africa. Like other rivers and estuaries around the world, they are falling prey to environmental changes and dangers. Studies and protection programs are in place to alleviate the problems that face the destruction of rivers in this region.
Saving aquatic life in the rivers would ensure the safety of species such as the African Manatee, one of the four species of sirenians that is the least studied. The manatees live along coastlines, however are also found in fresh water systems. From the Senegal River to the southern Kwanza River in Angola, including areas of Gambia, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’lvoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Manatees of West Africa will occasionally fall prey to crocodiles and sharks, although the biggest threat of diminishing numbers of this beautiful animal is from mankind. Poaching, their habitat loss due to construction and destruction, and various environmental impacts are decreasing the numbers of the rarely studied creature.
The vegetarian manatee can grow to 14 feet, 9 inches in length and can weigh up to 790 pounds in adulthood. Manatees rely on the vegetation that is on the surface, or barely beneath the surface. Overhanging growth of plants from the banks of rivers make a perfect meal for manatees. In Sierra Leone, manatee tales of theft of fishes from nets and the consumption of rice in huge amounts lend hand to the “pest" title of the manatee. Shell remnants of mollusks have been found in the stomachs of manatees in the Senegal and Gambia areas.
Hanging out in the coastal areas, estuarine lagoons, in large rivers that are brackish and freshwater, lakes and the farthest reaches of rivers above cataracts, the West African manatee population depends mostly upon the vegetation levels of the region.
Manatees feed mostly in the night, traveling to and from various feeding spots during the late afternoon or night. Resting during the day, manatees find water that is only about 3 to 6 feet deep to take their naps. Creating very little water disturbance while swimming, the manatee remains one of the quietest of aquatic life in the rivers of the region.
With very little knowledge about the manatee, the breeding periods of the mammal are unknown, however one calf is born each period. The shallow lagoons are the perfect birthing area. Manatees are usually solitary. Mothers and calves are the primary socialization, however they are found resting in pairs or up to six periodically.