Aristide Kamla (Cameroon, 32 years old) is a PhD candidate at the University of Florida, focussing on African manatee genetics, diet and habitat. Nine years ago, when he started research on this species, there were only two published scientific papers on Cameroon’s populations. Manatees were heavily threatened by hunting and bycatch from fisheries, even in protected areas due to the lack of mitigation initiatives. Local communities were alarmingly unaware of the plight of the manatee, and the government was not concerned with its protection.
After his master’s graduation, Aristide founded the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organization, dedicated to the African manatee conservation, focussing mainly on the Sanaga River and Lake Ossa. Moreover, he created the first manatee stranding network along the coast and developed a mobile application allowing fishermen to report dead manatees and live sightings of manatees. On top of that, Aristide established environmental education and sensitization programs, reaching about 1500 students and hundreds of fishers every year! Thanks to his efforts, manatee hunting has been reduced considerably, and the local awareness, and government interest have been increased.
With the Future For Nature Award, Aristide aims to improve conservation in the Nkam and Dibamba rivers, by supporting manatee surveillance patrols, establishing environmental education programs in at least two schools located near the river, and by conducting baseline studies on distributions and habitats of the African manatee in the Nkam and Dibamba rivers to identify critical habitats. Moreover, a second study will be concerned with the documentation and mapping manatee mortality and its causes.