Unknown SIRENIAN of East and Central Africa.
Variant names: Aila, Ia-bahr-tedcha ("water calf"), Mama fouta, Ourha-bieh.
P^hysical description: Size of a sheep.
Behavior: Drags its hind feet like a seal.
Distribution: Lake T'ana in Ethiopia; tributaries of the Mereb Wenz, Eritrea; Lake Chad, the Dagana Marshes, and the Ounianga Lakes in Chad.
Significant sighting: In 1900 or 1901, Dr. Auguste Morel was traveling in the Dagana marshes, Chad, with local fishermen in support of French colonial troops pacifying the region. A huge animal that left a tremendous disturbance in the water nearly upset their boats. Morel found a large area of crushed reeds but no tracks. The locals had no idea what the animal was.
(1) An extended range of the West African manatee ( Trichechus senegalensis) is possible in Chad, though less likely in Ethiopia. Adults are generally 9—10 feet long. The animal is found in rivers, estuaries, swamps, and lagoons from the Senegal River in the north to the Cuanza River, Angola, in the south, and it occurs as far as 1,200 miles from the sea along the Niger River. Its presence in the Chari River and Lake Chad has been suspected but never confirmed.
(2) An unknown species of manatee or freshwater dugong that evolved from fossil forms found in Egypt.
Sources: Theodor von Heuglin, Reise nach Abessinien, den Gala-Ländern, Ost-Sudân und Chartüm in den Jahren 1861 und 1862 (Jena, Germany: H. Costenoble, 1868), pp. 247, 289; Édouard-Louis Trouessart, "Existe-t-il dans les marais du lac Tchad un grand mammifère encore inconnu des naturalistes?" La Nature 76 (January 21, 1911): 120-121; Neue Mannheimer Zeitung, September 6, 1938, p. 7; Nigel Heseltine, From Libyan Sands to Chad (London: Museum Press, 1960), pp. 128-129; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les derniers dragons d'Afrique (Paris: Plon, 1978), pp. 142-144, 277-279, 358-363.
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