Definitely a great non-profit organization! Sirenian International has provided critical financial support to the Belize Manatee Rehabilitation Centre, locating funding for milk supplies for orphaned calves, and towards equipment and infrastructure. Without this kind of support, manatee rehabilitation in Belize would not be viable.
Wildtracks, which hosts the Centre, has also benefited from technical input for increasing management effectiveness of Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, one of Belize's largest marine protected areas, established specifically for its importance for maintaining manatee viability in the region. Working with the local conservation organization, the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development, and its rangers, Sirenian International has assisted with the development of monitoring protocols for manatees in the area, helping us to significantly increase our understanding of manatees in the Wildlife Sanctuary.
SI has been a key resource in many aspects for me as a marine biologist working with Antillean manatees in the Caribbean. As a student, for many of my projects, SI has provided access to specialized literature on Sirenians that I would not be able to find otherwise. In addition SI provides various resources for a more general public, for education and awareness purposes, that have been helpful to me for getting the message of conservation across to a broader audience. In 2006 I was an intern for Caryn working in the Manatees in Belize project in the Drowned Cayes Area for three months. This great opportunity provided the experience I needed to conduct my own field work on Antillean manatees in the Dominican Republic starting that same year, which has led to furthering my research and pursuing a doctoral degree at present. I have also received a small grant from SI for food supplies for a rescued orphan manatee in the Dominican Republic. SI has also been an incredibly valuable source for networking with other scientists and conservationists working with Sirenians around the world and has sponsored international workshops that promote cooperation. Since 2008 I have been a member of the Board of Directors of SI and believe that it fulfills a unique role as an NGO dedicated to the conservation of Sirenians and their habitat.
I was a volunteer at the first Manatee capacity building program at Ghana in 2007 where I met Caryn Self-Sullivan (Dr), of Sirenian International, as one of the Principal Investigators in the research project. It was an overwhelming experience receiving from her huge dose of scientific knowledge and experience. She made research look simple both on the field and at the class room when she gave lectures. I gained a lot from her and other PI's during the program which led to my career refocus giving me a good perspective to pursue a PhD programme on manatee Bioecology in Nigeria at the University of Lagos. I equally received some research instruments from her which I learnt she bought from some little donations giving to her organization and they remain useful to me till date. She through SI still pass to me useful information as they come up in the manatee conservation which helpful in my career.
I first knew Sirenian International in 2008 through internet when I was starting preparing my Msc thesis on the West African Manatee. From there I subscribe for membership. Scientific literature on the specie was few and difficult to access; but fortunately through SI I could get a good number of articles or electronic books that help me to prepare my thesis. One year later I met Dr Caryn on a Workshop on West African Manatee conservation that was organized in Ghana. The first thing I noticed is that she is a humble scientist which likes to gather peoples, ideas on particular scientific topics. I will never forget what she did for some of the participants there at the workshop who was in some financial difficulty, I was one of them, she remove from here personal money $100 to support us. What i will say is that she has enthusiast to fund and support young scientists like me; only through that act the impact of that money has reached three different countries. Still on the field in Ghana I was amaze by the devotion for manatee conservation Dr Caryn expressed as she was teaching us some courses on the order Sirenia. Really, she’s hard working. After the workshop Dr Caryn voluntary accepted to support my thesis with some counsel and literatures that she always provide freely to me, I’m sure she would even do above that if means are there . It’s thanks to SI that I'm improving in my Msc thesis. With this commitment and serious-minded, SI will continue to be sharp, efficient and unstoppable in their actions provided that means are available.
As one of the original board members of SI, I worked with a great team [of ladies] to set up the foundation for the organization. On the board for a couple cycles, I saw the small grants provide leverage to students and researchers. I have also attended workshops sponsored by SI. The resources available and global communication makes SI a truly unique organization for Sirenian conservation. Today, it could benefit from more online activities or real-time discussions on specific topics.
On march 14th 2008 an orphaned manatee calf was rescued in the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic and taken to the National Aquarium in Santo Domingo. Sirenian International quickly responded to our emergency situation with a small grant to help cover immediate expenses related to health and nutritional needs of the orphaned manatee. During a visit to the Dominican Republic in April 2008, Dr. Caryn Self-Sullivan personally visited the National Aquarium and volunteered to help with this new born calf, sharing her knowledge and expertise with the veterinary staff. She also participated in a workshop at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and gave lectures about Sirenians to undergraduate students, showing her commitment to education and awareness.
Sirenian International has several times requested my help in evaluating grant applications. My impression of them is that they are serious, mature, and meticulous in judging applicants, and try hard to make their funds go as far as possible. Their goals are ambitious, but they seem to have been surprisingly successful in what they have set out to do (promoting sirenian research and conservation from the Caribbean to the East Indies). The leading people in the organization are themselves active field researchers on sirenians. Over the past year or two they have also helped me by hooking me up with a skilled programmer who volunteered to help me with a large database project, and provided about $540 to defray costs. In my opinion, they are a definite asset to worldwide marine mammal research and conservation.
I met Caryn Self-Sullivan in 2005 when I visited her field site in Belize to help train a colleague on the use of sonar. After that introduction to Caryn and Sirenian International, I applied and received a grant from SI to partially fund the 1st Symposium for the Biology and Conservation of Antillean Manatee ( Trichechus manatus manatus ) in Mesoamerica (http://resweb.llu.edu/rford/courses/ESSC5xx/SMBC_manatee_symposium.html). This initial and much needed effort to unit the diverse groups working with manatees proved to be very successful. Since that symposium several workshops and alliances have been formed throughout the region. I hope to continue working with SI in the future.
In 2002 I was working on a small island off the coast of Vietnam where one of the last few dugongs survive. A SI grant was crucial for our education work and surveys, as well as wider policy advocacy. Caryn Self-Sullivan was extremely enthusiastic about our project and helped to motivate me and my Vietnamese colleagues. As a result of this project I went on to work for WWF and lead the marine programme for Vietnam, and as part of my work advocated for better protection measures for dugongs and seagrass in Vietnam, and neighbouring Cambodia.
I first came to know about Sirenian International in 2006, when I was Dr. Caryn Self-Sullivan’s research and logistics summer intern for a long-term project about ecology, behavior and conservation of the Antillean manatee in Belize. The internship turned out to be a life-changing experience; it excelled all my expectations by far, allowing me to develop my own manatee research and conservation project in the Dominican Republic later on. Dr. Self-Sullivan has been the scientific advisor and my mentor for this research project since 2007. I consider Dr. Self-Sullivan an outstanding scientist, as well as an admirable educator and excellent mentor. Throughout over 10 years of the successful manatees in Belize project alone, Sirenian International has positively influenced hundreds of people, working with fellow scientists, graduate and undergraduate students, a wide range of international volunteers from teenagers to professionals in all areas, as well as local teachers and local staff. Sirenian International has promoted extensive work in developing countries in Latin America and Africa, and in challenging environments. This NGO has helped mentor young scientists in different countries, such as myself, and has provided small grants for research and conservation projects on Sirenians around the world. SI has also helped organize and sponsor important international workshops, offering the opportunity for participants to come together from different parts of the world to learn from each other’s experiences. For example, in May 2009 I was one of the many young professionals who received a travel grant from SI to participate in the workshop “Improving the contribution of Marine Protected Areas to the Conservation of Sirenians” during the International Marine Conservation Congress, held in Washington DC. This experienced allowed me to meet with Sirenian experts from all over the world, and gave me the opportunity to share my experiences with manatee research and conservation in the Dominican Republic. Apart from all of the above, SI offers a great deal of resources through their website for anyone who is interested in Sirenians: from general species information for the general public, all the way to invaluable resources for professionals, such as an extensive bibliography, information on internship opportunities and conferences, newsletter, listserv, etc. All these activities and resources serve to show Sirenian International’s long-term commitment to science, conservation and education.