By Aminata S Kuyateh
Environment minister Rohey John Manjang yesterday declared the Kartong Marine Park and the Niani Sukuta, Niani Kayayi, Jailani Bakadaji, and Jarumeh Koto swamplands as protected and conserved sites for wildlife and biodiversity.
The minister said she relied on provisions of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Act of 2003 to declare the sites as protected reserves.
She said communities own the sites and they will be managed and protected in partnership with the government for the purposes of biodiversity, wildlife conservation and sustainable use.
“These locations are prioritised habitat areas and home to substantial hippopotamus populations and unique birds, like the African finfoot (Podica senegalensis). Safeguarding these territories will mitigate human-wildlife conflict such as between hippos and rice farmers”, the minister disclosed.
Minister Manjang added that elevating the conservation status of these sites which includes one community forest, calls for collaborative management efforts between the Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Forestry, and the surrounding communities.
She said the local communities will be equipped with the necessary technical and social skills for the conservation and sustainable management of the sites, and that the government will provide a blueprint for enhancing the rapidly expanding protected area networks with adequate support from local governments.
The minister disclosed that the Gambia is home to more than 75 species of mammals, 47 species of reptiles and 30 species of amphibians making a total of 152 species of wild animals, and a total 570 species of birds, more than 70% of which are listedwith the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
She said from 1963 to 2020, 23 protected areas have been established covering an area of more than 96,000 hectares.
She urged local communities to assume the responsibility of managing these areas covering a total of 51,240 hectares, equivalent to 4.27% of the surface area of the country.