Information on the protected areas in The Gambia





TOTAL AREA (ha)     

Administrative Area



Abuko Nature Reserve





River Gambia National Park





Niumi National Park





Kiang West National Park





Boa Bolong Wetland Reserve





Tanji Bird Reserve





Tanbi Wetland National Park



Greater Banjul Area


Jokadou National Park





Kassan Conservation Area




Total Area of National Parks and Reserves (ha):89,851

National Parks Coverage: 8.2%

                                                        INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY CONSERVATION  AREA-ICCA


BolongFenyo Community Wildlife Reserve





Bamako Community Conservation Area


1032 ha



Barrow Kunda Community Conservation Area


359 ha



Badari Community Conservation Area





DembaKunda Community Conservation Area





Kass Wolof Community Conservation Area





Chamen Community Conservation Area





FarabaBantang Community Conservation Area


502 ha



PakauNjogu Community Conservation Area





Kassagne Community Conservation Area





Kanuma Community Conservation Area





Tintiba and Dumbuto Community Conservation Area





Berefet Community conservation Area


984.9 ha



Bintang Community Conservation Area




Total Area of ICCA (ha):                                                                                 4,858.1

ICCA coverage: 0.4%


  • Number of Protected Areas: 23
  • Total Land Area Protected: 94,709.1 ha
  • PA % representation: 8.6%




Abuko nature reserve is situated outside the village of Lamin in the Kombo North District, 25km from Banjul. The reserve has been protected as a water catchment area since 1916. It was officially declared a nature reserve in 1968. In 1978, a further 29ha were added to the original 77ha, bringing it up to its current size of 106ha around which a 300m buffer zone has been created. The reserve is rectangular in shape, centered on the Lamin stream which surfaces within the lower half of the reserve.


The central portion of the reserve is composed of ground water or gallery forest which surrounds a chain of 3 pools. The dense evergreen forest progressively gives way to guinea savannah the further one moves away from the water course, which has a grass and herb dominated under storey. Through the wet season (June to October) the grass grows to almost 2m, but as the dry season progresses it dies back. Within the extension to the reserve is grassland and guinea savannah much enjoyed by many savannah bird species and mammals. Despite its small area the reserve is also home to a wide diversity of mammals, birds and invertebrates. This is due primarily to its variety of habitat types coupled with the fact that the area was protected in a relatively intact state.

Areas of Interest - Natural

There is something to interest everyone in Abuko Nature Reserve. It provides a good introduction to the flora, fauna and avi-fauna of the Gambia. Its unique nature allows the visitor to gain an insight into the biodiversity of the Gambia, both present and past. The pools in the northeast end of the reserve hold a substantial population on Nile Crocodiles, and attract a wide variety of birds and mammals, especially during the dry season. The pools also contain quite a variety of fish species.

Areas of Interest – Structural

The education center overlooks the crocodile pool and offers a splendid view of the pool and its surroundings. The centre is a two-storey structure which houses the environmental education programme. Here some school children are taught about the importance of conserving their environment through posters, displays and audio visual shows.

There are two photo hides along the route which overlook the upper section of the pools and provide excellent conditions for photography and observing the wide range of birds, mammals and reptiles that utilize the pools and their surroundings.

At the animal orphanage the visitor gets the opportunity to view some examples of Gambian wildlife (Spotted Hyena, Bush Buck) as well as lions, now said to be extinct in the Gambia, apart from rare vagrants in the east of the country. The orphanage is also a temporary home to animals and birds that had been held in captivity. The Department of Parks and Wildlife Management ahs an ongoing programme of confiscating captive wild animals – the most common of these are primates and parrots. These animals are kept at the orphanage until they are ready to be released back into their natural habitat.

There are two refreshment kiosks (one at the animal orphanage and one at the exit gate) which serve a selection of cold drinks and snacks. Souvenir buyers will find and extensive range of locally produced clothing, woodcarvings and other craftwork at the Abuko Craft Market, located at the exit gate, locally known to be one of the best souvenir markets in town.

Habitat Type – Gallery Forest

Abuko Nature Reserve contains one of the few remaining intact examples of gallery forest in the Gambia. It is similar in structure to rain forest. The main difference is that it relies on surface water as its primary source of moisture, while rain forest depends on precipitation. Since the existence of gallery forest is dependent on the presence of surface water, it is only found in areas where there is either a high ground water table or a freshwater source (eg along the freshwater reaches of the River Gambia). Gallery forest is characterized by evergreen forest with a close canopy and fairly open under storey. The canopy can grow to an excess of 30m in Abuko, Pirang Forest Park and in narrow fringes along the river where the water is fresh. Where river water is brackish (salty) mangrove occurs.


Four species of primate occur in the reserve; the Western Red Colobus, the Calithrix Monkey (formerly known as Vervet), the Patas Monkey and the Senegal bushbaby. Other mammals present include Senegal and Pardine Genets, Bush Buck, Maxell’s Duiker, Gambian Red-legged Sun Squirrel, Striped ground Squirrel, Crested Porcupine, bats and a variety of rodents. Reptiles present include Nile and Dwarf Crocodiles, Nile and Boscs Monitor, Agama Lizard, various skinks and geckos, African Rock Python, Puff Adder, Black Cobra and Green Mamba.

The best season for a visit is very much dependant upon what aspect of nature the visitor is seeking. Vegetation in the reserve is most lush in November/December, whereas fauna is better viewed from February – May when vegetation is least concealing. The best time of day to visit the Reserve is either early morning or late afternoon as animals tend to seek shelter from the midday sun.

Avi - Fauna

Over 270 species of birds have been recorded from Abuko Nature Reserve which reflects the value of this small area. The reserve contains an intact pocket of gallery forest in which numerous forest dependant species occur such as the Green Turaco, Little Greenbul and the Yellow Breasted Apalis. The Milky (or verreaux’s) Eagle Owl is also resident and often heard calling in the late afternoon. The chain of pools within the lower end of the reserve attracts a tremendous variety of bird life, from the White – Spotted Fluff tail to African Fish Eagles. An afternoon spent at the Education Center or one of the photo hides will yield many good sightings. At the south – western end of the reserve an extension of 29ha added in 1978 ahs been appropriately labeled the bird walk. The area is composed of guinea savannah with open glade of grassland.


Bao Bolon (bolon is the Mandinka word for tributary) is located on the North Bank of the River Gambia opposite Kiang West National Park. It consists of six major bolons between Salikenne and Katchang. Together these bolons form a vast wetland complex of international importance. Bao Bolon does not have the characteristics of a river any more. It is a valley which stretches over a length of more than 140km form the border south of Ferlo towards the River Gambia. The valley crosses the Senegalese territory at Marlene and penetrates the Gambian territory through Jajari. There are twenty four peripheral villages one of which (Duntunmalang) is located within the boundaries of the river.

The area was designated in 1996 as a Ramsar (The International Convention on Wetlands) site.

With funding from the Ramsar Bureau, a detailed environmental, ecological and socio-economic survey of the reserve has been completed (1997). This survey provided a sound basis for the 2000 management plan for the area in order to optimize the amount and quality of wetland habitat available to water birds and other wetland dependant species. The proposed area is approximately 22,000ha. The significance of Bao Bolon lies in the fact that three distinct ecosystems – mangrove forest, salt marsh and savannah woodland – all occur in very close proximity at several locations. Bao Bolon’s mangrove ecosystem provides an important fish breeding ground and its tributaries are an important source of fish. Local communities also use some of the area in a sustainable manner for rice growing and harvesting of thatch and fencing materials.

Areas of Interest

Bao Bolon contains four main eco-systems – estuary, woodland savannah, salt marsh and mangrove forests. The Bao Bolon is a braided river system which extends north into Senegal, and in the Gambia forms a network of waterways and marshes interspersed with dry woodland savannah on higher ground. The flow of Bao Bolon is now only concentrated in the rainy season and the resulting saline intrusion allows the mangrove to extend far up the bolons. At this point  in the River Gambia, mangrove forests reach heights of up to 12m due to the lower osmotic pressure exerted by the lower salinity levels that occur towards the river mouth at Banjul. To the north of the reserve, the marshes are dominated by large stands of reed (phragmites karka). The best way to explore the reserve is from the River Gambia by boat, and to wind slowly up the bolons through the mangrove until the surrounding land rises and the mangrove gives way to a mosaic of marsh, salt flats and dry woodland. The drier areas can then be accessed by foot. On the journey up through the bolons, you may see crocodiles basking on the muddy banks or the slide marks from where they re-enter the water. African Clawless Otters occur throughout the reserve and can prove quite inquisitive when encountered. Further upstream, Common Warthog, Hyena and Jackal may be seen in the drier areas. Access by road is available form Konteh Kunda Niji where a laterite track leads south along the base of the escarpment to the west of the bolon. From the escarpment edge excellent views are to be had and it is a good location from which to scan for wildlife. Other access points by road include Katchang to the east, Njaba Kunda to the north and Salikenne to the west. Tunku and Kisi bolon are significant components of Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve as habitat for avi-fauna such as white backed night heron, White necked Stork, White Crested tiger Heron, Allen’s Golinoll and fin foot which breed in the river. The areas are also popular for bird watching. Terrestrial invertebrate is abundant. For example of 160 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies) and Odonata (dragon flies) recorded in the Gambia, at least 22 species are known to occur in the Reserve.

Habitat Type – Wetlands

Wetlands have a unique and valuable role in supporting food chains, providing habitat for fish and wildlife, and maintaining natural hydrological regimes. The value of wetlands in this regard is seldom realized until they are lost through drainage or other man induced alterations of their hydrology. The associated flora and fauna of wetlands is extremely diverse. The River Gambia which forms the spine of the country is fringed by a mosaic of wetlands with varying ecologies depending on their proximity to a marine influence. Mangrove swamps dominate in the lower reaches of the river, with gallery forest and raffia/reed swamps above the limit of saline intrusion. A vast portion of Gambian marine and freshwater fish species is dependant on these ecosystems for successful reproduction and nursery conditions. However, the complexities of the various species life histories are far from being fully understood. They also provide essential conditions for a wide diversity of indigenous and migratory bird species. Being habitats with very special characteristics, and besides their high biological productivity, wetlands are also sensitive to change within their whole catchment basin. Their resources have been exploited continuously since antiquity (for fishing, cultivation, building materials etc). However they are related to a more precious resource – water, which especially in Africa and particularly in the Sahel, is becoming more and more scarce. As human populations – and therefore demand – increases, supply becomes reduced by inappropriate management practices and climate change. In recent years increased awareness of the need to conserve coastal and inland wetlands throughout the world has led to the cataloguing of major wetland sites, to the designation of many as reserves, and to the funding of research into their ecology. The value of a wetland is dependant on the maintenance of its hydrological regime.


Bao Bolon provides a refuge for a number of the Gambia’s rarer birds. Within the mangrove forest, Pels Fishing Owl can occasionally be encountered roosting silently while Brown Necked Parrots chatter noisily through the canopy. The African Fish Eagle and Osprey both fish in the River Gambia and the network of bolons. The cry of the former is characteristic of the area. Fin foots have been recorded quite frequently and the White Backed Night Heron is resident if somewhat elusive. The tidally flooded marshes and pans are frequently by a variety of herons, ibis, waders and waterfowls, with numbers seasonally augmented by European and African migrants. The reed beds on the upper bolon are used for roosting by mixed flocks of passerine birds, as well as providing feeding and breeding habitat for various water birds.


Wetlands also form the majority habitat for a number of our rarer mammals including Hippopotamus, West African Manatee, African Clawless Otter and

Sitatunga as well as reptiles such as Nile Crocodile, various turtles and snakes.

Specialty Animal – African Clawless Otter

Species: Aonyx capensis

Description: a very large, tan to chocolate brown otter with white markings on the chin and underside. Males up to 128cm in length including 51cm tail and weighing up to 13kg. Forefeet unwebbed, clawless and with opposable thumb. Hind feet are also clawless but webbed to outer joints.

Distribution: widespread throughout Africa south of the Sahara in suitable habitat, occurring in small and large streams, lakes and swamps. Also found in the sea on rocky coasts and in estuaries, mainly within mangrove swamps. Within the River Gambia, Clawless Otters are widely but thinly distributed. Population occurs in Kiang West, River Gambia and Niumi National Parks and Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve.

Ecology: Clawless Otters prey on a wide range of foods including fish, snakes, crabs and water birds. They are capable of moving large distances over land in search of new food sources. Most activity is concentrated around dawn and dusk, but in areas of high disturbance they may be predominantly nocturnal. Clawless Otters occupy Holts which may be shallow scrapes in dense vegetation, holes in trees, under rocks, etc. they are also known to dig burrows in sandy soils.

Africa Clawless Otter feed mainly on crabs, frogs and other invertebrates, unlike most other Otters which eat mainly fish. They are most likely to be seen early afternoons and late evenings

Behavior: little is known of the Clawless Otter’s social organization and it appears that adults are generally solitary. Females with young (usually 2 – 3) remain together until the young are capable of fending for themselves, though in some parts of their range they may form clans or extended families.


The Niumi National Park occupies the coastal strip of the Gambian north of the river. The park is approximately 4,940ha (49.4 km2) in extent. Apart from being an important fish breeding ground, it constitutes one of the last untouched mangrove stands on the West African Coast north of the equator. The more terrestrial parts of the park contain an interesting cross section of threatened regional fauna and wide diversity of habitat types. The international character of the Delta complex as one ecological entity with vital and incalculable environmental value to the region and its people prompted the Gambia and Senegal to recognize the need to protect this area. The Gambia declared its portion of the Delta as a national park in 1986, comprising the southern part of the coastal wetlands and mangroves of the Saloum Delta. The park is contiguous with Senegal’s Delta Du Saloum National Park and Biosphere Reserve.

Areas of Interest

Niumi National Park encompasses the island of Jinack which is separated from the mainland by the narrow Niji Bolon. The island is mainly low-lying with extensive areas of coastal dune woodlands, salt water marsh dominated by tamarisk and mangrove fringing the bolon. The mainland section of the park incorporates dry woodland and grassland savannah which is on a raised laterite plateau. This plateau is dissected by the Masarinko Bolon which is mangrove lined and backed by salt-pan to the escarpment edge. West African Manatees occur within the bolon and were previously hunted for meat. The African Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis) is also found in the Masarinko Bolon but as with the manatee it is shy and difficult to observe.

Habitat Type - Mangroves

Mangroves can be defined as a tropical swamp forest growing in salt or brackish water. Mangroves are usually found in the tidal zone in sheltered places such as estuaries and coastal lagoons. In the Gambia mangroves border the river all the way up to Kaur – 150km upriver – this is about as far as the river is influenced by salt sea water. In the coastal area the mangroves are comparatively low, but upriver they usually consist of trees 15 – 20m high.

Those species that make up the mangrove forests need special adaptations to be able to grow on an unstable soil that the tide threatens to wash away and to be able to survive the constant changes in water level and salinity. Common adaptations are seeds that germinate while the fruit is still attached to the mother plant (vivipary), leathery leaves to minimize evaporation, stilt of prop roots to give a better foothold and breathing roots and air channels to provide the underground parts with oxygen. Mangroves are extremely important in preventing erosion. They also have been utilized by certain nationality rare species eg Sitatunga, African Clawless Otter and West African Manatee.


Niumi National Park is home to a large diversity of resident bird specie and also is an important site for European migrants. A bird ringing programme has been in operation on Jinack Island from 1994 to 2001 and has added numerous new species to the park’s bird list. A large variety of warblers (17 species) have been found to use the island as a stop-over and feeding site both on the journey south and on their return north. The Warblers are difficult to distinguish in the field due to their subtle plumage characteristics and generally skulking behavior. The shallow offshore waters provide excellent feeding conditions for terns, gulls and other piscivorous species which roost in large numbers off Buniadu Point. The mangrove and tidal flats are rich in waders, many of which are seasonal migrants but some, such as the White-fronted Plover, nest on the dune fringe. Harriers are frequently encountered quartering the area during the European winter months.

The current bird species stand at 300 species from 63 families. The most recent survey has added the first record for river prinia Prinia fluviatilis, for the Gambia. Two pairs of this species were located breeding on the island of Jinack and one nest was successful. There appear to be ideal habitat present on Jinack (waterside vegetation and rice fields) for this rare species.


Leopard, Spotted Hyena and a variety of smaller carnivores are found on the island which feed on Oribi, Bohor Reedbuck, primates and carrion. Hyenas often forage the shoreline looking for dead fish. Crocodiles occur in the seasonally flooded lagoons and swamps, retreating to semi-permanent waterholes as the dry season progresses and excavation burrows several meters long when these are also dry. Green Turtles nest along the coastal strip, coming ashore on moonless nights to lay their eggs. In addition to supporting a complex of fauna and avi-fauna of great scientific interest, the area possesses one of the world’s rarer mammalian species-the West African Manatee and also an endangered member of the otter family-the African Clawless Otter, Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphin, Nile crocodile and Bush Duiker also occur in the area.

Specialty Animal – West African Manatee

Species: Trichechus senegalensis

Description: though manatees are similar in appearance to seals and walruses they are more closely related to elephants. They have rounded fore flippers which act as paddles and a rounded tail, which propels the animal. The body is naked apart from short, coarse bristles which occur around the mouth. Adult manatees reach up to 4m in length and can weigh up to 500kg.

Manatees can remain below water for about 4 minutes, then they must surface to breath. They move sluggishly and feed on water plants.

Distribution: the West African Manatee inhabits the coastal range of Africa from Senegal to Angola. It is found in shallow coastal waters and freshwater rivers but prefers large shallow estuaries, lagoons and weedy swamps. In the Gambia manatees are widely but thinly distributed along the River Gambia and other smaller rivers including the Mansarinko Bolon in Niumi National Park.

Ecology: in the River Gambia where aquatic plants are scarce or absent, manatees forage for plants growing on the banks and feed on mangrove leaves that fall into water. While they prefer succulent vegetation, they will consume almost any available or terrestrial plant.

Behavior: manatees are herbivorous and their social pattern reflects their widely distributed food source. They are generally solitary, but occasionally form groups of up to 6 animals. Groups form commonly when females are in oestrus and a female may mate with a number of males consecutively. The gestation period lasts for approximately 13 months and a single calf is born, weighing about 25kg. The calf remains with its mother for up to 18months. Manatees become sexually mature at 3 – 5 years of age. Manatees are occasionally preyed upon by sharks and crocodiles but man poses the most serious threat.


Established in 1993, Tanji River Bird Reserve (area locally known as Karinti), together with Bijol Islands is situated along the Atlantic Coast, in the Western Division, Kombo North, about 30 minutes from the tourist development area. It encompasses the Tanji River and its estuary, incorporating mangrove, dry woodland and coastal dune scrub woodland. It has a total area of 612ha (6.12km2). Along the seashore there are a series of lagoons, and offshore Bijol Islands which are important sites for breeding turtles and roosting birds.

Bijols Island

The Bijol Islands form a part of the Tanji River (Karinti) Bird Reserve, located 1.5km off the Gambian coast. There are two islands, one large and one small which joined at low tide by a sand split. Both islands are low lying with maximum elevation of ca. 2m, although this varies with the season. They are formed from accumulated sand deposits lying on of a partially exposed literate reef mass. The larger island is c2.07 ha in extent and the smaller island is approximately 0.17 ha in extent at high tide. Around 37 ha of reef and sand spits are exposed at low tide. The surrounding waters are relatively shallow and lie on the continental shelf. The small island, which bears the remains of an old lighthouse, is devoid of any vegetation. The large island is mainly covered with low growing saline-tolerant plants, such as seaside purslane sesuvium portulacastrum, beach monitoring glory ipomoea pescaprae, cenchrus biflorus and cyperus maritimus. There are a few casuarine casuarine ezuisetifolia and Baobab adansonia digitata trees present, but none of these reach higher than 3m. Scaevola plumeri also occasionally occurs as small shrubs in the interior of the island. The Bijol island provide the only known breeding site in the Gambia for Grey headed Gull, Caspian Tern and Royal Tern (Barnett et al 2001 veen 2003 and 2004). In the years 2000 – 2004 breeding Royal Terns were present in numbers up to 15,000 pairs, which is c20% of the breeding population of the West African sub-species Sterna maxima albidorsalis.

Bird Biodiversity And Ecology

The sahalian upwelling Marine Ecoregion is an important area for birds, including resident and migrant species, they include the lesser Black back Gull, Great Cermorant, Sanderlings, small plovers (eg Kittlizts, Ringed plover , Little Ringed plover, Kintish plover, white fronted sand plover). Royal Tern, Caspian Tern, Audoin’s gull, Grey headed Gull, Slender billed Gull, Kelp Gull, Osprey, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Bar tailed Godwit, Black tailed Godwit, Bridled Tern, Reef Heron, Grey Heron, Great White Pelican. Wintering birds migrating from Europe and Asia use the area as a staging post and feeding grounds.

Habitat Type

Within the Tanji River Bird Reserve there is a wide variety of habitat types including marine, estuarine, freshwater, coastal scrub woodland and dry woodland savannah. Coastal dune scrub woodland extends along the seaward strip of the reserve to the west of the main road. The diversity in structure reflects the past use of the area. The northern strip is denser and of lower canopy height due to previous clearance. The southern strip is more open with isolated mature trees due to long term grazing patterns. Dune scrub woodland is limited to areas of sand accumulation, conditions which pose problems for moisture and nutrient availability. The dominant species found are the Ginger Bread Plum (Parinari macrophylla), the Rhun Palm (Borassus aethiopium) and the Baobab (Adnsonia digitata). The under storey is generally grass dominated with the feathery flowered (Perotis indica), the stiff leafed Sporobulus spicatus and the spiny fruited Cenchrus biflorus.


Tanji River Bird Reserve was established primarily for its ornithological importance which is evident from its current species list which totals 259 species from 61 different families, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. This large diversity of birds’ results from the range of habitats present combined with the location of Tanji on the coast of West Africa. For European migrants, with the location of Tanji on the coast of West Africa. For European migrants, Tanji is one of the first stops offshore and offers both a safe haven as well as good feeding opportunities also. The offshore Bijols Island are use as a roosting site by large numbers of gulls, terns, waders and pelicans and the shallow surrounding reef offers good feeding opportunities also. Thirty four species of Raptor (birds of prey) have been recorded from the reserve which reflects the abundance and diversity of prey.


An impressive range of terrestrial mammals also occur in the area. They include Western Red Colobus, Calithrix Monkey and Patas Monkey, Genet, Civet, Hyena, Porcupine and Bushbuck. The surrounding waters are important feeding grounds for Green Turtle, which breed on both the mainland and on the Bijol Islands. The internationally rare Mediterranean Monk Seal has also been seen there occasionally.

Specialty Animal – Green Turtle

Species: Chelonia mydas

Description: a very hard shelled turtle with breeding females weighing up to 300kg with a maximum shell length of 140cm. the shell is smooth, though juveniles have a medium keel which disappears in adults. The front flippers each have a single claw (2 in juveniles) and there is one claw on each of the hind flippers. Males have longer tails than females. Coloration is varied, hatching are black-brown, juveniles dark-grey and adults vary from greenish brown to black. Females are usually darker than males.

Distribution: Green Turtles are widely distributed throughout tropical and sub tropical seas, though their breeding sites are restricted. Within the Gambia Green Turtles are found in all coastal waters and breed on many of the less disturbed beaches.

Ecology: during the first year of life Green Turtles feed on jellyfish and other floating organisms, but then become predominantly herbivorous, grazing on sea grasses in estuaries and in shallow seas.

Although turtles are air breathing reptiles and must take in air by bobbing their heads above the surface, they can also dive for lengthy periods. Often they sleep tucked into rock crevices or wedged onto ledges beneath the surface, returning periodically to the surface to breath.

Behaviour: mating takes place in shallow coastal waters with the male hooking their enlarged claws on the front flippers over the leading edge of the female carapace. The eggs are spherical and between one and two hundred are laid in an excavated pit above the high waterline on moonless nights. The female may return up to six times at intervals of 10 to 20 days. The eggs hatch in approximately 56days, the young emerging together, usually at night. Growth is slow and sexual maturity is reached at 10 - 15 years.


The River Gambia National Park (also known as Baboon Islands) is a complex of five islands (total 585ha) and was gazetted in 1978. All the islands are quite flat and possess mainly gallery forest with some open swampy or savannah areas. The park is situated in Central River Division (CRD) about 300km by road from Banjul. It forms one of the last refuges for the very threatened Hippopotamus within the Gambia. Since 1979 a Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP) has been running on the islands, and there are currently about 62 chimpanzees living on 3 of the larger islands. The population is steadily increasing through births. In addition to reintroducing and indigenous species to the country, the existence of the project in the River Gambia National Park has assisted in protecting the forest and its resources from over exploitation. The Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and the CRP work hand in hand for the protection of the park and its environs.

The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project

Background: the Chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes) is already extinct in much of its former range and endangered in the remaining countries it inhabits. The CRP is a private organization, which provides a natural life for chimpanzees caught during illegal trading and confiscated by government authorities. Rehabilitation is a long term process requiring much time and care for the orphans to recover, both emotionally and physically from capture. During this period the orphaned animals learn or improve survival skills, including foraging for food, building nests and responding appropriately to hazardous animals or predators. Their adaptation is closely studied both before and after release into the natural habitat. There are presently about 62 chimpanzees living free on three islands in four social group 18 were released on the island and to date 44 have been born there.

Education: the CRP has successfully created a community of chimpanzees comparable in size and behavior to existing wild populations. As such, the project is currently faced with the same problems of protection as other organizations attempting to preserve wild chimpanzee groups. To this end, the CRP operates an education programme. Slide shows emphasizing the similarities between humans and chimps and the threats to their constant survival are presented in village and schools surrounding the national park. The goals of the programme are to create an awareness and sympathy for the acute vulnerability this species is now experiencing as well as encourage general environmental awareness.

Fauna and Avi-Fauna

The most abundant mammals are common Warthogs. Primates are represented by the Guinea Baboon, Calithrix Monkey, Western Red Colobus – the Guinea Baboon is by far the most plentiful. Among the other species that are known to occur are the Aadvark, the Ratel, Serval, Genets, African Clawless Otter and West African Manatee, the Nile Crocodile and Hippopotamus. Antelope species identified include Bushbuck, Maxwell’s and Bush Duikers.

Reptiles are plentiful, snakes and lizards being fairly frequently encountered. The avi-fauna of the park is very rich and varied. Egrets, Herons and Ibis are particularly well represented. One satellite islet of just a few acres provides a nesting site for many thousands of breeding egrets, Herons, Cormorants, Sacred Ibis, Weavers and Doves which all nest in close proximity to each other.

Speciality Animal – Hippopotamus

Species: Hippopotamus amphibius

Description: the Hippopotamus is the largest mammal in the Gambia. Hippopotamus males weigh up to 3,200kg and can exceed 4m in length.

Distribution: its distribution has decreased over the decades primarily due to conflicts with rice cultivation but is now fully protected within the Gambia. It is most commonly seen in freshwater sections of the River Gambia in Central River Division and Upper River Division.

There are between 50-75 hippos left in the Gambia (conservative estimates)

Ecology: during the daytime they rest in or near the water, going ashore in the evening to graze on grasses, fallen fruit and other herbaceous matter. When disturbed on land they make for water and can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes.

Behavior: they are sociable animals with a dominant male keeping other males peripheral to the group. A variety of calls are made, the commonest heard being the mating call of the males, a nasal “ hunh-hunh-hunh” which can be heard for several kilometers. The gestation period for females is about 233 days with one (rarely two) young being born. Sexually maturity reached at 4 years and animals can live up to 45 years. Hippos have few natural enemies apart from man. On land they may fall prey to lions where they occur. In the water young are potential prey for crocodiles but are ably defended by females in the group.

Despite their bulk and weight, hippos can swim rapidly. They spend the day resting almost entirely submerged in rivers and lakes, with only their eye and nostrils above the surface.


The area of Kiang West National Park (KWNP) is approximately 23,621ha (115 square km) and one of the most important reservoirs of wildlife in the Gambia. KWNP is situated in Lower River Division in the Kiang West District, 145km from Banjul. It was established as a national park in 1987.

Although the major part of the national park is dry deciduous woodland and guinea savannah, there are extensive stretches of mangrove creeks and tidal flats. In the mangrove creeks, the West African Manatee and the Nile Crocodile occur. In the mangrove fringes and tidal flats the tracks of various animals such as the African Clawless Otter, Marsh Mongoose and Sitatunga are to be found. Kiang West National Park has become a park of regional distinction possessing an impressive range of fauna and avifauna (over 250 bird species check listed to date) as well as a number of distinct biotopes. Kiang West National Park is bounded to the north by the River Gambia and is dissected into three areas by the Jarin, Jali and Nganingkoi bolons.

Areas of Interest

Tubabkollon Point n the extreme north east of the park offers good access to the river and is a convenient location from which to explore the escarpment to the west. This laterite escarpment runs close to the river bank and marks the extent of the river during past pluvial periods. Good viewing conditions are to be had from this high ground, with opportunities to observe Warthogs, Bushbucks and occasionally Sitatunga which forage along the grassland fringing the saltpan below. A viewing shelter has been erected at Tubabkollon Point overlooking a waterhole about 2km to the west. This attracts a wide diversity of animals as the dry season progresses. Troops of Guinea Baboons and Western Red Colobus Monkeys also move from the dry woodland into the mangrove for roosting late in the evening. The upper reaches of the Nganingkoi bolon on the eastern edge of the park provide rich feeding for a variety of waders and the opportunity to see Marsh Mongoose as they pursue crabs and other invertebrates along the mangrove fringe, at this point delineated by a belt of Acacia Seyal. This area is where most sightings of Roan Antelope have been made in recent years. Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphins are occasionally seen on the Jarin bolon, and a patient observer at the junction of the bolons may be rewarded with a sighting of a Manatee or Sitatunga crossing the bolon to Jali Island.

Habitat Type

The natural vegetation in the western part of the Gambia is savannah of a type called guinea savannah or guinea woodland savannah. It can be best described as an open woodland consisting of low deciduous trees and tall grasses up to 3m (9ft) high. In the coastal area this savannah woodland tends to be more dense and consist of higher trees. As the dry season progresses, the tall grasses die back and combined with the dry leaves of the trees provide ideal conditions for fire. These fires are sometimes accidental but in the great majority of cases the grass is deliberately burnt to clear the land for agriculture. Such fires often spread out of control. Many raptors, bee eaters, rollers and swallows are often attracted to the fires where they help themselves to insects and other small animals trying to escape the flames. In the rainy season, movement in the savannah is quite difficult due to the dense growth of the high grass, but as the grass dies back the countryside becomes more open and easier to traverse.

The savannah is also affected by the grazing of an increasing number of domestic cattle and goats, which combined with the incidence of fires prevents the natural regeneration of trees and shrubs. There are numerous programmes currently in operation within the Gambia to develop more sustainable land use practices.


In the major wild mammals known to be permanently resident in the Gambia at the present time have been recorded in Kiang West National Park, making it the foremost wildlife reserve in the country. The park offers a significant national refuge for species such as Caracal, Serval, Bushbuck and Common Duiker which are all fairly widespread in the Gambia but in low density. Roan Antelope are not currently resident in the area though small groups visit the park from the Cassamance area of Senegal during the end of the rainy season. As their home range is typically 80 – 100 square km, the park is probably inadequate to support this species year round. Warthogs are abundant in the park and surrounding woodlands. Spotted Hyena are common, their tracks are found regularly throughout the area but they are shy and rarely seen during daytime. There have been occasional sightings of Leopards in the area, though being shy and elusive they are unlikely to be encountered. Reptiles that occur include the Nile Crocodile and the African Rock Python, Royal Python, Nile Monitor, African Beauty Snake, Spitting Cobra and Puff Adder. Chelonians are represented by Bell’s Hinge-Backed Tortoise, an interesting species, found in the savannah woodlands and the West African or Mud Terrapin which occurs in the bolons. Oysters from the roots of the mangroves are a delicacy for both local residents and visitors.


A survey carried out in July 1990 identified a total of 158 species from 48 different families occurring within the park. This number when combined with 3 years of dry season observations has resulted in a total bird count for the park of more than 250 species, almost half of the total country record. The park area contains 12 species with a very local distribution and which are difficult to observe elsewhere in the Gambia. The Brown-Necked Parrot is present in the mangrove forests of the park where it breeds. This is an IUCN threatened species.

21 raptor species including vulture, harriers eagles, hawks and falcons have been observe within the park boundaries. This number increases during the dry season when migratory birds of prey visit the country. The presence of this great diversity of raptors species is the most important ornithological factor to have resulted from this survey. Two eagle species, the Martial Eagle and the Bateleur are the West African avian equivalents of some of East Africa’s big game species. The Bateleur is more regularly and reliable seen, and the official symbol of Kiang West National Park. All ten species of kingfisher found in the Gambia occur within the park boundaries.

The park headquarters has accommodation facilities fitted with toilets and showers for up to 24 persons at a time. The facilities are serviced by a borehole and generator for visitors’ convenience. The resource center can be used for conferences, workshop etc for a minimal fee upon request.

Speciality Animal – The Bateleur

Species: Terathopius ecaudatus

Description: the Bateleur is a colorful, striking, short tailed eagle.

Distribution: it has a widespread distribution from Senegal east to the Central African Republic and South to the Congo. In the Gambia, it is a common resident in Lower River Division, where peak sightings occur between July and September.

Ecology: during the daytime the Bateleur may be seen cruising at low level, surveying its hunting territory. It prefers open grassland, thorn scrub and opens woodland. Its preferred food is pigeon and sand grouse.

Behavior: in flight, this bird is unmistakable due to its ling wings, very short tail and color pattern. It is a complete master of the air, gliding at great speed, and named “Bateleur” because it is given to somersaulting and other acrobatic exercises. It is generally a silent bird.

In flight, it appears almost tail-less with feet extending beyond the tail in adults. It cruises with its head held down, searching its hunting territory often at low level


The Tanbi Wetland Complex (locally called pass away) is located on the southern shore of the River Gambia and includes the area between the Island of Banjul and Cape Point and extends to Lamin and Mandinari Point in the south. About (16) sixteen villages are located within the intermediate vicinity of the wetland complex, all of which with the exception of Kerewan village are less than 2km from the Lamin Bolon. Tanbi has been declared as Ramsar Site in December 2002 and plans are being finalized to demarcate its boundaries on the ground. Tanbi Wetland Complex lies outside of the Tourist Development Area (TDA). In the TDA, developments and activities are controlled within half-mile strip along the Kotu stream in the north to the Allahein River in the South.

Areas of Interest

Tanbi Wetland Complex has long been recognized as a great birding site and has been utilized by resident and visiting migrant bird for several decades. As a result various interventions have been made by the DPWM, Gambia Bird Guide Association and National Environment Agency (NEA) and other concerned institutions and individuals in order to maintain the integrity of the area. Over the last two decades both subsistence and commercial fishing activities have been promoted within the wetland complex. Two fish processing plants are located near Denton Bridge, with most fish derived from coastal or offshore waters.

Habitat Type-Wetlands

The Tanbi Wetland Complex consists of a diverse number of habitat types ranging from coastal lagoons and scrub through seasonal creeks to intertidal and gallery forests.

Tanbi Wetland has tow major vegetation components that are associated with the sandy spit which extends from Cape Point to Banjul, and block of mangrove forest which extends from Banjul High way south to Lamin and Mandinari Point. The coastal strip is a diverse mosaic of dune vegetation with interspersed lagoons, patches of dune woodland, salt and freshwater marsh. The mangrove vegetation grades to salt marsh, bare tannes and dry woodland or grassed woodland to the west and south, with varying intensities of agricultural production in this peripheral area.

The terrestrial habitats surrounding a wetland have to be considered an integral part of the area not only because they are rich and unique habitat areas in their own rights (adding greatly to the Biodiversity of the area) but because they also form part of the water catchment area of the wetland, as they will also have a profound influence on its positive ecological functioning. The key elements in the ecological relationships of this wetland are mangrove fish nurseries water salinity, and anthropogenic influence.


The current list of bird species for Tanbi Wetland is 362 species from 66 families. The avi-fauna is composed of both resident and inter-African and Palearctic migratory species. During the onset of the rains, a considerable movement of African species occurs with many species utilizing the wetland areas for breeding and feeding purposes. In the early autumn, the Palearctic migration gets under way and a large diversity and abundance of species accumulate in Tanbi Wetlands. Many of these birds will stop off to build up fat reserves after their migration before dispersing further into the continent.

The Tanbi Wetland Complex thus acts as one of the main stopping posts for the Palearctic migrants of the River Gambia. The African fish eagle and osprey both fish in the River Gambia and the network of Wetlands.


Tanbi Wetland Complex is home to some of the region’s rare aquatic mammals such as the West African Manatee, Clawless Otter and Bushbuck as well as reptiles and various turtle species.

The sandy shoreline between Banjul and Cape Point is use for the nesting of Green turtles, a species that has suffered alarming declines in the last few decades. The Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphin utilizes the water ways and coastal waters.

Speciality Animal – Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphin

Species: Sousa teuzii

Description: atlantic Humpbacked dolphins have long, distinct beak, broad flippers with rounded tips, and a moderately deepened tailstock. The dorsal fin is variable in shape, but generally emerges from a wide hump or ridge on the animal’s back. Although this species is poorly known, it is probably sexually dimorphic like the indo-pacific Humpbacked Dolphin. Colouration is also variable with animals being slated Grey on the side and back, and light Grey below. Tooth counts are 27 to 31 per upper tooth row, and 26 to 30 per lower row. Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphins, can be confused with the bottlenose dolphins. They occur in the inshore range of the Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphins. The two can be distinguished by differences in beak length, dorsal-fin shape (including the hump) and colouration.

Size: adults are up to about 2.8m in length, and weigh up to 284kg, length at birth is thought to be 1 meter.

Distribution: Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphins occur off tropical to subtropical West Africa from Mauritania south to northern Angola. They are found primarily in estuarine and coastal waters. Some Humpbacked Dolphins inhabit rivers such as River Gambia.

Behaviour: groups generally consist of 5 to 7 individuals, occasionally up to 25 animals. Groups often feed very near the shore. These animals generally do not bowride. Breeding (one offspring only per season) has been documented in March and April, but the breeding season may be more protracted, Humpbacked Dolphins feed on schooling fishes and contrary to some descriptions, probably do not eat vegetable matters off the coast of Mauritania. Fishermen using beach seines cooperate with Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphin to capture mullet.

Exploitation: there is apparently some direct capture of small cetaceans in West Africa for human consumption. Also of concern are the effects of offshore foreign fishing and mangrove destruction.