The Department of Parks and Wildlife is being mandated to managed our flora and fauna to ensure that they are protected, we also have the Biodiversity Act 2003 that talks about preservation of our flora and fauna but we also have some other regulations that goes with the act to implement it. The main purpose of the Department of Parks and Wildlife is to preserved the protected areas. The animals and ecology are protected from being over exploited.
That’s why we have some parks like Abuko Nature Reserve and Kiang West National Parks and the Baboon Island which was a rehabilitation centre for chimpanzee, because of the importance of these animals we have ecological integrity to boost the tourism sector and a lot tourist do travel to CRR to see these baboons hence the economic importance of baboon Island.
History of Department of Parks & Wildlife Management
Due to growing awareness about the importance of conservation and what remained of our flora and fauna, the Wildlife Conservation Unit was upgraded into a government department (Wildlife Conservation Department) in 1977. The name of the Department was changed in 1994 to the Department of Parks & Wildlife Management to reflect its widening role into wildlife management as well as conservation. As well as being accountable for the management, administration and development of the Gambia’s seven Protected Areas,
The department also handles all matters to wildlife conservation and management. This includes the enforcement of the New Wildlife/Biodiversity Policy and Act (2003), which prohibits the sale of wildlife products and the keeping of wild animals in captivity outside parks and reserves. The department also controls and monitors hunting activities in the country.
The Importance of Protected Areas
The increasing human population, coupled with agricultural production practices which do not take conservation into account, have led to the loss of a large proportion of the Gambia’s forest cover together with many of our wildlife species. For this reason, the government has taken initiatives over the years to designate certain areas with protected status.
To date, Protected Areas comprise more than 4.1% of the total area of the Gambia. The latest wildlife policy aims at increasing this to 5% with a proportional regional distribution. The parks and reserves of the Gambia have been specially chosen for the endangered natured of the habitat type and/or species found within them.
The intention is to provide a safe haven for flora and fauna to flourish without undue interference from man. A limited range of resource utilization by local communities is permitted provided that, this is compatible with the aims and objectives of the protected areas concerned.
The first protected area to be established in the Gambia is Abuko Nature Reserve, which was gazetted in 1968. This prompted the government to set up a Wildlife Conservation Unit under the auspices of The Office of the President in 1977, to give it weight and recognition. This action demonstrated the Gambia’s commitment to wildlife conservation and management. Since then, a further seven areas around the country have been gazetted as Protected Areas due to the unique or endangered nature of the biodiversity they contain. This guide is intended to provide the reader with an overview of the seven parks and reserves in the country as well as giving information on habitat types, fauna and avi-fauna found in the Gambia.
The Banjul Declaration
It is a sobering reflection that in a relatively short period of our history most of our larger wildlife species have disappeared together with much of the original forest cover. The survival of the wildlife still remaining with us and the setting aside of protected habitats for them is the concern of all of us. It would be tragic if this priceless natural heritage, the product of millions of years of evolution, should be further endangered or lost for want of proper concern. This concern is a duty we owe ourselves, to our great African heritage and to the world. Thus I solemnly declare that my government pledges its untiring efforts to conserve for now and posterity as wide a spectrum as possible of our remaining fauna and flora.
Wildlife and the law
In order to conserve and protect what then remained of our wildlife and habitats, the New Wildlife/Biodiversity Policy and Bill was passed in 2003. The measures taken to protect wildlife and the environment included.
- The setting up of protected areas to be managed, administered and developed by the Department of Parks & Wildlife Management
- Limits on the types of animals that may be hunted without license (vermin species only) and strict control of hunting license and methods of hunting
- Prohibition of the sale of wild animals or parts of wild animals alive or dead, the only exception being warthog, Gambian giant rat and other pests as described in the Act
- Strict control on the import and export of wild animals
Trade In Animal Products
The Gambia has very strict laws regarding the sale of animals and their by-products. Despite this law a clandestine trade in animal products does exist. However wildlife officers make periodic unannounced raids on tourist facilities and local markets in an effort to curb this practice. Visitors to the Gambia should bear in mind the stringency of laws regarding animal products. To avoid any misunderstandings it is best to simply not purchase animal products. If you are offered goods for sale which you feel may be in contravention of the law, please report the matter either directly to the Department of Parks & Wildlife Management or to the nearest police station or call the following Telephone: 220 4375888/4376972/3
Wildlife In Captivity
The keeping of wildlife in captivity is also against the law. This includes all species of monkeys, parrot and other birds which are the animals most frequently found in captivity. The law however pertains to all species of wild animals. As well as animals kept as “pets”, tourist businesses often use these creatures as attractions for visitors. Many of these animals are kept in inhumane conditions, usually as a result of ignorance on the part of their “owner” as to how to care for a wild animal.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife Management operates ongoing investigations into reports of animals illegally held in captivity. The result is usually confiscation of the animal and can result in prosecution for those responsible. Confiscated animals are then brought to the Animal Orphanage at Abuko Nature Reserve until they are deemed fit to be reintroduced into the wild. Again, if you see any captivity pertaining to the wild animals you feel may contravene the strict protection laws, please contact a wildlife officer or report the matter to the police.