Forest National Park (Pirang Bonto Eco-tourism Community Project)
lies to the south east of Banjul Airport
(coordinates: 13° 15' 38" N - 16° 32'
8" W) and north east of the village of Pirang (population:
2,500) and is easily accessed from the southern highway. It
is a small isolated forest of about 64ha in extent, surrounded
by a variety of habitats including extensive salt flats, mangroves
and Phragmites parkia stands to the north, vegetable
gardens to the west, agricultural land to the east and south
and a small community of people in the south east (Emms and
Barnett 2004). Even in the middle of the day the high gallery
forest remains relatively cool and peaceful. It is protected
by the local community as a preserve for the practice of traditional
community ceremonies and rites. Most of the shrubs and many
trees are used in traditional medicine as local knowledge
in the village about herbal remedies goes back many years.
Pirang Bonto Forest is the best and most impressive example
of gallery forest in The Gambia. The combination of well-preserved
forest and a wide range of habitats nearby means that bird
species can be seen. This includes many forest specialists
with limited distributions including white-spotted flufftail,
African wood owl (see picture 1 below), western little sparrowhawk,
great sparrowhawk, ahanta francolin, green turaco, yellowbill,
buff-spotted woodpecker, red-shouldered cuckoo shrike, little
greenbul, swamp palm greenbul, leaflove, grey-headed bristlebill,
yellow-breasted apalis, yellow-bellied hyliota, green hylia,
collared sunbird, green-headed sunbird, chestnut-breasted
negrofinch, western bluebill and brown-necked parrot (Emms
and Barnett 2004). It is also the only site in The Gambia
for Puvelís illadopsis.
Picture 1: African wood owl (courtesy of Guy Broome)
Many other less restricted species occur and it is one of
the best places to get good views of African Pied Hornbill
(see picture 2). It is also close to Pirang shrimp farm,
home to a wide range of waterbirds including Black-crowned
Picture 2: African pied hornbill (courtesy of Guy Broome)
The forest and forest edge are one of the 2 best sites for
butterflies in The Gambia (with Abuko) with 84 species recorded
including the large and impressive bostin blue (large numbers
in Nov-Dec) which can be found nowhere else in The Gambia
(see picture 3).
Picture 3: Blue bostin (also called widespread forester) -
courtesy of Guy Broome)
The mammal fauna is very rich; however, they can be hard to
see as a result of persecution. Increased protection by the
communities and a recent injunction against a local hunter
should lead to the recovery of populations of many species.
3 species of monkey are known to occur, with green, patas
(picture 4) and the critically endangered Temminckís red colobus
all present, albeit in small numbers.
Picture 4: Patas monkeys drinking in Pirang Bonto forest (courtesy
of University of Cumbria)
Several small carnivores are known to occur (largely from
camera-traps) including Gambian mongoose (often visible
foraging in groups in the daytime) as well as white-tailed,
ichneumon and marsh mongooses. Hausa (picture 5) and pardine
genets hunt at night as does African civet, and the forest
is one of only 3 in The Gambia that has two-spotted palm
civet. Small numbers of Bushbuck are present but these can
be hard to see and cape clawless otters are present in the
mangroves. Sun squirrels are common throughout and easy
Picture 5: Hausa genet (courtesy of University of Cumbria)
Reptiles are varied and often impressive and include
forest cobra, rock python, green mamba and Senegal chameleon.
There is also talk of re-introducing west African dwarf crocodile
in coming years.
The forest is criss-crossed by trails and two new waterholes
should help visitors to see some of the shyer species in the
Visiting Pirang Bonto will encourage the efforts of the local
villages to preserve and improve this largest remnant of native
forest in The Gambia. To learn more about these activities
and for expert guidance from the forestís best friend, contact
Kawsu on (220)9887198 or (220)2076134.
The forest can be reached in less than 1 hour from the coastal
resorts of Kololi and Kotu.