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Gambian Wildlife

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Wildlife:
DolphinThough most large game animals such as elephants have been hunted to extinction a long time ago hippos can be found in the protected area of the River Gambia National Park. The country has a diverse bird population which is unusual for its size. Over 560 species of birds have been recorded in this tiny West African state. The mammals which are most often seen are baboons and monkeys. The species of monkey to be found are the western red colobus, patas and the callithrix.

There are also small antelopes such as the Maxwell's duiker, sitatunga and bushbucks.

Monitor LizardAmong the animals to be found in Gambia include aardvarks, hyena, Nile crocodiles, warthogs, bushpigs, monitor lizards, chameleons, geckos, puff adders, spitting cobras and green mambas. Bottle nose dolphins can be seen near the entrance to the river from the Atlantic Ocean.

African Clawless OtterThe biodiversity of Gambian animals forms an important component of the country’s biological assets from both economic and ecological points. Recent field studies of wildlife species report 117 species of mammals, 30 species of amphibians and 47 species of reptiles making a total of 194 species of wild animals in Gambia. Over five hundred and fifty species of birds have been recorded as of 2006. There are 6 wildlife Protected Areas (WPAs), occupying a total land area of 3.5% or 37,772 of the total land area of The Gambia. Wetlands, which include marine, inland waters, coastal, seasonal fresh water ponds, mangroves and marsh areas are distributed countrywide and make up around 20% of the total land area. Bao Bolong wetland reserve, the biggest protected area and the first Ramsar site measures approximately 22,000 ha.

HippoThe elephant, which used to be the country’s national emblem, was last spotted and shot back in 1913. The record trophy of the Giant Eland was shot in 1903.

The buffoon kob which used to be a common species in The Gambia has long since become extinct, together with other species like the backed duiker,  lion, red river hog,  korrigum and the topi. The West African Manatee and the Sitatunga are in danger of extinction.

There are 117 species of mammals, 30 species of amphibians and 47 species of reptiles  making a total of 194 species of wild animals in The Gambia. However, these figures are mainly estimates and the true numbers might be higher if more thorough investigations are taken.

However, like all other natural resources, certain fish species are threatened as a result of unsound human exploitation strategies, such species include the lobster (palinurus spp shark, (catfish arius heudeloti) and the white grouper (Epinephelus aetheus) to name but a few.

The Gambia is endowed with a rich avifauna estimated at 1 bird species every 21.0 km2. It has no epidemics and only 2 species - the puff-back shrike (Dryoscopus gambensis) and spur winged Goose (plectropterus gambensis) bear its specific epithet.

The components of biodiversity are ecosystem, species and genetic diversity. From the point of view of The Gambia, biodiversity is not restricted to the wild fauna and flora and associated ecosystems but, it embraces the rich of biological diversity found in our domestic species. This includes varieties of crops and domestic animals that have been bred and developed for thousands of years by farmers engaged in agriculture.

Animal Recorded Species
Mammals 125
Reptiles 74
Amphibians 33
Fish 627
Butterfly 173
Birds 566
Source: Dept. of Parks & Wildlife

About 100 years ago water buck, kob, and hartebeest occasionally in their season could be observed in Gambia. The smaller antelopes have not significantly decreased in numbers during this period probably due to the size of the human population.

There were always a few leopards living in Gambia, but they were rarely killed and hyenas in certain locations became very bold and more troublesome, frequently killing cattle quite close to settlements. However, this apparent stable and healthy wild animal populations status was not a recipe for inaction.

However, legal measures regulating the management and exploitation of wild animals were put in place.

Specifically, regulations were made under section III of "The wild animal, Birds & Fish Preservation Ordinance" 1901.

Mammals:
Camelopardalis Peratta, Hippopotamus Amphibious, Congo Buffalo, Senegambian Buffalo, Red River Hog, West African Eland, West African Hartebeest, Korrigum Hartebeest, Red Flanked Duiker, Maxwell’s Duiker, Growned Duiker, Gambian Oribi, Waterbuck, Buffoons Kob, Nagor Reedbok, Roan antelope, West African Sitatunga, Worthog.

The bubal hartebeest, Roan Antelope, and the water-buck  are currently rare visitors from neighboring Senegal. Unfortunately, whenever any of these animals cross into The Gambia, local hunters pursue them until they are either forced to move back or shot.

Out of the 117 species of animals known to have existed in The Gambia about 13 have become extinct, and a similar number is threatened with extinction.

Birds:
Stork, Egrets, Bustards, Francolins (Bush fowls) Grouse, Quail and Crown Birds (Crested Cranes), Guinea Fowls.

Marabou storks are protected by native customs in the neighbourhood of all Muslim towns and villages, and it is in trees standing in the town in which they nest in the Gambia. Storks are also protected during the breeding season or rather during the rains.

BirdOne rare bird which is much sought after by poachers for its skin is the Golden Cuckoo of Foni and other forest areas. The rising human population mixed with local food production practices, have led to the loss of a large part of The Gambia's forest cover as well as animal wildlife.
 
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