By MUHAMMED S. BAH
Muhammed Lamin Gassama, Director of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, said the crocodiles that are seen in Tallinding Coloban are in their natural habitat as the area is part of the Tanbi Wetland reserved for wildlife which has been encroached for human settlement.
He said this in an interview in his office on Tuesday 23 August 2016, in response to the appeal being made by the inhabitants of Tallinding Coloban for the department to help them remove the reptiles from the said area.
He said they have been informed about it and that efforts are being made by them to relocate the said crocodiles away from danger for both the reptiles and the members of the community.
The Parks and Wildlife director however advised people not to be encroaching the habitats of wild animals for the purpose of settlement. He said these animals in the wild often go out to hunt or search for food at night and that when people live in their habitats they must encounter them. “People therefore get scared when they see the crocodiles which are aquatic animals that live in wetlands as their natural habitat,” said Mr. Gassama.
Mr. Abdoulie Sawo, Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer further explained to this reporter that he was the one who received the phone call from a resident of Taliniding Colloban on Saturday 13 August, 2016, when the staff of his department were together with their minister in a tree planting exercise at the Nyambai Forest.
“I had to deploy some of our officials in two vehicles to go and check the crocodiles at Tallinding Colloban and upon arrival they found out that the place where these crocodiles are living is an abandoned compound which was inundated with water,” he said.
Mr. Sawo said the team was unable to access the crocodiles in the said inundated compound unless the water is drained. The team therefore asked the members of the community to try and contact the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services to drain the water in the compound to enable them to access the crocodiles.
“We told them that they can let us know anytime the Fire Service comes to drain the water. I even called the Fire Service to request for their support in this regard,” he disclosed.
Kawsu Jammeh, another Senior Wild Life Conservation officer, also said that Talinding Colloban is a habitat for reptiles and is not suitable for human habitation. He said those areas were identified in 2001 as International Wetland Sites of Importance (RAMSAR Sites) for wild life conservation, adding that a law was enacted in 2005 designating the said sites as preservative lands and not to be residential areas.
“We met all local authorities and sensitised them on this issue of not allowing people to live in those areas, but you can see now that hundreds of compounds are built in those areas,” he noted.
He said the Tambi Wetland National Park starts from Banjul and covers these areas. “We even have boundary pillars put there but people are even encroaching those boundary pillars just to have a place to settle,” said the Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer.
He reiterated the problem that people residing on wetland areas must face and that is the co-habitation with wild animals that live in such habitats.
“Animals like crocodiles can easily be carried away by rain water into the compounds that situate in their natural habitat,” he added.
When the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services was contacted by this reporter on the matter, Muhammed Drammeh, the Public Relation Officer (PRO), confirmed that their personnel had been to the ground but found out that the place is full with long grass which could stuck in their pipes if they attempt to drain the water.
“We cannot drain the water unless the grass is removed and we have informed the Ward councilor who promised to mobilise people to remove the grass to enable us drain the water,” disclosed the Fire Service PRO.