By Kebba Jeffang
Members of the Biodiversity Action Journalists-The Gambia (Baj-Gambia) on the 24th – 25th July 2014 visited parks and recreational centres around the country.
The tour took them to the Tanji Bird reserve site in Kombo North where they held a briefing session with the press.
The aim, according to them, is to afford their members the opportunity to visit the existing parks for wildlife and to appreciate the importance of wildlife conservation and management.
In his opening address, Mr. Momodou Edrisa Njie, the Director of the Programme, said the tour is the final activity under their UNDP- GEF financed programme. He said this came after the implementation of many programmes that are part of the agreement they had with the UNDP. The programmes, according to him, were all geared towards improving the environment and parks and wildlife issues. He said the training of news editors and the launching of the Baj-Gambia magazine are part of activities they have conducted. He described the visit to the national parks as very important.
Mr. Abdourahman Sallah, the Director of Baj-Gambia, said the field trip is supported by a GEF grant. He reiterated the programmes they have implemented. He explained that Baj-Gambia is a group of journalists interested in the conservation of the environment, parks and wildlife.
Mr. Sallah talked about the degradation and destruction of the environment by soil erosion and human actions such as the cutting down of trees without replacement, bush burning, animal hunting etc. He said the role of journalists in this alarming situation is to report the dangers of damaging the environment and to raise public awareness on the importance of having a nature friendly environment with parks for wildlife and wild fruits.
He said the aim of the trip is to ensure that journalists are well acquainted with relevant information and to see parks and wild animals as well as know their importance in the society. He thanked the Forestry, Parks and Wild Life Department as well as the Ministry for supporting them.
Mr. Sutay Sanneh, the Tanji Bird Reserve Manager, said the reserve which is 612 hectares was established in 1993. He said the reserve is in the territory of Brufut but was reclaimed by the government. He said the place is managed by a co-management system involving Brufut (Ghana town), Tanji, Madiana as the surrounding villages. He described the park as very important to the economic development of both the community and for the country as the place is host to several species of birds as well as an eco-camp which, he said, is among the best in the sub region.
Mr. Abdoulie Saho, Baj- Gambia’s board chairperson, who is also a staff at the Department of Parks and Wildlife, said his department is responsible for managing all parks in the country and that all their initiatives are directed by the Banjul Declaration. He said they do have meetings with all the Site Management Committees (SMC) at every park in country in order to make their work easy.
He said Tanji Park is a protected area but it suffers from so many threats such as dumping and erosion.
As part of the tour, the group also proceeded to Abuko Nature Reserve where the members had the opportunity to see for the first time some wild animal such as hyenas, baboons and the only two Cheetahs in the Gambia which, he said, is deemed the fastest animal as it runs 70 miles per hour.
The Baj-Gambia members continued to the Kiang West National Park in Dumbutu village which is also said to be managed by a co-management system.