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8. Wildlife Management

The protected area system of the Gambia dates back to 1916 when Abuko Nature reserve was protected as a water catchment area. In 1968 the Department of Wildlife, now the Department of parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM), was established.

The DPWM is mandated to conserve and to restore the nature habitats and their biodiversity within protected areas, and in recent also to provide direct benefits to local communities adjacent to protected areas through sound natural resources management practices and from eco-tourism. Surprisingly, the department has no comprehensive policy on the management of protected areas and the involvement of the local population. The Wildlife Act of 1977 needs to be thoroughly revisited in order to cope with the changes and challenges of the decade.

Between 1967 to date, five additional areas received either National Park or National Reserve status as shown in table 14. However, the Bao-bolong wetland reserve with an area of about 22,000 ha is not yet gazetted although this was scheduled for 1997. This reserve was designated as the first RAMSAR site. All the protected areas together cover about 3.3% of the national territory. The latest Wildlife policy aims at increasing this proportion to 5% considering a proportional regional distribution.


Table 12: Status of protected areas



Date Gazetted


Area (ha)


National Reserve


Western Division


River Gambia

National Park


Central River



National Park


North Bank


Kiang West

National Park


Lower River


Tanji Bird

Nature Reserve





Nature Reserve

not yet

North Bank





Source: NEA (1997)

Due to the absence of sufficient and adequate resources, the DPWM could not contribute much to the rehabilitation of the degraded fauna and flora of protected areas. Reliable information on wildlife population and distribution is yet to be produced. However, from local knowledge and from field observations, indications are that certain species of animal are locally extinct or threatened with extinction. Since most of the larger mammals have disappeared, increasing pressure is exerted on the smaller and intermediate species such as bushbuck, duiker, etc. for domestic consumption. Others such as warthogs, primates (in particular baboons) and hippopotamus are killed not for food but in order to reduce the damage to agricultural crops.

Apart from wildlife poaching, the primary cause of wildlife disappearance is the habitat destruction. The habitats both in and outside the protected areas are gradually destroyed for various reasons as explained above for other forested lands. Among the most prominent wildlife species to be found in large numbers these days are the birds which make The Gambia still attractive as safari country.

Three of the protected areas are currently open to the public namely Abuko, Tanji Bird Reserve and Kiang West National Park (KWNP). Apart from KWNP, no other protected area has a management plan or any guiding document to assist in management. KWNP represents a departure from the traditional and very restrictive concept of national park management to conserving the existing flora and fauna in collaboration with the resident population.

The DPWM is operating in a kind of legal vacuum without any formal policy, but has been guided through its development programmes by the Wildlife Conservation Act, the Wildlife Regulations and the Banjul Declaration all of 1977. Presently, the DPWM is focusing particularly in the areas of coastal habitats, eco-tourism, settlement patterns and over-population, buffer zone management, hunting, migratory species, boarder ecosystems, multiple land use, and collaboration.



Box 2: Related biodiversity/wildlife policy objectives


The existing wildlife policy and legislation are inadequate in meeting modern conservation requirements, as they are considered incomplete and over protective without any clear definition of the role of local communities in the protection and management of wildlife. Private investment to gain communitiesí interests in the conservation of flora and fauna and cost sharing arrangements are yet to be considered. Therefore, the DPWM has drawn up a draft policy document for the sector in 1994. This policy, however, was never formally adopted.

After recent consultations with IUCN, the DPWM started to review the policy of 1994. A first draft version of the biodiversity/wildlife policy already exists. This exercise will be followed by a legislative review of the wildlife legislation. The main sector related biodiversity/wildlife policy objectives are listed in box 2.



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