13 July 2007

There IS wildlife in The Gambia!

In May, after a pair of abortive attempts, seven students, one teacher and I went to River Gambia National Park (I thought they had their own web presence, but cannot find it) across the river from Wassu-Kuntaur, near Sambel Kunda.

It was a nice environmental education weekend for the kids, and I think they appreciated the message about the value of animals, and the chance to see some. While Njau does have a little bush nearby, it's buffeted on all sides by farms and villages, leaving very little wildlife. In addition to the animals and relative remoteness of the setting, we also got to spend time on the river, something Njau kids don't do much (Njau's 12 kms from the river), and even scaled some rare hills.

The animals we saw included these hippos and some chimpanzees. The chimps were reintroduced to these midriver islands starting in 1978; before then they'd been extinct here since early in the 20th century. No visitors are allowed on the island, so the chimpanzees are left in peace, with the occasional visit from researchers. The hippos, too, benefit from the low level of development in the area, and restrictions in boat travel around the islands.

Lastly, one of the activities our students did was a blindfolded tree identification competition. The leaves from the various trees were hung on a line and my kids then felt, smelled and tasted them. Of our seven students, six scored 9 or more out of 11. I have trouble identifying them without being blindfolded! The kids are also well versed on the various uses of the trees, which helped our hosts emphasize the importance of preserving and planting as many trees as possible.

No comments: