River Gambia National Park
The River Gambia National Park (also known as Baboon Island) is a complex of five islands (total area 585ha) and was gazetted in 1978. All islands are quite flat and possess mainly gallery forest with some open swampy or savannah areas. The park is situated in Central River Division (CRD) about 300km by road from Banjul. It forms one of the last refuges for the very threatened hippotamus within The Gambia. Since 1979 a Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP) has been conducted on the islands, and there are currently about fifty chimpanzees living on 3 of the larger islands. The population is steadily increasing through births. In addition to reintroducing an indigenous species to the country, the existence of the project in the River Gambia National Park has assisted in protecting the forest and its resources from over-exploitation. The Department of Parks & Wildlife Management and the CRP work hand in hand for the protection of the park and its environs.
The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project
Background: The chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes) is already extinct in much of its former range and endangered in the remaining countries it inhabits. The species disappeared from the Gambia in the early 1900s. The CRP is a private organisation which provides a natural life for chimpanzees caught during illegal trading and confiscated by government authorities. Rehabilitation is a long term process requiring much time and care for the orphans to recover, both emotionally and physically from capture. During this period the orphaned animals learn or improve survival skills, including foraging for food, building nests and responding approximately to hazardous animals or predators. Their adaptation is closely studied both before and after release into the natural habitat. There are presently about 50 chimpanzees living free on three islands in four social groups. 29 were released on the island and to date 21 have been born there.
Education : The CRP has successfully created a community of chimpanzees comparable in size and behaviour to existing wild populations. As such, the project is currently faced with same problems of protection as other organisations attempting to preserve wild chimpanzee groups. To this end, the CRP operates an education programme. Slide shows emphasising the similarities between humans and chimps and the threats to their constant survival are presented in villages and schools surrounding the national park. The goals of the programme are to create an awareness and sympathy for the acute vulnerability this species is now experiencing as well as encourage general environmental awareness.
Visitors : As the RGNP is considered a research area it is closed to tourists. Permission for official visitors must be obtained from the Director of Parks & Wildlife Management. Many people request permission to see the chimpanzees on the Baboon Islands. Unfortunately it is not possible to accommodate these requests for several reasons. The goal of the project is to care for, protect and create self-sufficient independent chimpanzees. This can be undermined by contact with humans as well as exposing to a variety of illnesses for which they have no immunity.
Fauna & Avi-Fauna
The most abundant mammals are common warthogs. Primates are represented by the Guinea Baboon, Callithrix Monkey, Western Red Colobus - the Guinea Baboon is by far the most plentiful. Among the other species that are known to occur are the Aardvark, the Ratel, Serval, Genets, African Clawless Otter and West African Manatee, the Nile Crocodile and Hippopotamus. Antelope Species identified include Bushbuck, Maxwells and Bush Duikers.
Reptiles are plentiful, snakes and lizards being fairly frequently encountered. The avi-fauna of RGNP is very rich and varied. Egrets, Herons and Ibiss are particularly well represented. one satellite islet of just a few acres provides a nesting site for many thousands of breeding Egrets, Herons, Cormorants, Sacred Ibis, Weavers and Doves which all nest in close proximity to each other.
Visit the project site and adopt a chimp! HERE
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Last updated on April 10, 2009