Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gambia: Lions extinct; leopards, cheetahs to be reintroduced?

Gambia: Thirteen Wild Animal Species Extinct -Minister Cham

Hatab Fadera
14 September 2009
The Daily Observer (Banjul)

Banjul — Momodou Kotu Cham, the minister of Forestry and the Environment, last Thursday, informed members of the National Assembly that 13 species of wild animals have extinct. Among them, he said, include elephant, giraffe and lion.

Minister Cham was responding to a question posed to him by the National Assembly member for Banjul South, Honourable Baboucarr S Nyang, who wanted to know the reason behind the extinction of wild animals in the country, especially in regions such as the Central and Upper River Region, which he said, were in the past endowed with lots of animals.

The Forestry and Environment minister said as in all other natural processes, extinction could be both natural and human driven. For most of the wild animals of The Gambia, he said, the major cause of extinction has been loss of habitat by basically human beings. "To a large extent, our human population has been responsible for the extinction of a large number of wild animals because as the population increases, so is its demand on land to settle, to cultivate, and indeed to conduct all other human development needs," he said.

He then went on to inform the members that species like the elephant and lion need hundreds of kilometres of land as their home range. But as their habitat gets destroyed as a result of human activities, he said, these wild animals that require large home ranges are forced to migrate, or get killed, and eventually go extinct.

Also responding to a related question from the same NAM, on whether there are plans or programmes geared towards re-populating some of the designated national parks with animals such as leopard, antelopes, bucks, and cheetah amongst others, the Forestry and Environment minister told deputies about plans to re-introduce certain species of these animals into some of the nature reserves and parks. "But it must be noted that reintroduction has both technical and financial implications. Game reserves for viewing, and nature tourism including safaris could become an additional high class tourism product for the country, and at the same time enhance and increase the value of wild species," stated Minister Cham.

This, he told members is the reason why the government has invited the private sector, both Gambian and foreign to invest in the parks since the private sector could provide both technical and financial requirements. "As I speak, we are studying several requests from some investors who have expressed interest," concluded the Forestry and Environment minister.


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