Senegal has one of the most comprehensive protected area systems in Africa including six National Parks and six avifaunal reserves which cover over 8% of the country and include representative samples of most of the principal ecosystems. There are however many environmental issues in common with much of Africa such as poaching, deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification and overfishing.
Senegal is party to several international agreements including Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species and Wetlands.
27th April 2007: Surveys reveal raptor ‘super-roost’
Surveys in Senegal by LPO (BirdLife in France) have revealed a single roost containing over 28,600 Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni and 16,000 African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii – one of the largest bird of prey roosts ever found. “One evening, I saw the passage of some 300 birds flying over,” said Philippe Pilard of LPO, who discovered the site in January 2007. “The next evening I saw 1,300 falcons fly over. I therefore decided to follow them, which was only possible on foot.”
“I first walked 10 kilometres - even crossing rivers by canoe - and finally found the Lesser Kestrel roost, along with the African Swallow-tailed Kites.” The existence of communal roosts during the non-breeding season - sometimes involving several thousand individuals - has been observed in a number of different countries including Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. However conservationists have described this enormous roost - altogether some 45,000 insectivorous raptors- as exceptional.
The numbers of roosting Lesser Kestrel at this site are thought to represent more than half of the known breeding populations of western Europe and northern Africa combined. The roost likely held individuals from Morocco, Spain, Portugal and France. The finding is the culmination of seven years of research and many hours of observation in the field by LPO ornithologists, funded for the past year by La Fondation Nature et Découvertes. During the course of the next few years, comprehensive surveys of the region are now being planned.
Lesser Kestrel is listed as Vulnerable by BirdLife. The species has undergone rapid declines in western Europe - equivalent to c.46% in each decade since 1950. As such, the species has been the subject of significant conservation efforts, particularly in its European breeding range. LPO have used the discovery to highlight the importance of protecting wintering sites, as well as breeding sites, across the range of this migratory species. “Although there have been a number of conservation efforts devoted to Lesser Kestrel in France and elsewhere in Europe, these efforts will be fruitless if nothing is put in place to protect its African wintering grounds.” said Yvan Tariel, Head of Raptor Conservation at LPO.
Source: BirdLife International News
23rd February 2007: Expedition solves Aquatic Warbler mystery
After five years of investigations, an expedition team has tracked down the wintering grounds of Europe’s most threatened migratory songbird – the Aquatic Warbler – in Senegal. “…knowing where they are in winter now provides a starting point to mirror the successful European conservation efforts in Africa.” said Lars Lachmann of RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) who co-organised the expedition to West Africa together with the BirdLife International Aquatic Warbler Conservation Team (AWCT) and the French organisation "Bretagne Vivante".
The expedition discovered good numbers of Aquatic Warblers in an area of about 100 square kilometres within the Djoudj National Park, an Important Bird Area (IBA) in north-west Senegal. Preliminary estimates range from 5-10,000 birds at this single site. Researchers from BirdLife International and RSPB combined state-of-the-art scientific analysis with traditional fieldwork to unravel the mystery surrounding the warblers’ unknown wintering sites. The research team analysed feathers from Aquatic Warblers caught in Europe to help narrow their search. Knowing that the feathers would have been grown on African wintering grounds, the researchers looked for patterns of isotopes and compared these alongside isotope maps of West Africa.
The study revealed that the birds spend the winter at sites in a zone just south of the Sahara. An analysis of the few African records in combination with a computer modelling of potentially suitable climatic conditions led researchers to likely areas bordering the Senegal river. “It’s a long-awaited discovery that gives encouragement to conservationists in both Europe and Africa,” commented Paul K Ndanganga, BirdLife’s African Species Working Group Co-ordinator. “As we increase our knowledge of the areas that are important for warblers, conservationists in the region can now focus efforts into site monitoring, the next step in helping ensure these wintering grounds are adequately managed and better protected.”
Martin Flade, chairman of AWCT, added: “Thankfully, substantial parts of the bird’s wintering range fall within protected areas, with the Djoudj National Park alone possibly holding up to a third of the world population. This wetland, on the southern edge of the Sahara, is likely to be threatened by the southward advance of the Sahara fuelled by climate change. This encroachment is likely to limit the water supply for the national park.”
Aquatic Warbler has declined dramatically in Europe over the last century, and its global population is now down to 15,000 pairs - largely because of drainage of its wetland nesting sites. An estimated 95% of habitat has been lost in the last century. Future work in the field and with satellite maps will help identify other potential sites in southern Mauritania and elsewhere in western Africa.
The expedition was financially supported by the RSPB, the UK government (DEFRA), the Bonn Convention (CMS), and the German Ornithological Society.