On January 15th, Senegal has carried out its annual water birds census as equally done in countries of the Sahel-Saharan strip. The 2014 edition was concurrently held in the Saloum Delta River, in Dakar, in Casamance and in the Senegal River Delta. However, the key point of The January Census in Senegal was the Djoudj National Park (PNOD) where different teams of water birds counters have met. Wetlands International Africa (WIA) was involved in the event.
What is the rationale behind waterbird counting? To his question, Colonel Souleye Ndiaye, the Director of National Parks in Senegal (DPN) has these answers: ''Firstly, the purpose is to monitor the number of migratory species, especially the waterfowls. For example, this enables us to know the number of ducks that come from Europe during the cold season. These birds come here (Djoudj) all the period of climate hardship in Europe. There are also Ethiopian species, the like of cormorants, pelicans and others that do not migrate but move from one area to another in the Sahelian zone. So, monitoring their populations is essential to detect the threats to which they are exposed. Besides this goes a long way in better managing biodiversity. We must know all this because it’s extremely important. The same goes for the vitality of their habitats which also add details on their number in order to correct any threat''. For instance, the DPN boss revealed that as for last December 2013, the tawny Whistling was removed from the quota of shots because every year, its populace is decreasing. “Now”, he says, “we can’t afford to allow a species on a quota of shots when we have no control over the data of its populace. Hence the interest of annual bird counting”, said Colonel Souleye Ndiaye. This is also an opportunity to specifically warn people about their numbers and habitats. ''Two days ago , I told Swedish and German experts that it is good to ring birds but it’s also capital to go as far as having concern about bird habitats, which is even better because if these habitats are threatened in Europe, these birds may come here to find better living conditions during the winter and eat well to have enough force and fats to return because migration is a very difficult process '' said Col. Ndiaye.
In terms of figures, we have noticed over the past two years, that pelicans are now breeding well since breeding conditions have been improved. As for the White-faced Whistling-Duck, it’s the same pattern with last year. The Gambia Geese gave a good impression; however, the little comb duck have not been in a big number this year.
While Djoudj and the Senegal River Delta have over 3 million birds of all species Colonel Souleye Ndiaye insists: “we are particularly interested in species whose situation is often critical in Africa and Europe. Despite last year’s effort to develop the site, there is much more to do in the management of Djoudj’s habitat which is extremely fragile‘’. The Director of National Parks disclosed that the next agenda, between May and June, is to enlarge the breeding area. This will enable this UNESCO World Heritage Site to still host thousands and thousands of migratory birds.
It should be noted that a number of avifauna specialists together with partners such as Wetlands International, volunteers, eco guards and populations of Djoudj have all participated in the 2014 edition of the annual January bird Census. Various sites in Senegal also carry out monthly counting operations for better monitoring bird species.