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Do Not Kill the Birds, Wildlife Protectors Tell Government

As the government prepares to launch its war on birds within close proximity of the airport Saturday, wildlife and environmental experts called on the authorities to give up on ‘the mass-killing of birds’ campaign.

On Tuesday, President Adama Barrow instituted an Emergency Strategic Committee during an airport security stakeholders meeting amidst growing concern over aviation safety due to bird strike – a collision between birds and aircraft.

The Department of Strategic Policy and Delivery (DSPD) at the presidency Wednesday said it has already mobilized 35 trucks and over a hundred personnel from various security services and forces for the war on birds.

Famara Drammeh

But in an interview with The Chronicle, Famara Drammeh, a former wildlife officer at the Department of Parks and Wildlife, frowned at the government’s approach. “I am completely against mass killing of birds,” he said. There are other measures we can use to control the problem rather than killing. In fact the problem of bird strike in The Gambia is not that serious, so why kill birds?”

According to him, mass killing of birds will seriously affect biodiversity, arguing that 70-80% of tourists that visit The Gambia are eco-tourists and most of them are ornithologists who are interested in seeing the country’s diverse bird life.

“In fact some of them are migratory species coming from other parts of the world. Some birds of prey like ospreys are protected by UN Convention on Migratory Species,” he said.

Drammeh, who also worked at National Environment Agency (NEA), said bird strike emergencies are not highlighted in the National Contingency Plan, adding therefore that the issue requires involvement of experts in the field of biodiversity conservation.

He suggested that the government could apply measures such as habitat management that will make an area less attractive to birds, such as avoiding making the area a dumping ground.  He said physical bird removal may be necessary in some cases especially when there is presence of nests in the airport vicinity, but added that such requires expert knowledge to carry it effectively.

Omar Malmo Sambou, a co-founder of research and advocacy environmental group Green-Up Gambia also warned that the move to kill birds will cause serious biodiversity and economic loss.

“Every tourism destination has attraction factors and The Gambia’s main attraction factor is nature and our ecologies. Many bird watchers visit The Gambia thereby contributing significantly to our tourism industry and the economy. Killing the birds will further endanger the bird species we have in The Gambia.”

Omar Malmo Sambou

Sambou also stressed that the government’s campaign to kill birds will be contrary to the convention on biological diversity.

“It will have a detrimental effect on our agriculture as birds play a significant role in pollination and worm picking which leads to the reduction of worm population. Some worms can be peat to our agricultural crops etc,” he told The Chronicle.

In March 2017, Green-UP Gambia led a successful demonstration at the Monkey Park in Bijilo against the government’s ‘unlawful’ annihilation of the park which served as sanctuary for monkeys. The protest, held under the slogan ‘Save the Nature, the Monkeys Have Decided Too’, was aimed at stopping the government from removing the monkeys from the park to start the construction of hotels and resorts.

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