26 Apr 2019

Diplomats visit a key biodiversity site

Diplomats visiting the city of Dakar in Senegal were taken to a wetland reserve to learn about its importance to the area and to nature. Additionally, they learned about vulture conservation.

By Thandiwe Chikomo

The great Niaye of Pikine, commonly known as the Technopole, is an exceptional urban wetland located in the heart of Dakar. It is one of the five wetlands within the Niayes, an Important Bird Area, with lakes Tanma, Mbaouane, Retba and Mbeubeusse. With constructions at the site and around the Technopole, the Niaye of Pikine has become a convergence point for rainwaters, which helps to mitigate the increase in flooding. It is also a settling basin for the natural remediation of groundwater; the only "green lung" of the great Dakar megalopolis, a haven of peace, in the heart of the Dakar region, for migratory and Afro-tropical birds alike and leisure space (golf, walking, etc.) and the promotion of socio-educational and eco-citizen activities

On the 12th of April 2019, the BirdLife Sub Regional Office for West Africa in collaboration with Nature Communate Development (NCD) an NGO in Senegal facilitated a tour of Technopole IBA by the Ambassadors of The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Canada and the European Union. The purpose of the tour was to highlight the importance of conserving the key site for migratory birds and biodiversity in the city of Dakar as well as to advocate for the conservation of vulture populations in Africa. This event was held back to back with the official opening of the BirdLife office in Dakar.

The members of the tour had the opportunity to see many incredible bird species, and to learn about the importance of the Technopole. They learned, for example, that regular bird monitoring from January 2011 to February 2019 has identified 233 bird species. During the northern winter, several thousand waterbirds, ranging from waders, ducks, gulls from Europe and Asia, including hundreds of Great cormorants, sandpipers, Black-winged stilts and Great egrets, and 60 resident waterbird species are regularly counted. There is a significant concentration of Afro-tropical migrants (herons and egrets) and, also, it is a breeding site for many species.

Huge efforts have been made by various organizations and individuals to protect the site. NCD led the effort by bringing together the various stakeholders, including the Ministry of the Environment, The Protected Area Authority, vegetable gardeners and other users, and even the Golf Federation.

In October 2018, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development announced the government's decision to designate the Grande Niaye of Pikine-Guédiawaye, home to the Technopole, as a protected wetland, decision that was part of the policy to safeguard the site. In March 2019, the Government of Senegal finally granted the Technopole protection status by establishing it as an Urban Nature Reserve so that it could continue providing ecosystem services and reduce people's vulnerability to flooding.

During the tour by the Ambassadors, an opportunity was also taken to advocate for the conservation of vultures. Currently, 7 of the 11 species of vultures in Africa are under threat. This is attributed to poisoning, electrocution and collision and utilization for traditional beliefs. Patricia Zurita, the CEO of BirdLife remarked that, “If we do not take concrete measures to stop the illegal killing, we will lose all the vulture species in our lifetimes.” Concerted effort is required from governments, private sector, individuals and traditional leaders and local communities.