afrol News, 16 November - Mauritanian authorities have initiated a fauna protection programme in its Diawling National Park in the mouth of River Senegal to protect a major colony of "dwarf flamingos" that could develop into a tourist attraction.
Mauritania's Diawling National Park, a known paradise for bird-spotters, has started to take the protection of its unique bird-life more seriously. Park administration has been strengthened with two employees from the Mauritania's General Environmental and Forestry Direction that are to oversee the protection of the lesser flamingo (phoenicopterus minor), sponsored by the Spanish development cooperation agency AECID.
The new park employees in particular are to protect the nesting places of the flamingo, which along with cormorants, pelicans and monkeys is the largest attraction in the national park along River Senegal. Indeed, the 8,000-number strong colony of lesser flamingos, nesting in Diawling each winter, is among the world's largest.
The team is also to do research about the habitat of this bird species and make sure their reproduction is not disturbed.
The Diawling area traditionally was among the most important wetlands along the West African coast and a key site for migratory birds. However, two dams constructed along River Senegal in 1986 and 1990 strongly affected the ecosystem at the river's mouth, both affecting salination and the water-table at large.
Diawling was made a trans-boundary national park in 1991, connecting to Senegal's older Djoudj National Park on the opposite bank of the river. But it took a decade of planning and convincing local Mauritanian residents, which had observed the many problems experienced in settlements on the Senegalese side of the border.
In the Djoudj park, local settlements had been forcedly removed and new limitations on grazing and fishing strongly impacted on the livelihood of local communities. On the Mauritanian side, local settlers were given an influence in the planning and developing of an eco-tourism concept that should compensate for possible losses.
Since the establishment of the 15,600 hectares park, a programme to rehabilitate the delta of River Senegal has been implemented with foreign aid, resulting in the rapid restoration of the hydrology of the Diawling area. Fish stocks have somewhat recovered and pastures were restored.
However, both the drives to promote eco-tourism and to protect the unique bird-life of Diawling National Park have seen little progress. It is now hoped that the new flamingo protection project and increased staffing of the Park will mean a new drive for these initiatives.
For travellers, the Mauritanian park remains an unspoilt spot easily accessible from the border town of Rosso. In addition to its rich fauna, the park offers a mosaic of mangroves, fluvial lagoons and ponds, sand dunes, creeks and the majestic River Senegal itself.
Bird-spotters find the most spectacular views during the northern winter season, when both the lesser and the greater flamingo nest in great colonies in the park, in addition to around 25,000 pelicans, 16,000 pintails and many more species.
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