We condemn the complete destruction of the Monkey Park as intended by the President of The Gambia.
Under the authority and management of Green-Up Gambia, an action and awareness campaign organization on contemporary environmental issues in The Gambia, I wish to convey our total disappointment in the government of The Gambia and particularly the Office of the President in relation to a letter sent to the Ministry of Lands & Regional government dated the 18th April, 2018 requesting for the de-reservation of the Monkey Park for the construction of a five star hotel, Presidential Villas and an ultra-modern shopping mall yet requesting it to be “urgent & in-confidence”.
As an organization that stood against the construction of the OIC conference centre in the Park, reclaimed part of the destroyed area and replanted it, we wish to show our disappointment and dissatisfaction in the government of The Gambia as they beyond all indications have no regard for our environment and the people of The Gambia. The over-exploitation of our resources, destruction of nature and environmental pollution by Chinese Aid and Chinese factories has to be put into consideration and the plight of the citizenry should be prioritized.
Mr President and government, I wish to remind you that the Bijilo Forest Park & Nature Trail (Monkey Park) was established in 1951. The species-rich, fenced woodland was gazetted in 1952 and covers an area of 51.3 hectares (126 acres / about half a square km), and is on the Atlantic Ocean beach at the southern end of the Senegambia area of Kololi. It has a total length of 1,500 meters parallel to the coast and width of 350 meters, and the soils are deep and well drained. The protected nature reserve is comprised primarily of a closed canopy forest with a significant number of rhun palms, and with a relatively thin strip of herbaceous dune vegetation.
Between 1951 to 1956 the only land management activity implemented was the clearing of fire lines along the boundaries on both sides of the fence. In 1977 the park was re-surveyed by the Department of Forestry and again in 1982, this was followed by an inventory of the park. A nature trail was created by the Gambian-German Forestry Project in 1991, when the area was made open to the public, and now receives about 23,000 visitors a year.
The rainforest is home to various invertebrates, reptiles and mammalian species. Among the primates are troops of Green Vervet Monkeys, Western Red Colobus Monkeys, Senegal Bushbabies (Gulagos), Callithrix Monkey, Campbell’s Mona Monkey and Patas. Other mammal species includes the Sun Squirrel, African Civet, Genets, Mongoose, Brush Tailed Porcupine and some rodents. Among the reptiles here are Agama, Rainbow and Monitor Lizards etc.
Bijilo Forest Park (Monkey Park) is rich in birdlife and offers excellent and amazing opportunities for birdwatching in The Gambia. Over 133 bird species have been recorded here with various hornbills, pheasants, cuckoos, sunbirds, starlings, weavers, waxbills, eagles and hawks, etc. Some of the recorded species are the Black-necked Weaver, Red-billed Hornbill, Greater Honeyguide, Green-backed Eremomela etc.
With all the above benefits, the myopic minded politicians have chosen to destroy the forest without any tangible reason if not for their selfish interest and greed during the former regime. In October, 2016, The government of The Gambia under the leadership of former President Yahya Jammeh began the destruction of the site to build an Islamic Conference Center. We put up a fight against it and your government pledge to protect our environment but today your leadership is set and willing to destroy nature. Do not allow to be on the wrong side of history. We wish to vehemently condemn the intended activities in the Park in the strongest terms possible. We will never relent in your efforts to improve the Gambia’s environment and will never succumb to the environmental catastrophic acts of your government.
The lives you are set to kill and the plants to be destroyed are members of our society and if man claims dominion on earth, it becomes a divine responsibility to protect all life forms. We disagree with your quest to destroy nature and we request for a re-think Mr. President.
In conclusion, you promise transparency and accountability yet you intend to destroy the park urgently and in-confidence. We are ready to challenge this intended act to the best of our ability for care for nature is a concern for all citizens. We humbly urge you to reconsider the calamitous decision as it is not in the interest of the nation. There are many places you can build your Presidential Villas, five star hotels and shopping malls. The destruction of the Park will not only be a sabotage to our environmental laws but also dishonorable of our nation at the level of international conventions on environment (UNCBD, UNFCCC, UNCD etc). We urge all Gambians to condemn this intended acts of the government.