Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Walk in the Park

A simple excursion was planned one morning to Guembeul Nature Reserve a short distance out of Zebrabar.  We relied upon our trusty driver to take us there.

This reserve covers 720 hectares and was inaugurated in 1983. There has been some tremendous maturity of the park in the last 29 years making it a home to many species of birds, reptiles and mammals, of which we had the pleasure of seeing.  

We started off with a viewing of these African Spurred Tortoises that would fit into the palm of your hand.

And from there saw a few larger ones. They are all currently in their own segregated pens as the reserve is managing a reintroduction program for them.

Apparently they really like excavating burrows and enjoy a bit of shade during the hotter parts of the day.  They can dig nearly 30 m deep.

And for the moment too these Dorca Gazelles are being managed with inside a pen, but many had dug under the boundaries of the pen and were now roaming in park. 

The rest of the animals we saw in the park were  roaming free.


It's not very often we see anything made of wood in Senegal except perhaps an abundance of doors and furniture crafted and sold on the streets - so this observation tower which appeared to be newly built required some extra inspection.

So you've got Manning 'the teacher' and Parker and Addison as the 'students'  listening to Manning cover the finer points of the workmanship:
  • The base supports were made of concrete and the wood was raised up above the concrete by some kind of  metal posts. The purpose of that he believes is to keep it from rotting during the rainy season
  • The clapboards in the observatory itself were overlapping in order to keep the rain out and from collecting inside the room
  • There was a bench inside to sit on while you were viewing and he liked how that was laid out

We continued our walk which honestly was such a delight to be in this protected open space, free of litter and vendors.  And enjoying the various scrub.  The photos from 30 years ago showed no vegetation or trees in this area due to over grazing and lack of protection.  in this short time, the flora and fauna have returned and the habitat is able to support a wide range of animals. 
I wish the country could take as much pride as they do in parks like this - with the rest of the country's environment.  While it may seem like a simple comment to make, I realize the many complexities of life here - and while barriers do exist they are just that - barriers that can be tackled - I never said it would be easy.  But there has to be a desire for seriously considering even ridding themselves of plastic bags since they are everywhere - on the ground, in trees, in the ocean and rivers and on fences.  It certainly crosses my mind knowing the throngs of conservation groups that exist in California.  It's apparent this park is trying their best in this little corner of Senegal.

Here is a common scene we see often throughout the country (and during the drive between Saint Louis and Zebrabar)  and is what makes this reserve and the Langue de Barbarie reserve total jewels!



During the walk we discovered a variety of informational signs which had been knocked off their posts and flipped over. Not sure how or why or when there would be plans to have them all restored. Or if they even knew. I think if I saw their operating budget it would explain it. Resources are so limited.  In the meantime of course we continued our journey.

Closer up view but not sure exactly what the sandbar and sticks around it are meant for.

Red Monkey

At the end we had a chance to review their little eco museum which was actually quite informative.

We also caught the view of some warthogs but they were so fast I could not capture them so this information billboard will just have to do!  As we wrap up the 2 hour walk we find our taxi man sleeping on the job. Actually he waited for us along with an orange we gave him before we started the journey.  And just when we thought we'd seen all animals roaming free we came across these guys just outside of the park.

 STOP the Taxi!

This man here is the 'owner' of the camels. And if we understood him right he was  Mauritanian. His 'helpers' were local kids tagging along.  I kept my distance on the road but Parker and Addison bolted off with one of the kids to get a close look. Which was okay by the owner. Although admittedly I was a bit concerned from afar as to how close was close.

Apparently they got close enough for Parker to make this observation...and in his own words unedited -  "They are bigger than they look and in their hump they store food and water that's how they live in the desert they eat the fat from there hump and the water in their hump that's why they can live in the desert and not us.  We would run out of food and water in 2-3 days . It's amazing what they can do!!"

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