While I’ve been working in the lab analyzing samples, Tomas has been working at Tocc Tocc Community Reserve at Lac de Guiers in northern Senegal, outfitting and training the reserve’s new EcoGuards (the African equivalent of park rangers). Although the reserve has existed for a few years now, we have only recently secured the funds to hire and train staff to monitor the wildlife (particularly the manatees and the endemic Adanson’s Mud Turtle, but also the birds and other wildlife as well), collect scientific data, and enforce the rules agreed upon by the communities. The 20 EcoGuards were hired from within the five villages surrounding the reserve, they’ve lived there all their lives, and are very enthusiastic to protect this area and its wildlife for the future. We also hope to expand ecotourism activities here (particularly guided tours and canoe/kayak rentals) and eventually to build an education center. I’ve written about Tocc Tocc on this blog ever since I first visited there with Tomas in 2009, but for those of you who aren’t familiar, here’s a map:
Here are some of the new EcoGuards posing in their new uniforms in front of an informational sign about the reserve. Also shown is the new motor scooter that will help them patrol the land part of the reserve. Funding for training, the uniforms, the scooter and also several bikes (not shown) was provided by our Save Our Species grant.
Two of the EcoGuards heading out on patrol. We also now have a boat outfitted with a trolling motor (thank you Save the Manatee Club!!) for patrols and research activities on the water.
Scanning along a new irrigation canal that was just built along the reserve boundary. You can also see part of immense and beautiful Lac de Guiers outside the canal.
Another activity Tomas coordinated was a community meeting held on July 2 for representatives and leaders from all five surrounding villages to agree upon the refuge rules. These include ceasing all fishing inside the reserve (all fishing nets have been removed and no new ones are allowed), as well as no grazing of livestock on the reserve lands (which is important to keep the habitat undisturbed). We are thrilled the communities all agreed to these changes so readily, especially when we know it could impact their livelihoods! We hope that ceasing fishing inside the reserve will allow more fish to spawn and mature, leading to better fishing in the future, and we also hope future ecotourism dollars will benefit these communities.
Shown speaking in the photo below is the new park Conservator, who was assigned by Senegal’s Ministry of National Parks. He is very supportive of Tomas’s grassroots efforts to build capacity in this reserve over the past few years.
Group photo from the community meeting, including local government officials from nearby towns, and representatives from Senegal National Parks and Ministry of Water and Forestry.