The Justification isn’t Just Enough Hon. Environment Minister – Save the Monkey Park
The continued threats on the Monkey Park and WALIC are threats to the neighborhood and all protected areas in The Gambia. This issue is worth a glance from both humanist and naturalist viewpoints. Why we must not go any closer to the park with infrastructural development projects?
1. Threats of Zoonotic Diseases
It is possible to have a spread of zoonotic diseases if we continue to harm the park. Humans and wildlife cannot reside in the same niche for many reasons. Any attempt to bring an embassy could only increase threats of zoonotic diseases (if the park gets infected) to the people and the embassy. This risk already exists since initial destructions that caused significant food scarcity and increased fragmentation and isolation in the park. This has caused wildlife to invade homes in search of food. Infected animals can pose significant threats to human settlements within the primate home range. The more we come closer and destroy their habitat, the more we increase the risk and dangers to ourselves (human-wildlife interaction).
2. Species Characteristics- Endangered Red Colobus
The IUCN listed endangered species of Red Colobus are shy and do not interact with humans. Their troops are often far from human settlement and in tree tops. Research has shown that species diversity and abundance of primates increase through distance farther from human settlements. There are many factors to this (hunting, habitat loss, edge effect issues, and natural characteristics). Therefore bringing settlements closer will only increase stressors leading to the eventual extinction of some species if they cannot cope (adapt). The embassy will not do the park any ecological, social, or economic good. Any attempt will further disturb this ecology significantly.
3. 70 places were reviewed and only WALIC/Park was considered fit for an Embassy.
As interesting as this may sound, the characteristics of all these places should be publicized for clarity. It left my mouth wide open that 70 places but only a sensitive ecology with primates that can pose a risk of zoonotic diseases, disturbance in the embassy, a nuisance to public view, etc are considered the best place for an embassy. Increased human activity in the area will in no way make the primates happy or promote tourism as claimed.
4. Biodiversity Loss (Species richness & abundance)
It has been said that the park is home to many species of birds, reptiles, and primates. Over the years, the realities have changed significantly. Some species have increased in population while many have declined over time due to multiple factors amongst them (a) encroachment leading to habitat loss, (b) human presence in the park and noise, (c) Lack of food and water (stressors), etc. Any other development proxy to the area will lead to significant biodiversity loss. Many researchers have proven that species either gain or loss with distance proxy to human settlement depending on both anthropogenic and natural factors.
5. “We won’t touch the Park”-the Embassy & GG Said
The Park Visitors center that will be destroyed and rebuilt is new. It was built not more than 3 years ago. They only began using it less than 2 years ago. Why the need to destroy it? The embassy seeks about 5ha from the park which includes that part of the park just as OIC did. The deceiving tactic of we will build a road to the beach is meant to score points but is a road needed there? For who? There is a road to the beach from the other side of the OIC, a road through the park is not necessary. That is in fact going to be another development that will pose risk to animal movement. Even if you will not touch the park directly. WALIC and the Park share the same ecological function. It is home to primates, it helps reduce urban heat islands and many other regulatory services. In the long run, will the embassy still smile at sharing a home with an increasing monkey population in a completely isolated ecology? What is the truth from the talks held in the government house along Kairaba Avenue?
6. Stakeholder Engagement
Civil Society is meant to complement government efforts where necessary and defend the rights of all. The act of selling WALIC failed to involve a very necessary stakeholder. The lack of an inclusive process and initial denial of the desire to sell the area by the Gambia government made me lose trust in the whole process. CSOs must brace up again to defend our shared heritage that has consistently been under destruction threats for over five years. When the park is gone, the already threatened forest ecologies will follow. Does one wonder why the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Department of Physical Planning, etc are not mentioned in any way or were not consulted? Was this deal an inclusive process because there are multiple stakeholders to it? GG must be accountable.
7. Ecosystem Services
Allowing you in authority to plunder our remaining vital ecosystems will be a betrayal to the nation. Beyond a utilitarian vision, we must acknowledge the value of ecosystem services we get from nature and the park in particular. Poor planning, increased sealed surfaces, urbanization, and gentrification characterize the urban ecology of The Gambia. The Biotope Area Factor (BAF) of many houses is deficient in expectations within the neighborhood of the park. The park helps reduce the impacts of urban heat islands, the provisional services, the regulatory services, the cultural services, and aesthetic services, etc are immeasurable. However, capitalists only care about money and do not care about the damage to our vital sensitive ecologies. Since the commodification and financialisation of land in the Gambia, the rate of land use change and land-related conflicts are increasingly threatening our peace and coexistence. Then, the regulator turned to the “top dealer” and sold a state property. The citizens must resist state-led ecological destruction and the mortgaging of state-protected areas.
There is one conclusion to this, we will not watch you sell and destroy our remaining sensitive ecologies. Protection of our remaining flora and fauna is necessary. An industrial action to defend our common shared heritage will be announced soon.
Source Omar Malmo jnr