From 4th - 6th December 2012, Mauritania’s Diawling National Park hosted the first regional training course of the West African coastal zone flyways partnership between BirdLife International, Wetlands International and the Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative (WSFI). The 30 participants were drawn from a range of Mauritanian agencies, plus government and NGO reps from Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde, as well as international resource persons.
The 3-day course was practical in nature and focused on preparing participants for monitoring the coastal wetlands of West Africa. The main elements included the identification and counting of waterbirds, site inventory and site monitoring, including identifying and recording threats. The training culminated in a practical exercise of field monitoring in a specified area of Diawling, with participants forming monitoring teams themselves, delegating team coordinators and sharing tasks. After this exercise a thorough review of results with all participants took place.
A raging fire in the extensive Typha beds of the park added excitement to the course, and underlined the importance of monitoring in changing environments and accounting for threats. The fire, for instance, presented immediate threats to wildlife and villages, whilst the extensive Typha itself presents a more serious longer-term threat to the ecological integrity of the Senegal Delta.
In follow-up to the training, grants are being provided to countries to assist in carrying out monitoring in January 2013, whilst a major ‘total waterbird count’ is planned for the coastal zone in January 2014. Meanwhile, national training courses will take place in early 2013 in Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Senegal.
Participants found the course to be very useful, and relevant to their work. Zein el Abidin, Conservator of Diawling, considers waterbirds to be strong bio-indicators of the health of wetlands, which are themselves very important for biodiversity and poverty alleviation.
The training course and other activities are financed primarily by the MAVA Foundation and the governments of Germany and the Netherlands. The organisers wish to thank these supporters, as well as the Mauritanian government for their organisational support, notably the Director of the Diawling National Park.
Photos by Tim Dodman