Birds in the Gambia face different threats; including inappropriate land use, increased competition over land, unsustainable agricultural practices, overgrazing, encroachment by developers and loggers. This situation is becoming worse in the Gambia, the encroachment of forests parks, woodlands, wetlands, is becoming the order of the day in the country. These actions are leading to the disappearance of some bird species. Birds face serious life-threatening conditions when migrating, as most of the time during the migration they find that their sanctuaries have been destroyed. The habitats of these birds are facing serious threats especially when it comes to pollution of the wetlands, dumping of waste in the forest and into the ocean. Water birds, whom derive their food from the ocean, are facing serious threats of overfishing and the dumping of toxic waste poisons the birds’ fish. While efforts have been made at different levels to address some of these threats, the success of sustainable use and management of land and seascape resources remains patchy.
The government of the Gambia has set the target to protect 15% of the total land area coverage of the Gambia and the West African bird study association (WABSA) contributes to this target through the establishment of community and school bird sanctuaries. Since 1998 WABSA has been establishing 6 community bird sanctuaries and 15 school sanctuaries, with support and/or funding from UNDP, GEFF, PRCM and Birdlife International.
The bird sanctuaries that WABSA established are: Brufut Community, Kartong Community, Kutir Community, Marakissa Community, Piran Community and Sefou Community bird sanctuary. The school bird sanctuaries are located in the Greater Banjul area, the West Coast region and the North Bank Region. As a result habitat was created for resident-, migratory- and endangered bird species.
The Brufut Community bird sanctuary is a locally managed conservation area in partnership with WABSA. It is located on the eastern periphery of the village, some way inland, over some rough back routes. The small nature reserve has a bird-watching hide, an eco-refreshment center and a pond. One of the best places to spot birds is in the woods is an open area near the bridge. The resident and inter-African migrant bird species you might see in this area, are the Pin-Tailed Whydahs, Black-crowned Tchagra, African Scops Owls, Black Kite, Klaas's Cuckoo, Emerald Cuckoo, Senegal Batis, Osprey, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Fork-Tailed Drongo, Four-banded Sandgrouse, long tailed night jar and the Yellow-throated Leaflove.and the endangered yellow-bill coucal.
The Kartong community forest and wetland reserve comprise of wetlands, beach and dunes, freshwater, reed beds, wetland savannah, scrub agricultural land, urban area, mangroves and tidal estuary. Because of this variety of ecosystems, the area attracts both resident and migratory bird species. The site occupies a sacred graveyard, of the late Tamidayo, approximately 12m long. According to scholars he is one of the generals of Prophet Muhammed PBH and visited by many Gambians, Senegalese and other nationalities for prayers. The site also boarded with Folonko; a world heritage site from UNESCO, it is renowned for its sacred, occasionally visited by barren women. The area harbors several migratory species, like the osprey, including the google endangered nightanglwe.
The Kutir community forest and wildlife reserve is a community lead conservation initiative that is co-managed by 9 communities suited at the Lower Niumi District. The designation of the site as a community-protected area was initiated by WABSA through the PRCM funded project. The area, despite there being no thorough inventory, as a habitat of both wetland gallery forest and rice-growing, is a place with an abundant diversity of birds, crocodiles and other wildlife species. WABSA is looking for support through project proposal development to ensure the area is protected and acquires a legal status. Some of the bird species in this area are the golden oriel, fine spotted woodpecker, abyssinian roller and drongo.
The Marakissa community Bird Sanctuary is located in the southern parts of the Gambia few minute’s drive from the Southern Senegal border. The area is rich in bird and other wildlife biodiversity, and has been one of WABSA's embryonic areas to protect, but is yet to acquire legal status protection. The area comprises wetland, gallery forest agricultural land area and is gradually been invaded by the development of housing estates developers.
One of the main attractions in the area is the Marakissa River lodges which offer birding accommodation, where birders record one of their highest records of birds during their one to three weeks stay in The Gambia and the species they may get on their list from Marakissa bird sanctuary includes Dwarf Bittern, Little Bittern White-crested tiger bittern, Spotted Honeyguide Violet turaco Giant kingfisher, Senegal white eye, white-breasted cuckoo shrike, etc.
The Pirang Bonto forest is a community forest reserve that was established by the department of forestry and the local communities.
The area is protected and has legal status. The West African Bird Study Association signed M.O.U.WITH THE Department of forestry as well as the local communities of Pirang to become partners in developing and managing. Recently WABSA has established a site support Group SSG comprising the locals from both Pirang and Bonto through the Birdlife International Capacity Development Fund (CDF).
The area is one of the thickest gallery forests along the coast and habours lots of endangered species like hooded vultures wood owl, white-spotted fluff tail the Red colobus monkey, etc. The area has a wetland which is also another attraction for water birds like flamingos, Black crown, etc
Sefoe community bird sanctuaries which is located in the southern part of the Gambia 30 minutes’ drive from Banjul. The area is rich in bird and other wildlife biodiversity, Currently WABSA is engaging the sefoe community to establish officially as community protect area