LANGUE DE BARBARIE.
The national park, "Langue de Barbarie" is located south of Saint-Louis and extends across the area of the mouth of the River Senegal. Until 2003, the river ran parallel to the ocean for about 30 kilometers, between the ocean and the river was a headland of up to 400 meters wide. On this headland or Langue many ospreys from Northern and Western Europe come to hibernate. The park is also important for many other bird species such as terns, different waders, Spoonbills, Grey-headed gulls, Lesser-billed gulls, pelicans, and also for Nile monitors and four species of sea turtles which lay their eggs on this headland.
LANGUE IN EVOLUTION
In 2003, however, a breach was made in the Langue, just south of the city of Saint-Louis and north of the national park. The breach was originally four meters wide and was intended to protect the old part of the city of Saint-Louis (the French colonial capital), which lies on an island in the river. It also created a shortcut for the fishermen to the ocean. Today the breach is about six kilometers wide. When the breach was created, the power of the ocean tides had not been taken into account. The breach created a new system of currents, and as a result, the original mouth of the river is today completely silted up and the Langue is increasingly falling prey to the ocean, from the south. At the north, the Langue is expanding again, but not at the same speed. These changes have meant that the villages behind it are increasingly at risk of flooding. The local fishermen with their small boats (pirogues) are not able to cope with the strength of the ocean waves and currents.
In the river, the fish stock have changed radically. The brackish water today is more salty with the ingress of more ocean water. Many African governments had "sold" their fishing rights for a period of several years to the displeasure of local fishermen. Fishing provides the most important income in this region, but from 2012 onwards, the fish stock declined sharply. These West African coasts are among the best fishing grounds in the world, but since 2012, fishing there has been particularly difficult. Today, more fish are seen and caught that prefer the salty and brackish water.
The ecosystem of the national park "Langue de Barbarie" is changing very quickly today. The management plans are no longer relevant to the current situation.
v.z.w. Tougoupeul have signed a contract with the Senegalese government in 2015 to draw up the management plan of the Langue de Barbarie and to develop a number of action plans within the original management plan. The problem now, is that without accurate data, the plan is not effective, so immediately we have started the monitoring work. We have engaged two Spanish biologists to the Langue to assist the local park rangers in monitoring, how, where and, when should birds be counted, and the best method of counting the sea turtles? The counting data was digitized and most importantly, we taught the local employees of the park how to enter this data, and how to analyze it. Once the data had been entered and analyzed, the target species for the area were defined, both plants and animals. Among others, Osprey and the four species of sea turtles made the shortlist of target species. Together with the university "Gaston Berger" of Saint-Louis, the fish species were also monitored, during the different seasons.
Action plans have been drawn up for these target species and the national park can face a new future. The local population is of course involved in this project, for without them there is no support to develop this project.
The management plan which is being implemented was approved by the Minister of the Environment in 2021. In the meantime, the monitoring continues, with especially the fish stock, the sea turtles and the osprey population receiving particular attention.
Today, the first results are already measurable: more fish, and therefore good news for both nature and local people. Thanks to research with “ringing” the birds and fitting transmitters on the Ospreys, we find that most of these birds come from the British Isles, Germany and other places in Western Europe.
The management plan contains many actions, such as the bird breeding island for Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Grey-headed Gull and especially Slender-billed gull but must be better protected against flooding and cockle fishermen with a new more remote location to guarantee more peace to the fauna of the PNLB. The population, especially the fishermen and cockle fishermen are regularly educated to the issues, although this remains a long-term work. Mangrove and Filao are planted annually, already more than 44 ha. The local scouts and many of young people from the adjacent villages help with the planting.
Fishermen have noticed that in recent years, there are again a lot of fish present in the Langue. The presence of more fish is unsurprising, as the root system of the mangroves offer shelter and is then a breeding area for fish. The working group of the local university has noted a sharp increase in fish stocks in both numbers and species the Langue.