RIVER GAMBIA NATIONAL PARK
 
 

The River Gambia National Park (also known as Baboon Island), a complex of five Islands (total area 585 ha.), was gazetted in 1978. All islands are quite flat and possess mainly gallery forest with some open swampy or savannah areas. The park is situated in Central River Division (CRD) about 300 km by road from Banjul. It forms one of the last refuges for the very threatened hippopotamus within The Gambia. Since 1979 a Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP) has been conducted on the Islands, and there are currently about fifty Chimpanzees living on 3 of the larger islands. The population is steadily increasing through births. In addition to reintroducing an indigenous species to the country, the existence of the project in the River Gambia National Park has assisted in protecting the forest and its resources from over exploitation. The Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and the CRP work hand in and for the protection of the park and its environs.

The chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is already extinct in much of its former range and endangered in the remaining countries it inhabits. The species disappeared from the Gambia in the early 1900's. The CRP is a private organisation which provides a natural life for chimpanzees caught during illegal trading and confiscated by government authorities. Their adaptation is closely studied both before and after release into the natural habitat. There are presently about 50 chimpanzees living free on three islands in four social groups. 29 were released on the island and to date 21 have been born there.

The most abundant mammals are warthogs. Primates are represented by the Western baboon, green vervet and red colobus - the Western baboon is by far the most plentiful. Among the other species that are known to occur are the aardvark, the ratel, serval cat, genet, cape clawless otter and West African manatee, the Nile crocodile and hippopotamus. Antelope species identified include bushbuck, Maxwell's and Grimms duikers. The avi-fauna of RGNP is very rich and varied. Egrets, herons and ibis's are particularly well represented. One satellite islet of just a few acres provides a nesting site for many thousands of breeding egrets, herons, cormorants, sacred ibis, weavers and doves which all nest in close proximity to each other.

 

Four species of primate occur in the reserve; the red colobus, the green or vervet monkey, the red patas and the bushbaby. Other mammals present include sitatunga, bush buck, Grimms duiker, sun-squirrel, striped ground squirrel, crested and brush-tailed porcupine, and a variety of rodents. Reptiles present include Nile and dwarf Crocodile, Nile and Boscs monitor, agama lizard, various skinks and geckos, python, puff adder, black-necked cobra and green mamba.

Over 270 species of birds have been recorded from Abuko Nature Reserve which reflects the value of this small area. The reserve contains an intact pocket of gallery forest in which numerous forest dependent species occur such as the green-crested touraco, little green bulbul and the yellow-chested apalis. The milky (or Verreaux's) eagle-owl is also resident and often heard calling in the late afternoon. The chain of pools within the lower end of the reserve attract a tremendous variety of bird life , from the white-spotted pygmy rail to African fish eagles. An afternoon spent at the Education Centre or one of the photohides will yield many good sightings. 

At the south-western end of the reserve an extension of 29 ha. added in 1978 has been appropriately labelled the extension bird walk. The area is composed of Guinea savannah with open glades of bushed-grassland