By Bekai Njie
Officials of the Department of Parks and Wildlife and its line Ministry have disclosed that efforts are underway to restore the past glory of Abuko Nature Reserve, the country's biggest wildlife conservation park that used to play a significant role in attracting tourists.
The disclosure was made Wednesday at the Nature Reserve in Abuko during a tour of the facility by the new Environment, Climate Change, Parks and Wildlife and Water Resources minister, Pa Ousman Jarju. The minister's visit, which was part of his familiarisation tour of institutions and facilities under the purview of his Ministry, was meant to assess the operations of the Reserve.
Taking questions from reporters on the status of the Reserve that was founded in 1957, Minister Jarju said there is enough potential to restore its past glory.
"We have potential to really restore this place," the minister said, recalling days gone by when he and other students would come on excursion to the Reserve to see the wild animals - much of which have now disappeared.
"But you must have heard the plans of the Department to bring all those animals back and I think with the partnership between government and Eagle Heights of the United Kingdom, we will be able to stock up this place again so that it will be able to attract the tourists coming into the country," he said.
He said that as a government, they will ensure that the capacities of the staff of the Parks and Wildlife Management are developed and are given the necessary support so that this area could be preserved and protected.
He used the interview to deplore the attitude of people intruding into the Reserve, purportedly to look for fruits, something he described as very dangerous.
"Here you might come across snakes and other wild animals. So we will support the Department to properly fence the place so that the animals that would be brought back could live comfortably in their cages and the intruders would also be protected," he assured.
The minister also spoke of the partnership that exists between the Department of Parks and Wildlife and The Gambia Tourism Board, acknowledging that the two institutions are working hand-in-glove in a lot of areas. He further spoke of their desire to strengthen this partnership so that they can effectively promote eco-tourism through the existing national parks and so on.
Commenting on the hippo censorship, the new minster indicated that the Ministries of Environment and Tourism will partner to see how best they can conduct the censor for increased tourist attraction in the country.
"We are going to increase the hunting quarter and you can understand that a lot of tourists come here for hunting as well," he disclosed.
Minister Jarju said the Department of Parks and Wildlife is doing all it can to make sure that crocodiles are brought to the right place, making references to incidences of their straying in Bakau and other areas.
"I understand that it's a challenge, but we will have to partner with Tourism to ensure that our beaches are safe and can attract more tourists into the country," he concluded.
The director of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Momodou L. Gassama, acknowledged that most of the animals the country had are no longer at the Nature Reserve, but hastened to inform that they are working within their limits to stock up the place again.
"That's what we are doing and that's what we are aspiring and hopefully by this summer, the place will be open to the public when we will have two lions in addition to a cheetah, and so on," he disclosed.