It’s a case of second time lucky for students and staff who are leaving the University of Cumbria for a field trip to The Gambia this week.
Political turmoil in the west African country at the start of the year led to a last minute cancellation of the conservation trip, a highlight of the third year zoology course run at the Carlisle campus of the university.
“We’ve got lots of friends in The Gambia which is an amazing place see wildlife and we were disappointed when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised us not to go in January,” course leader Dr Roy Armstrong said. “It is a special place that’s jam packed with wildlife. From birds of prey to monkey and crocodiles, in a compact area you can see a wide range of habitats. It’s brilliant but it used to be even better and the trip shows students the opportunities that exist to see how we can bring it back.”
The university has a successful track record in conservation work in the country. Earlier trips have helped confirm the existence of the dwarf crocodile which was thought to be critically endangered while research has been carried out into the behaviour of Temminck’s red colobus (Piliocolobus badius temminckii.) Work by students and staff from Cumbria showed that shallow man-made watering holes have been successfully used by the species as a safe place away from predators that have threatened their existence. The plan during the visit this month it to help construct more and to install sensitive cameras to track their movements.
The work is carried out with the full cooperation of local communities; it’s vital to the long term sustainability of species and the economic welfare of the country.
“You can’t carry out conservation work unless you involve the community; we don’t tell people what to do,” Dr Armstrong said. “Many are forward looking and they see what opportunities there are for eco-tourism. They police it themselves to make sure no one damages the habitats because it becomes too valuable to them.”