Blue YD continued his journey from Ndiében along the coast to rest near the sprawling metropolitan capital of Senegal, Dakar. The city is home to roughly half of the urban population in Senegal due to the abandonment of rural areas. Our osprey only roosted there overnight and carried on with his adventures the next day. It is worth mentioning this part of West Africa’s coast is home to several dolphin species (Atlantic humpback and Long-beaked Common dolphins amongst others) which are facing pressure from unsustainable fisheries, habitat destruction, illegal killing, expanding tourism and offshore oil and gas exploration.
The next day Blue YD flew back to his most used roosting area in Doue, crossing the Peanut Basin – in the past Senegal’s major agricultural region for peanuts and millet. Whilst most of West Africa is experiencing loss of woodlands to agricultural expansion, this basin has seen its agricultural lands abandoned and replaced with tree-dotted savannas. This unusual situation is a consequence of out-migration caused by the combined effects of a drop in world market prices for peanuts, drought and loss of agricultural subsidies.
This osprey’s quick exploratory journey ended in the same place it started a few days ago in Senegal’s river loop near Doue. As deforestation was mentioned above, it is interesting to know how the Senegalese landscape Blue YD is getting familiar with in his first migration has changed over time. Some of the land areas surrounding the Senegal River have suffered intensive deforestation in the past decades. Although some scattered forests remain intact and Blue YD has visited them regularly since his arrival in Senegal, much of the forest was cleared by local people to make way for subsistence agriculture. The most common riverine tree species in the fertile floodplains along the Senegal River, Acacia nilotica, is a highly sought after source of wood for fuel, construction and charcoal production. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) figures highlight how this tree used to cover 39,000 hectares along the river in 1966, but suffered a reduction of 77% by 1992. This intensive use or resources has a two-fold explanation: the development of Manantali Dam in 1988 which controls half of Senegal’s river discharge; and the growth of human population in the area. Several organizations have been working for decades in the area to restore the balance between human development and the environment and have seen their efforts rewarded in recent years by the general improvement of Senegal’s biodiversity.