International workshop opens new conservation possibilities for the Western Derby Eland
After two year long preparation, an international meeting of experts on nature conservation and antelope breeding was held at the end of January in West African Senegal. The main organiser was a civil society Derbianus CSAW in cooperation with Directorate of National Parks in Senegal and Society for the Protection of the Environment and Fauna in Senegal. Thanks to the financial support of Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Zoo Praha, Knowsley Safari Park, Zoo Chester and International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN, more than 40 participants from 7 countries and 4 continents could attend the workshop.
Before opening the discussion, participants could take part in an organised excursion to the Niokolo Koba National Park, the last place in the world where Western Derby Elands live freely. The goal of the excursion was to get to know the environment, where the Derby Elands live naturally, and the operation and management of the National Park. The organisers and participants dreamt to catch sight of the Derby Elands. However, given the area of the park – 913 000 hectares – it wasn´t easy. The 18-member-group had to face many difficulties during the journey – hardly passable tracks, a lorry with technical defects, non-existing connection with the rest of the world. In spite of that, maybe because of it, the four-day-long visit of the park was very successful and everyone was leaving enriched by important observations and unforgettable experience.
On the way back from the Niokolo Koba National Park, an excursion to the Fathala reserve was arranged. There is one of the two centres of the Derby Eland conservation programme, currently home to 28 Western Derby Elands.
The three-day-long worskhop in Senegalese Saly Portudal started with a registration of participants and a ceremonial evening on 28th January 2013. The worskhop was officially opened the next morning by Czech ambassador in Morroco, Michaela Froňková, director of Senegalese Ministry of Environment, Ismael Diop, prefect of the town Mbour and chairman of Antelope Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ASG IUCN), Dr. David Mallon, who led the discussion for all the three days.
Afterwards, the speech of director of National Parks of Senegal (DNP), Souleye Ndiaye, and representatives of neighbouring countries - Mali and Guinea – and delegate of Society for the Protection of Environment and Fauna of Senegal (SPEFS), Georges Rezk followed. The initial section was ended by the founders of Derbianus CSAW, Dr. Karolína Brandlová and assoc. prof. Pavla Hejcmanová. The second half of the first day was dedicated to visiting the Bandia reserve, first out of the two reservations where antelopes are bred.
In following days participants of the symposium have debated on the present and the future of the Derby Elands and the biggest threats of the Western Derby Eland existence. They have discussed also the issue of endangered species conservation in general and their critical points. Representatives of two organizations caring about Eastern Giant Eland - White Oaks centre in Florida and Arabian Al Bustan - contributed with very interesting experience.
World experts and state representatives of seven countries mentioned many inspiring thoughts, suggestions and recommendations. Now it is necessary to process the outputs of the workshop into a compact strategy plan for the Western Derby Eland conservation and start with putting it into practise. A new beginning is ahead – we will be happy if you keep your goodwill towards us. Thank you!