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UK Scientist Leads International Biodiversity Project to Save Gambian Wildlife and Ancient Forest

Originally published 22 December 2003

A University of Warwick scientist is tackling biodiversity problems on an international level by creating the new Darwin Field Station in Gambia’s largest and oldest nature reserve, which is set to promote national biodiversity awareness and sustainable tourism through training and education programmes. The project will address the lack of information about Gambian flora and fauna, and ensure vital biodiversity monitoring takes place.

The University of Warwick has received over £160,000 from Defra to aid the creation of The Darwin Field Station for Biodiversity Research & Training at Abuko Nature Reserve in the Gambia, which has some of the last remaining ancient pristine gallery forest.

The Abuko Nature Reserve is the Gambia’s largest, oldest and best-known reserve. The 260 acre reserve harbors a great diversity of plant and animal species, many of which are rare. The new project will preserve the diversity of life by protecting the environment they need to survive.

Dr Susan Barker, from the University of Warwick’s Institute of Education, and Project Director for The Darwin Field Station project, said: “West Africa generally, and particularly the Gambia, are ecologically understudied areas, as they don’t contain any predefined ‘biodiversity hotspots’ – so there’s little information about biodiversity, despite the country’s rich mix of flora and fauna."

“This project will address the serious lack of information in Gambia to promote biodiversity, with training being given to government, non-government organisations and local communities about ecology, biodiversity assessment and protection. The field station will begin ecological research and the long-term monitoring of flora and fauna, and a digital wildlife photographic database will be developed, to facilitate public awareness. Publications about Gambian flora and fauna will be produced for distribution to schools, government departments and students – including leaflets and field guides. These measures will improve public awareness at all levels and support Gambian biodiversity for years to come.”

The project will run for over 3 years and is set to provide long-term benefits to the region following the UK’s contribution.

For more information contact:

Dr Susan Barker,
University of Warwick,
Institute of Education,
Tel: 02476 523 897/ 01789 721 376,
Mobile: 07779 716 348

Jenny Murray,
Communications Office,
University of Warwick,
Tel: 02476 574 255,
Mobile: 07876 217 740

For more information on the Darwin Initiative go to