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Rare monkeys and lizards owe their lives to 12,000 wheel barrows of concrete

Researchers at the University of Warwick are celebrating the success of the first year of the Darwin Field Station in The Gambia's Abuko Nature Reserve. The building required four months of full time labour and over 12,000 wheelbarrow loads of concrete, sand and stone (wheeled up a steep 300 metre path) to complete and is now playing a vital role in protecting a range of rare animals.

The Centre, jointly managed by the University of Warwick and the Makasutu Wildlife Trust, was officially opened on October 20th 2004 by Gambia's Permanent Secretary for Natural Resources, and the event was broadcast on national radio. In just one short year the Centre has made a massive impact on the understanding and promotion of biodiversity in the Gambia. The Centre has trained over 50 senior Gambian government managers in biodiversity awareness and now even has a regular column in the national Gambian newspaper, "The Daily Observer".

The Darwin Centre is undertaking research projects to support the conservation of scarce species in West Africa, such as the Red Colobus Monkey. Dr Linda Barnett from the University of Warwick, the Darwin Initiative project coordinator, tells us "the reserve has a healthy population of 170 Red Colobus Monkeys, and their total population across Africa is only 10,000". Extensive research into the biodiversity of amphibians and reptiles is also being carried out. One exciting discovery has been the presence of the phrynobatrachus calcaratus, a type of amphibian previously unrecorded in The Gambia. The Darwin Field Station hopes to become part of a chain of research centres that undertakes studies into the conservation of reptile and amphibian biodiversity.

Dr Barnett has just arrived back in the UK for a very short visit but can be contacted over the next few days via Peter Dunn as in the contacts listed below:

Note for editors: The Darwin Initiative is a small grants programme, which aims to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of resources in less developed countries. The Initiative is funded by the UK department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (DEFRA).

For further information contact:

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523708

PR149 PJD 17th November 2004