On January 31, 2011, the State Party submitted a brief report on the state of conservation of Niokolo-Koba National Park (NKNP). The report highlights some recent progress made in implementing the revised corrective measures adopted by the Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), and conveyed the decision of the State Party of Senegal to embark upon the Emergency Plan for the Rehabilitation of the NKNP (2011-2012) with funding of 3 billion CFA francs (4,573,470 Euros), to address urgent threats to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and integrity of the NKNP. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that three of the seven corrective measures adopted by the Committee are to be implemented before July 2011, two others must be addressed before July 2012 and the remaining two are to be completed before July 2013. Regarding the three corrective measures that were to be accomplished before the 35th session of the Committee, the report provides the following information:
a) Strengthen and implement the anti-poaching mechanism, based on combined aerial and land means
The State Party notes that the surveillance squads have been strengthened and that the anti-poaching strategy has been modified. Three mobile teams of eight officers are now deployed in high-pressure areas, each operating for ten days a month. Thus, a system for control of land-based poaching is currently operational. The State Party notes that this system, which began in December 2010, is made possible through IUCN support for a period of six months.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the progress made by the State Party to strengthen the anti-poaching mechanism of the NKNP. They believe that poaching remains one of the biggest threats to the property and it is crucial that the temporary mobile squads are maintained in the long-term and combined with aerial anti-poaching means.
b) Increase NKNP personnel and provide, as soon as possible, training for them focused on the protection of the NKNP, its integrated management, security regulations, and provide them with equipment essential to their mission
The report of the State Party notes that as regards increasing the staff, 35 new agents to heighten surveillance at the NKNP were recruited in December 2010. A training plan was developed to improve the ability of these agents, especially in the field of anti-poaching, wildlife management and participatory approach methods at the periphery of the park. This training is scheduled for March 2011. In addition, the State Party notes that the Emergency Rehabilitation Plan for the NKNP (2011-2012) will spend one billion CFA francs (1,524,490 Euros) to improve surveillance and development of the Park. The emergency plan foresees the development of the network of trails, and the rehabilitation, construction and equipping of guard posts, strengthening the surveillance means of the Park, and the improvement of working conditions for the agents. An IUCN mission that should lead to the development of a new management plan for the NKNP is being prepared for March 2011. This mission will also aim to provide information and training of personnel to manage the park for the establishment of a management plan tailored to the current situation.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the progress made by the State Party to increase the NKNP staff, and welcome its decision to make available to the Directorate of National Parks 3 billion CFA francs (4,573,470 Euros) for the implementation of an Emergency Rehabilitation Plan for the NKNP, to address urgent threats to the property.
c) Propose and implement real alternatives to the drilling of boreholes outside the Park to reduce the straying of livestock, in the overall context of seasonal migration in Senegal
The report of the State Party notes that the support of IUCN enabled the NKNP to hold regional forums in January 2011, in the three administrative regions of Kedougou, Kolda and Tambacounda. These forums provided the opportunity to meet local elected officials, administrative authorities, village chiefs, representatives of farmers and ranchers, and to discuss with NKNP managers issues relating to poaching, agricultural encroachment into NKNP, but also the crucial question of the straying livestock and seasonal migration. In addition, the African Union, through the IUCN, funded a project entitled "Livestock farming as a means of subsistence”: Strengthening the strategies for adaptation to climate change through improved management of the livestock-wildlife-environment interface" of which the NKNP is one of the beneficiaries, together with the Badiar National Park in Guinea, for a three-year pilot phase that will begin this year. The State Party notes that the implementation of the project will involve all stakeholders, in particular the Directorates of the National Parks of Niokolo-Koba (Senegal) and Badiar (Guinea), as well as the veterinary services of Tambacounda and Badiar (Koundara).
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the progress in the implementation of this corrective measure, although they also note that there is still no real alternative to the drilling of wells in the periphery of the property - wells that could concentrate the livestock around the Park and would lead to strong pressure on the pastures and Park.
d) Status of wildlife populations
In March 2011, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN received a report prepared by the Chief of the site, presenting an account of an aerial surveillance mission which occurred from 4 to 8 March 2011, to make a rapid estimate of the overall condition of the Park, the magnitude of the main pressures and the condition of the wildlife. For a total of 10 flying hours, 1300 km of transects were covered. The report finds that most of the known pressures on the ecosystem, such as the cutting of palmyra palms, straying livestock, circulation of trucks and bikes inside the Park, or the camping of poachers, seem to be in strong regression. This is considered to be the result of the strengthening of patrol operations, but nevertheless also because of the rapid decline of the natural resources which are exploited. Although the aerial survey was not a formal inventory, the methodology used was similar to that used for previous counts, and this survey has thus helped to make comparisons with previous results from 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2006. These comparisons show an alarming decline in the density of wildlife.
Some species appear to be in acute danger of extinction, if not already extinct, in particular, reedbuck, hartebeest, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, and Buffon’s cob. The report estimates that even if these species are present in certain parts of the property, the range of their distribution has decreased dramatically and only a few dozens or so of individuals remain, compared to hundreds or thousands a decade ago. The report notes that this situation is confirmed by the data of pedestrian ecological monitoring carried out since December. The report concludes that the Park has gradually been emptied of its big game, precipitating an imbalance of the ecosystem which cannot be corrected on its own.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are extremely concerned about these findings and reiterate the Committee's request to urgently undertake a complete inventory of wildlife in order to ascertain the status of OUV of the property. They recall that the Committee had requested the State Party to invite a monitoring mission as soon as the census of key species of fauna of the property is available. They note that the State Party had submitted a first proposal for a wildlife inventory of the property in 2009, but that it had raised issues of methodology to enable comparisons with previous inventories.
e) Other conservation problems - basalt quarry and dam at Sambanglou
The report of the survey indicates the presence of a basalt quarry inside the NKNP. The quarry comprises two major mining sites, with the presence of different machines and a wide access road. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that this operation is not compatible with the World Heritage status of the property and consider that it should be closed as soon as possible, and that the site should be rehabilitated.
The report of the State Party does not give information about the dam project at Sambanglou and its impact on the property, as requested by the Committee at its 34th session. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are still very concerned about this project, and recall the Committee's request to present a specific study of the impacts of this dam on the OUV of the property, notably on the possible reduction of the areas of gallery-forests and palmyra palm forests, the river-crossings of the big wildlife and on the water supply to flood basins and ponds in the property before making a decision on its construction, in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines (Decision 34 COM 7A.11). They note that any study should consider other alternatives to this dam.