From his canoe, Faye Ndiaga surveys the mammals, birds, reptiles and flora living along Senegal’s mangrove-dotted river banks. He wants to ensure the fragile ecosystem is around for future generations to enjoy.
“I don’t want to wait for an animal species to be endangered to bring protection,” he says. “Some animal species like the rhinoceros are endangered and the struggle to protect them is hard because we did not try to do that earlier,” says the 29-year-old YALI Network member who hopes to work in Senegal’s tourism industry or with a nonprofit devoted to wildlife and environmental protection.
Senegal stretches from the semiarid Sahel savanna in the north to tropical forest with in the south. It spans wooded hills in the southeast to mangrove-lined estuaries on the Atlantic. The country’s wildlife includes terns, lions, elephants, giraffes, hippopotamus, manatees, turtles and gazelles. It hosts a variety of coastal birds and wetland and grassland waterfowl. Reptiles range from snakes, lizards and crocodile species.
Ndiaga thinks his nation is ideal for a diverse industry devoted to hosting guests that appreciate its cultural and environmental resources. Already a tourist destination for many Europeans, Senegal has the potential to attract even more visitors from the United States and Asia and to create “green” jobs, he believes.
“My goal is to polish the image of Senegal,” Ndiaga says, adding that “if we want to develop ecotourism, we must protect the wildlife.”
The environmentalist says that by raising public awareness of the need to protect endangered species, Senegal can avoid harmful practices like the unnecessary hunting of migratory birds. He stresses that protecting natural resources is the responsibility of all nations. “Protect animals before they are endangered,” Ndiaga implores.
Ndiaga’s dream for a responsibly-developed ecotourism industry in Senegal has support. He notes that Senegal’s government acts to protect the environment in several ways. It “encourages its citizens to work more to protect the environment,” protects its parks and wildlife reserves through a national forest agency, and provides safe refuge to endangered species imported from other countries, he says.