MY RESPPONSE TO THE PRESENCE OF CROCODILES IN THE BANJUL SWAMPS
It was brought to my attention by GRTS reporters, who wanted an interview with me, that crocodiles have been surfacing in the canal that runs through the outlying swamps in the northern part of the Capital City of Banjul and in their large numbers. The areas where the said crocodiles have been spotted are within Banjul North which is the constituency I represent. I was also informed that photos of the said crocodiles at different locations in the area have even been taken and posted on social media platforms to show proof of their presence. This issue was reported to me as a matter of public concern which needs urgent attention and action as the reported presence of these crocodiles in the said area can pose a threat, particularly to the lives of both the residents of Tobacco Road who live in close proximity as well as their small ruminants and fowls.
Once I got wind of the information about the crocodiles, I felt obliged as the National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North (the concern area) to immediately make enquiries from the constituents or residents of the area with a view to ascertaining its veracity. Although, this was not the first time I heard about the presence of crocodiles in the swamps in Banjul but the scale in which they are said to have infested the place which is very close to a residential area, is quite unexpected and a matter of urgent concern. However, my enquiries eventually confirmed that the crocodiles now inhabit the open drainage canal from the Box Bar Road end and right through the swamps and have also scattered all over the place from behind the National Assembly Complex up to the Bund Polder Station area.
As the National Assembly Member for Banjul North, I therefore considered it my duty and responsibility to immediately take interest and commence efforts towards addressing the issue of the crocodiles in the swamps in Banjul to alert the concern authorities in order to avert any eventual serious incident as a result of these dangerous animals coming into direct contact with human beings.
Considering its urgency, the first move I made was to immediately visit the appropriate authority on wildlife related matters and which is the Ministry of Environment and the Department of Parks and Wildlife in order to formally report the issue and to request for their intervention.
The suggestions I made for the crocodiles to be relocated to a more appropriate habitat or a safe haven or to even cordon off the place or confine them to an area where they will not endanger any life or be in danger are just opinions. It is only the Department of Parks and Wildlife that can determine the most appropriate approach to be taken. However, my concern and interest is that with any cause of action to be undertaken, we should ensure that the lives of human beings are safe as well as the crocodiles.
I wish to report that the response of the Ministry of the Environment was positive and swift. The Permanent Secretary, Mr. Saikou K. Sanyang, welcomed my intervention and immediately requested the Parks and Wildlife to send a team to visit the area in question with the view to ascertain the presence of the crocodiles in order to the address the situation appropriately and as soon as possible. A letter was written to that effect and which was copied to the Secretary General, PS Lands and Regional Government, Mayor of Banjul as well as the National Assembly Member for Banjul North.
I guided the Parks and Wildlife team that was sent to visit the area and also provided the escorts who showed them round. I was reliably informed by the officials that, while at the swamps, the team was not fortunate to sight any crocodile but could confirm the footprints and tail markings of the crocodiles on the ground. According to the officials in their post-visit report, they are studying the area to be able to determine the appropriate actions to be undertaken. I also wish to mention the concern demonstrated by Messrs. Saho and Darboe of Parks and Wildlife as well as the other members of the visiting team.
This was also confirmed by Hon. Lamin Dibba, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, while responding to the issue of the crocodiles in Banjul which was also raised at the floor of the National Assembly by the Hon. Muhammed Ndow, National Assembly Member for Banjul Central, during the adjournment debate on Friday, 4 October, 2019. The Minister hailed the swift move taken by the Banjul North NAM in contacting the officials of his ministry which he was informed about while abroad, describing it as responsive leadership in action. He gave assurance that all the necessary actions will be taken by the ministry and partners to ensure that the issue is appropriately and adequately addressed.
To conclude, I wish to inform the residents of Campama Estate or Tobacco Road in Banjul North, in particular, and those living in other parts of the city bordering with the ‘Tanbi’ Wetland that the issue of the crocodiles has been reported to the appropriate authorities for action and will be doing the necessary follow-up and to give them support wherever and whenever it is needed from me. However, as it stands now there is no cause for alarm but caution should be applied to avoid encroachment, especially the kids who use the area as a playground.
I also wish to reassure the people of Banjul North, in particular, and the Gambia, in general, that since I asked for the mandate to serve you, your welfare will always be my concern and that I will be discharging this responsibility to the best of my ability.
National Assembly Member (NAM)