The Three Peaks challenge and wildlife education in The Gambia

It is amazing to think that in just three months time the two newly-hatched chicks in the Manton Bay nest will set off on an incredible 3000 mile journey. Satellite tracking and ringing studies, including our own, have shown that most European Ospreys migrate to the West coast of Africa – from Mauritania south to the Ivory Coast – for the winter. For this reason, it is vitally important that these areas are protected, not least because the lives of Ospreys are so intrinsically linked with humans; many of the communities in countries such as Gambia and Senegal rely on the sea for a living and, therefore, compete with Ospreys for fish. On our recent trips to West Africa myself and the team have often seen Ospreys diving for fish in amongst Gambian fishing boats.

Osprey fishing in The Gambia

For conservation to be successful in places such as West Africa it is clearly vital that children grow up respecting wildlife and understanding the economic benefits protecting it can bring; tourism is estimated to contribute around 18% of The Gambia’s GDP. With this in mind we recently set-up an education project in The Gambia aiming to show school children the wide and diverse bird life that their country supports. And it’s not just Ospreys that this work should benefit – millions of other migratory birds from Europe winter in the same areas as the Ospreys and we hope that the project will raise awareness of the incredible journeys many species from Europe udertake each year.

The education project is being co-ordinated in The Gambia by our friend and colleague Junkung Jadama. With help from Laibo and Colin Cross, Junkung recently took children from Tanji and Kartong schools out on birdwatching field trips. He’s just sent us a series of photos from the trips and it’s especially pleasing to see the children using the optics funded with money we raised last year. JJ tells us that they all had a great fun and learnt alot.

At present we’re running the project in three schools, but in time, we hope to extend it to cover as many schools as possible in The Gambia, and hopefully, further a field. In order to do this we need to raise money to cover the cost of fieldtrips, more optics and other education resources. And that’s where you can help! In June myself, Michelle Househam, Paul Stammers, Gavin Young and Chris Ditchburn will be attempting the Three Peaks challenge – climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in just 24 hours. In addition to the climbing we’ll also be giving talks on Osprey migration and our education work in West Africa at the Lake District Osprey Project at 12:30pm on 18th June, the Loch of the Lowes at 7:30pm the same day and at the Dyfi Osprey Project at 7:30pm once we’ve finished the challenge on 20th June. If you would like to sponsor us, you can do so by visiting our online fund-raising page. Any money you can give would be greatly appreciated.

It would also be great to see you at one of the talks if you happen to live near any of the three sites we’ll be visiting on the tour. We’ll be posting more details in the next few weeks leading up to the challenge.

Finally, a special thanks to Tim Norton Motors in Oakham who have kindly donated a minibus for us to use for the challenge.