Czech footprints in the Senegalese countryside: the rescue of the Derby Antelope and the wintering of Black Storks in Senegal

Bandia and Fathala National Parks are two nature reserves in Senegal that play an important role in saving the critically endangered western Derby antelope subspecies. This antelope is one of the largest and most beautiful antelopes in the world and lives in open savannas with dense vegetation. Males can grow up to 180 cm at the withers, females around 150 cm. The weight of males reaches 450-907 kg, females have around 440 kg. Both sexes have spirally curled horns, which are more massive in the case of males and grow to lengths of 80-123 cm. Poachers and habitat destruction are putting a strain on the last wild population of this subspecies, which numbers less than 200 in the Niokolo-Koba National Park.

That is why a rescue program was launched in 2000 under the leadership of experts and students from the Faculty of Tropical Agriculture of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, which consists of breeding Derby antelopes in the Bandia and Fathala reserves. From nine individuals that were captured from the wild and placed in a conservation area in the Bandia Reserve, the number of these animals has grown to more than sixty. Another reserve for Derby's antelope was opened in Fathala Reserve in 2012, where twenty more individuals are now located.

The aim of the program is not only to ensure the long-term genetic and demographic stability of breeding herds but also to prepare the conditions for the return of these antelopes to the wild. This requires cooperation with local communities, nature protection authorities, and other partners. The Bandia and Fathala Reserves thus represent hope for a breathtaking animal species that might otherwise disappear forever.

Another trace of Czech biologists in Senegal is the monitoring of Black Storks from the Czech Republic, which were observed on their migration as part of the African Odyssey project. The use of satellite tracking to confirm our Black Storks' wintering sites in West Africa was a significant scientific contribution of this project. In addition, the wintering of other ringed storks was confirmed in later years. Black storks winter singly or in small groups in different places in Senegal and often return several years in a row to the same places. As the crow flies, the wintering grounds are almost 5000 km away from the nesting grounds in the Czech Republic. The real migration routes are of course longer, for example, the journey of the first observed stork named Kristýna mapped by satellite was 6300 km long.

So, when you go to Senegal, don't forget to visit at least one of the Bandia or Fathala national parks and see for yourself the amazing Derby Antelopes, which are managed to be saved thanks to Czech-Senegalese cooperation. And visit one of the bird reserves - for example Laguna Somone, where many birds nest in an area of almost 700 hectares. And who knows, you might even see a Black Stork :-)