Archive for the
‘Blog’

September 30, 2022

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Categories: Blog, Stories

Dear readers,

We are really happy to introduce you to the 30th issue of Sandscript, the bi-annual publication of SaharaConservation.

On this occasion, Sandscript has a new look, but also a new style: for the first time, you will be able to find in our magazine a thematic approach to conservation.

This issue is dedicated to the veterinary aspects of conservation and the invaluable contributions that veterinarians make to SaharaConservation projects in Chad. read more

September 14, 2021

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Categories: Blog

Dans le cadre du projet d’appui à l’aménagement de la Réserve de Faune de Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim co-financé par l’Union européenne, le Sahara Conservation Fund, en collaboration avec la Direction de la Conservation de la Faune et des Aires Protégées, développe un plan d’aménagement afin d’aider à la gestion durable de sa biodiversité. En octobre 2020, des missions de collectes de données et d’informations sur différentes thématiques accès sur les activités humaines ont eu lieu. Des informations et données nécessaires permettant d’équilibrer la quantité d’informations disponibles sur la connaissance de la faune dans la réserve. Etant une action concertée d’organisation, de planification et de gestion d’un espace et de ses ressources, le plan d’aménagement implique la participation des acteurs locaux.

L’information joue un rôle important dans l’élaboration et la mise en œuvre d’un tel outil de gestion. La présentation d’une information, précise et utile peut trancher entre un résultat souhaitable et un résultat médiocre, voire préjudiciable. Ainsi la cartographie est de plus en plus utilisée dans la prise de décisions, notamment en matière de planification et de gestion des ressources naturelles.

   

Visualisation spatiale de la répartition des ressources naturelles et des activités humaines

Les cartes représentent un outil adéquat de présentation de l’information, mais aussi une base permettant l’expression des idées et la représentation des connaissances ‘’théoriques’’. Nous appelons cela « la cartographie à vue d’acteur ou carte participative ». Dans le processus d’élaboration du plan de gestion, nous réunissons quelquefois les acteurs locaux et leur demandant de placer selon leurs connaissances théoriques du milieu, les différentes infrastructures existantes et zones d’activités humaines. Cette carte dessinée à la main sert ensuite de support dans les différentes séquences de collecte de données thématiques. Cette méthode a servi notamment à définir après géo-référencement, le réseau d’itinéraires de transhumance qui traverse la réserve, les points d’eau, les zones de concentrations des éleveurs en différentes saisons… Ces informations représentées sur une carte et croisées avec les données de répartition de la faune, contribuent à améliorer la transparence du processus décisionnel public (le débat du zonage).

C’est-à-dire que la représentation cartographique complète (réunissant toutes les thématiques), nous a permis d’établir et d’appliquer les critères objectifs de sélection ou de catégorisation pour les différents scénarios de zonages, ce qui contribuera donc à améliorer la transparence et la participation de tous les acteurs.

La lecture et l’analyse visuelle des informations représentées sur ces cartes permet donc de planifier et d’orienter les actions en matière de gestion.

Il convient de dire que la représentation d’informations plus précises sur la superficie, les limites, les ressources naturelles et les infrastructures existantes, fournit une base plus équitable pour la discussion et la prise de décision objectif.

June 14, 2021

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Categories: Blog

“Animals of Niger,” an exhibition of work by the artist Manon Raman, was held on May 22 and 23, 2021 at the Taweydo Gallery in Niamey, Niger. The public was able to admire a selection of paintings portraying various Nigerien species. After the show ended, Manon Raman made the very generous decision to donate 25% of profits from sales of her work to the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF), turning the art event into a chance to take action in support of conservation of the most endangered Sahelo-Saharian species in Niger. As Henri Matisse put it so aptly, “Painting should serve some other purpose than just painting.”

Manon Raman’s paintings are inspired by her environment. Fascinated by the traditional garments worn by Nigerien women, she incorporates their colors into her artwork. The lively hues are in sharp contrast with the generally more neutral Saharan landscapes, inviting us to look at the subjects with a fresh eye. As though she were telling the story of her life in Niger, Manon Raman’s work portrays her relationship to the people, the environment, and especially the animals present in this part of the world. An encounter between art and nature that made it possible to put several species that are dear to SCF in the spotlight. Although conservation work involves a wide range of sciences and scientists, this exhibit reminds us that it can also draw inspiration from other perspectives. By magnifying her vision of the animals of Niger, the artist provides a certain interpretation of the relationship between humans and nature – one that is brimming with emotion, bursting with color and overflowing with admiration. So it makes perfect sense for SCF to give pride of place to Manon Raman’s endeavor through the interview below.

                                

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I started out studying to be a director at the Belgian Royal Institute of Theater, Cinema and Sound, but soon realized that I wanted to work more with my hands. So I learned to do make-up for film, and worked in that field for a while. My interest in painting started when I was 21. I wanted to apply to a school that focused on make-up. But to get in you needed a portfolio. I hadn’t any experience with drawing or painting of any sort up until then, so I decided that I had to learn fast. In the end, I didn’t wind up applying to the school, but I did end up with a newfound love for art and creating.

What are the main themes of your work?

I have always been drawn to painting women. I love the shapes of the female body and like to portray them in a colorful and abstract way. Lately I have been experimenting with other themes and subjects, but I think painting women will always have a special place in my heart.

What were your first sources of inspiration when you arrived in Niger?

When I first arrived in Niger, I was so inspired by the colorful clothing and headdresses the women here wear. I brought that color into my work immediately, and I don’t think it has ever gone away since.

                               

We aren’t used to seeing animals like the dama gazelle in paintings. What made you choose species like them? Is there something special about the species you paint? How do you choose which ones?

After I decided to paint animals for this specific project, I did a lot of research into what animals live in Niger. I had never even heard of a lot of them, so that was definitely interesting. As soon as I found out that the dama gazelle was the national symbol of Niger, I had to include it in this series, of course.

Some of your paintings portray birds we don’t necessarily see every day in Niamey and that are not well-known species. How did you pick them?

During my time in Niamey, I met a bird enthusiast, and he actually sent me a list of all the bird species that he knew were in Niger. I did some research on all of them and then picked the ones that appealed to me the most.

Your paintings portray animals in bright and vivid colors. They contrast with the more neutral, sandy tones of the Sahelo-Saharan landscape. Why did you choose to do that?

The idea of painting animals in bright colors is something that evolved quite naturally. After I had painted my first colorful elephant, I remember thinking, ‘How nice and original,’ and being quite proud of myself. Then a few weeks later, I took a trip to Tanzania, where there were colorful paintings of animals everywhere. Ha-ha!

In my time in Niamey I’ve visited a lot of people’s homes, and I’ve noticed that most of them lack color. So I made it my mission to bring more color into people’s lives, as a contrast with the neutral, sandy tones we can’t seem to escape.

                                

How did your exhibition go? How did you feel about it?

The exhibition was great! The first night we had an opening party, and a lot of people showed up, which made me feel really good. In the three days the show ran, we sold over half of the paintings, which is truly amazing.

I think part of the success is definitely thanks to the beautiful environment. The show was at Taweydo Gallery in Niamey, which (to my knowledge, anyway) is one of the only galleries in Niamey. The owner tries to keep things authentic by providing natural light and keeping a sand floor. It really added to the whole vibe.

This exhibition is a way of turning the page on your experience in Niger. How do you envision the next stage of your career, in New York? Are you planning to keep working on the same themes as during your time in Niger?

I’m not quite sure what the future will bring, but I will definitely keep on painting. My next exhibition will be in Ghent, and it is inspired by my time in Niger, but after that I have nothing planned. I think I will let myself get inspired by New York and just see what happens creatively.

By donating a portion of the sales to SCF, you managed to connect your art to concern for the ecology. Have you ever done anything like that before, and do you think you will strengthen that bond in the future? 

When there were floods due to heavy rainfall in Niamey last September, I organized a fundraiser with the Radisson Blu to raise money for people who were affected by the floods. As a Belgian woman in Niger, I feel very privileged, and the inequality often bothers me. Organizing events like that makes me feel like I’m helping, in my own small way. It isn’t going to move mountains, but if everybody helped a little bit, the world would become a better place.

More generally, how does your concern for nature, endangered species, and biodiversity play out in your art and your daily life?

I like to think of myself as an environmentally conscious person, but there is definitely room for improvement. Through this project, I have actually learned a lot about Nigerien wildlife and endangered species, and I hope that other people also learned a bit more about them from the exhibition.

Thank you very much!
For more information and news about Manon Raman, please visit her website: : https://www.manonraman.com/

March 23, 2021

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Categories: Blog

On a routine monitoring patrol in  late January 2021, SCF’s long term oryx monitoring team member Habib Ali, who has been with the project since the start, came across an untagged female oryx with a young calf at foot.  Judging by the horn development, he estimated the new calf was around one month old and he suspected it has not been encountered before. After entering the observation into the oryx data base he took a good photo of the pair to complete the record. The lack of any tags on the female clearly showed she was herself one of the first generation of oryx born in the wild since the oryx re-introduction project has begun, and now she too had a calf of her own.

But there was more, because the photo clearly showed two distinctive white spots on the face mask of the female. A quick check through the project’s photo library of individual oryx  confirmed that the spot pattern exactly matched an oryx we had seen before.  It became clear that the new mother is the first of three calves born on Chad to a founder female from Abu Dhabi and released in January 2017.  That female, wearing a satellite collar marked ‘36’ in red letters (giving her the rather dull identity code name ‘R36 F’) produced  her first calf in March  2018.  Logically, but equally dully, the calf became known as R36-01F.  More interestingly, although nothing unusual was noticed about her colouring as a new-born, by 3 months of age and still accompanying her mother, two  distinctive clean white spots appeared on the face mask of R36-01 as her adult coat colouring developed. Using these spot marks, the team were able to keep track of this wild born female on and off for the first 18 months of her life, but observations stopped in August 2019 – until Habib took his photo of R36-01 with her own first calf on 21 January 2021 – !!

Oryx R36-01F. Photos © Tim Wacher

Whilst gratifying in itself, this anecdote points the way to a number of very interesting questions about the oryx and their reintroduction that the project aims to answer.

March 2018, when our spotted female was born, was the middle of a very harsh and hot dry season.  Around 30% of females giving birth in that season experienced calf mortalites.  Not of itself unusual for wild ungulates in poor conditions.  But evidently R36 F successfully raised her first calf through that period. We also know that through the four weeks after R36-01 was born, the new mother and calf were seen (12 times) always in a group of 3, accompanied only by the adult male R23M.   Commonly a new conception occurs as a result of this ‘consortship’ behaviour.  But the records show clearly that in this instance, either R36 F did not conceive at all despite the consistent presence and courtship of R23M, or she aborted any resulting pregnancy at an early stage. That is sure because she did not produce her second calf  until 15 months later, when she formed a consortship with one of the biggest and oldest founder males, B40M.  Based on knowledge of average gestation lengths derived from zoo records, that means the second calf was not conceived until c. September in the late   2018 wet season. But her third calf arrived promptly 8.5 months later, confirming no delay in conception after giving birth in June 2019.

Oryx R36-01 and calf R36-01-01. Photo © Habib Ali

Assessing calf productivity and survival are both key measures of project success.  Thanks to EAD’s extensive collaring of founders, the project has  good preliminary estimates of successful calf production.  But the story of B36 F and her three calves to date illustrate how we are now getting into a position where a deeper understanding of the way season, and year to year variation in conditions may affect this, by analysing across the full set of known individuals over several years.  The natural markings of our 2 spotted oryx have allowed the project to confirm one  wild-born oryx has herself survived to breeding age.  But only because she can be recognised.  In order to obtain an estimate measure of the general rate of wild-born calf survival, the project introduced the wild calf ear tagging program in late 2019.  Since then (and ongoing), the team have tagged 41 wild born oryx calves.  And  R36 F’s third calf, probably a half-brother to R36-01, is among them, now wearing the green ear tag G1355.  Of course to assess the probabilities of survival to breeding age, we will have to keep looking for and recording all sightings of all these oryx  for at least the next 2-3 years as they mature to breeding age.  And there will be complications taking account of variation in  ‘findability’ of individual oryx, as satellite collars drop and ear tags may fall out.  But that is for the back room analysis! In the first instance we hope to record  as many cases of known wild-born oryx themselves with calves at foot or forming consortships as possible.

By Tim Wacher, John Newby

The Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme in Chad is a joint initiative of the Government of Chad and the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi. Under the overall leadership and management of the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi, on-the-ground implementation of the project is carried out by the Sahara Conservation Fund. In 2019, following a highly successful first phase of activities, EAD generously agreed to develop and fund a second five-year phase of operations. Phase II of the project maintains focus on building the oryx population but also adds new Sahelo-Saharan species to the mix, including the Critically Endangered addax antelope (Addax nasomaculatus), dama gazelle (Nanger dama), and North African ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus).