Sahara Conservation is a pioneering international conservation organisation working at the forefront of efforts to save the threatened wildlife of the Sahara and Sahel. Since its inception in 2004, Sahara Conservation has helped protect and restore unique desert antelopes such as the addax and scimitar-horned oryx, established one of the world’s largest protected areas in Niger, implemented a recovery program for the world’s largest bird, the North African ostrich, and put Saharan wildlife on the global conservation agenda through a combination of fieldwork, communication, and advocacy. read more
Once widespread in the Sahelo-Saharan region of Africa, the dama gazelle (Nanger dama) is now one of the continent’s most threatened antelope, classified as Critically Endangered by the UICN Red List, with less than 200 animals surviving in the wild. read more
In January 2020, a helicopter capture operation was conducted to translocate gazelles from the Manga region to the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim protected area in central Chad. By bringing back one male among the three captured gazelles, the rescue mission was a success, as a breeding group was created. With the birth of a second dama gazelle, we can hope that the group will progressively grow.
The joint efforts of the various stakeholders were rewarded with the birth of a second baby gazelle, a female. With so few individuals left in their original range, each birth is of vital importance and gives hope in the fight for the conservation of the species.
Since her birth, the little female is in good condition despite the very hot weather. The SCF teams are proud of this birth, proof that the work done is bearing fruit.
This was a key operation of the 2019-2028 dama gazelles conservation strategy. In order to prevent the extinction of these gazelles, the Chadian government along with the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF), the IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group, the Segré Foundation, Rewild, and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, have partnered to carry out this operation. The current population numbers less than 100 individuals in the wild, indicating an unprecedented urgency for the preservation and transmission of the wild genes of these animals.
Experts are studying the possibility of translocating dama gazelles from zoos and other parts of the world to expand the group. In collaboration with the SCF team, they are working on the best way to prolong the benefit of this rescue operation, so that the group can flourish and strengthen the existing population.
Today, June 5, 2021, World Environment Day, marks the official beginning of a decisive period. Under the theme of ‘restoring ecosystems’, this well-known international day represents the launch of the United Nations Decade aimed at restoring the biological systems that underpin all life on Earth. The United Nations calls all countries of the world to unite to protect and restore ecosystem services for the benefit of nature and people, and will run from 2021 to 2030, the target date for achieving the Global Sustainable Development Goals.
Scientists state that this is the last window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change. It is now essential to stop the degradation of the various environments on the planet, and restore them.
Covering an area of 10 million square kilometers, equivalent to the size of continental United States or China, and comprising more than 2,000 plant species and hundreds of animal species, the Sahelo-Saharan zone encompasses a range of ecosystems including; dunes, mountains, rocky massifs, wadis, and oases, that are extremely valuable for global biodiversity. This realm is extraordinarily richer and more varied than we are used to believe.
The spectre of climate change is also expanding this arid zone by 2 million hectares annually. This expansion of the desert region negatively impacts the diversity of these desert environments and species. The degradation of the Sahelo-Saharan vegetation cover is a visible phenomenon and relatively well known to the general public. What is not as well-known is the increasing disappearance of animals that are emblematic of a whole cultural and natural human history from the landscape. Experts are increasingly concerned about the extinction of wild antelope and bird populations that have already been reduced to very small numbers in their Sahelo-Saharan distribution areas. Poaching, overharvesting of natural resources, and human pressure in general continue to exert their toll.
While the Sahara Conservation Fund and its partners are doing their part, as best as possible, to save species such as the scimitar-horned oryx, the dama gazelle, the addax, and the North African ostrich, it is worth remembering, on this day dedicated to ecosystem restoration and at the beginning of a crucial decade for our not-so-distant future, that everyone has a role to play.
Keep in mind that all ecosystems deserve to be conserved, even the most arid, and that, like the Sahelo-Saharan zone, some environmental areas represent an immense ecosystem of global importance.
We ask that you be passionate about little-known species, whose extinction is taking place in silence. Talk about it with your friends and family. If you can, make a donation, even a small one, to field workers, scientists, NGOs of your choice. Keep learning about, but also from, nature. Stay informed and involved. Either way: take part in #generationrestoration now.
The Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) continues to monitor breeding vulture populations in Niger in an effort to learn more about the ecology and threats of these highly threatened birds. Currently, monitoring activities are concentrated in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve in the Maradi region and the Koutous Massif in the Zinder region.
In early 2020, it was noticed that Rüppell’s vultures (Gyps rueppelli) in the Koutous Massif – which is not a protected area – seemed to initiate their breeding season well before those nesting in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve. This was confirmed during a mission to both areas in late December 2020, during which three Rüppell’s vultures were observed already sitting on eggs in the cliffs of the Koutous Massif, and no vultures at all in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve – likely because vultures are only observed in the Reserve during the breeding season. More studies are required in order to explain the phenomenon of early breeding in the Koutous, however it is interesting to note the difference in habitats and nesting sites between the two regions. Rüppell’s vultures are known to nest in cliffs and the tree nesting behavior is mostly considered « rare » by specialists – while it seems that it could be not that rare in the Sahelian region. further studies are still necessary to know more on the ecology and distribution of the Rüppell’s vultures of the Koutous Massif year-round.
Towards the end of February 2021, a second mission allowed the team to observe the first two chicks of the season in the Koutous. These individuals were found among the 13 active Rüppell’s vultures nests that had been previously identified. Rüppell’s vultures share their habitat with Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus), which have also begun to breed – a fact demonstrated by the observation of several incubating pairs.
Egyptian vultures in the Koutous Massif
During the same mission, the first active nests of the season in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve were also recorded, including two Rüppell’s nests and one white-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) nest – all being incubated. Unfortunately, this is a very low number and although it is hoped that more individuals will join the Reserve as the breeding season progresses, it may be an indication of a reduction in numbers for this Critically Endangered vulture population.
Rüppell’s vultures in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve
Future visits will allow the team to collect more information on Niger’s breeding population of vultures, hopefully shedding more light on their ecology and their status. Alongside this, efforts are being made to raise awareness of the situation among local communities, water and forestry officials, hunters and other stakeholders. With this in mind, a guide for the conservation of vultures in Niger (in French) was produced by SCF and distributed to the main actors involved in the protection and monitoring of the birds. It is hoped that this will be beneficial to vulture conservation efforts in the long run.