Forest National Park (Pirang Bonto Eco-tourism Community Project)
lies to the south east of Banjul
Airport (coordinates: 13° 15' 38" N - 16° 32'
8" W) and north east of the village of Pirang (population:
2,500) and is easily accessed from the southern highway.
It is a small isolated forest of about 64ha in extent, surrounded
by a variety of habitats including extensive salt flats, mangroves
and Phragmites parkia stands to the north, vegetable gardens
to the west, agricultural land to the east and south and a small
community of people in the south east (Emms and Barnett 2004).
Even in the middle of the day the high gallery forest remains
relatively cool and peaceful. It is protected by the local community
as a preserve for the practice of traditional community ceremonies
and rites. Most of the shrubs and many trees are used in traditional
medicine as local knowledge in the village about herbal remedies
goes back many years.
Pirang Bonto Forest is the best and most impressive example of
gallery forest in The Gambia. The combination of well-preserved
forest and a wide range of habitats nearby means that bird species
can be seen. This includes many forest specialists with limited
distributions including white-spotted flufftail, African wood
owl (see picture 1 below), western little sparrowhawk, great sparrowhawk,
ahanta francolin, green turaco, yellowbill, buff-spotted woodpecker,
red-shouldered cuckoo shrike, little greenbul, swamp palm greenbul,
leaflove, grey-headed bristlebill, yellow-breasted apalis, yellow-bellied
hyliota, green hylia, collared sunbird, green-headed sunbird,
chestnut-breasted negrofinch, western bluebill and brown-necked
parrot (Emms and Barnett 2004). It is also the only site in The
Gambia for Puvelís illadopsis.
Picture 1: African wood owl (courtesy of Guy Broome)
Many other less restricted species occur and it is one of the
best places to get good views of African Pied Hornbill (see picture
2). It is also close to Pirang shrimp farm, home to a wide range
of waterbirds including Black-crowned crane.
Picture 2: African pied hornbill (courtesy of Guy Broome)
The forest and forest edge are one of the 2 best sites for butterflies
in The Gambia (with Abuko) with 84 species recorded including
the large and impressive bostin blue (large numbers in Nov-Dec)
which can be found nowhere else in The Gambia (see picture 3).
Picture 3: Blue bostin (also called widespread forester) - courtesy
of Guy Broome)
The mammal fauna is very rich; however, they can be hard to see
as a result of persecution. Increased protection by the communities
and a recent injunction against a local hunter should lead to
the recovery of populations of many species. 3 species of monkey
are known to occur, with green, patas (picture 4) and the critically
endangered Temminckís red colobus all present, albeit in small
Picture 4: Patas monkeys drinking in Pirang Bonto forest (courtesy
of University of Cumbria)
Several small carnivores are known to occur (largely from camera-traps)
including Gambian mongoose (often visible foraging in groups in
the daytime) as well as white-tailed, ichneumon and marsh mongooses.
Hausa (picture 5) and pardine genets hunt at night as does African
civet, and the forest is one of only 3 in The Gambia that has
two-spotted palm civet. Small numbers of Bushbuck are present
but these can be hard to see and cape clawless otters are present
in the mangroves. Sun squirrels are common throughout and easy
Picture 5: Hausa genet (courtesy of University of Cumbria)
Reptiles are varied and often impressive and include forest cobra,
rock python, green mamba and Senegal chameleon. There is also
talk of re-introducing west African dwarf crocodile in coming
The forest is criss-crossed by trails and two new waterholes should
help visitors to see some of the shyer species in the forest.
Visiting Pirang Bonto will encourage the efforts of the local
villages to preserve and improve this largest remnant of native
forest in The Gambia. To learn more about these activities and
for expert guidance from the forestís best friend, contact Kawsu
on (220)9887198 or (220)2076134.
The forest can be reached in less than 1 hour from the coastal
resorts of Kololi and Kotu.
Abuko Nature Reserve
Makasutu Cultural Forest