Born Free has recently funded a 3-day programme of conservation awareness-raising in South-East Mauritania, on the West Coast of Africa. In the heart of the Sahara desert, Mauritania is an extremely arid country where wildlife has suffered badly in the in the last few years due to drought, desertification, and poaching. Giraffes, oryx, Damaliscus (a type of antelope) and Sable have all become locally extinct, whilst the Dama gazelle, Dorcas gazelle and Addax are all threatened with the same fate.
Efforts were focused on the Mauritania-Mali border in Timbedra, Nema and Bouteilla - the three most densely populated areas in the region, characterised by high numbers of poachers and burgeoning markets where arms, bushmeat and other wildlife by-products are openly traded.
With the support of local government authorities, police and community leaders, discussions were held with farmers, hunters, women and children to highlight the role of wildlife in the country’s economy, and underline the decline in populations due to poaching. The overwhelming majority of people attending the meetings reacted positively to being included in such matters, and urged their regional representatives to roll out similar educational programmes – which had opened many people’s eyes to issues about which they previously knew or cared little - on a national scale to address the problem more comprehensively. The conservation of Mauritania’s endangered wildlife is often over-looked and heavily under-funded, so Born Free was very pleased to be able to support this important initiative.