Swing open the main gate at Senegal’s Ferlo North Wildlife Reserve and a broad avenue greets you, unfolding for more than two miles across an idyllic African landscape.
The landscape is idyllic because it has been rehabilitated. It now flourishes with abundant native grasses and trees. The broad avenue passing through it is Boulevard Christine Stevens, so named during a festive ceremony on April 22 to honor AWI’s founder and first president.
“Boul Christine” as it is quickly becoming known, is an important thoroughfare. It provides wildlife rangers with direct access to the reserve’s core. It is broad because it also serves as a firebreak. By next year, it should stretch nearly six miles into the expanding reserve.
The boulevard’s new moniker is a gesture of goodwill and friendship from AWI’s Senegalese partners—an acknowledgment of AWI’s energetic efforts to help create a sanctuary for endangered wild animals, restore the habitat where they live, and cultivate enduring friendly relations with the Fulani villagers who live near the reserve. (See AWI Quarterly, fall 2017.)
The Honorable Amédoune Diop, prefect of the Ranérou Ferlo Department, and Colonel Abdoulaye Diop, director of national parks, unveiled a Senagalese-style hand-painted road marker at the ceremony. Dozens of other dignitaries were in attendance, some of them making the arduous 10-hour journey from the coastal capital of Dakar for the event. One of the country’s most popular reporters, Fatoumata Banel Bamba, from Senegal’s public broadcasting company, Radiodiffusion Télévision Sénégalaise, was also there. Her report of the event was broadcast on national radio and television as part of the 8:00 p.m. evening news two days later. As a result, the Ferlo project and AWI’s involvement are now widely known throughout Senegal.
The Ferlo is within the Sahel, a fragile sub-Saharan savanna that stretches 1.18 million square miles across Africa and suffers throughout from the twin evils of overgrazing and climate change. Doing nothing to reverse the crisis would be catastrophic. AWI’s partnership with Senegal’s National Parks Directorate is demonstrating a new approach that can restore the natural landscape, help wildlife to recover, and provide the human community with a more hospitable place to live.