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Rewilding The Sahara and The Sahel

On February 8, 2023, ABCG and the African Wildlife Foundation hosted a presentation by SaharaConservation on the efforts to rewild the Sahara and the Sahel. SaharaConservation is the only international nonprofit dedicated to conserve the wildlife, habitats, and other natural resources of the Sahel and the Sahara.

SaharaConservation’s John Watkin, Chief Executive Officer, and Cloé Pourchier, Program Officer shared the organization’s work, their achievements in rewilding the Sahara, next opportunities, and the threats facing biodiversity.

For the past two decades, SaharaConservation has worked to champion the unique wildlife of the world’s greatest desert landscape. They have worked to protect the last remnant populations of Critically Endangered species including the addax and the starkly patterned dama gazelle, and in more recent years pivoted to large-scale rewilding through translocations and reintroductions.

Rewilding in Chad

As a result of the organization’s rewilding efforts, today over 500 scimitar-horned oryx roam free across the grasslands of central Chad’s Réserve de Faune de Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim, after being extinct in the wild for nearly 30 years. Alongside them are addax (also reintroduced in Chad), dama gazelles, North African ostrich, and many thousands of dorcas gazelles.

Securing a healthy population of scimitar-horned oryx is a long-term commitment and needs to be considered carefully as the balance could be quickly overthrown. Fire, land use, desertification, disease, over-grazing, and security, are some of the threats faced by wildlife in Chad.

Achievements in Niger

In Niger, SaharaConservation has successfully spearheaded two translocations of West African giraffes to Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve, in collaboration with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, and captive breeding of North African ostriches (extinct in the wild in Niger). SaharaConservation and partners are currently assessing the most effective ways to conserve a sub-population of dama gazelle, as well as tackling threats to six species of endangered vultures.

The lack of data, capacity and resources are an obstacle to the protection of vultures and dama. The organization believes that it has a key role to play in accelerating progress in these extraordinary landscapes. They emphasize the need for scaled up, landscape-level approaches, that integrate wildlife conservation with the realities of human development, with a vision for a Sahara that benefits all inhabitants.

Click below to watch the recording

Click here to download the event presentation, Rewilding The Sahara and The Sahel