The reserve lies on the Atlantic coast, 15 km to the south-west of the main tourist centres of Fajara and Bakau and 1 km from the expanding town of Brufut. The reserve boundary encloses the tidal, saline reaches of the small Tanji river, which is bordered by 2 km2 of low mangrove forest, saltmarsh and mudflats. Longshore drift creates a shifting channel for the river as it reaches the ocean and is blocked by a sand beach parallel to the land. This has also created several small lagoons between the river’s mouth and Cape Point. The point is the landward limit of a lateritic outcrop which reappears 2 km offshore to form the tiny Bijol Islands, which are included in the reserve. The two unstable islands are accumulations of sand trapped by laterite reefs. They were formerly lightly wooded, disappeared in the 1960s and have gradually reformed since then. The main island is now vegetated with the creeping halophytes Ipomoea pes-caprae and Sesuvium portulacastrum. The remainder of the mainland reserve is degraded savanna and stabilized sand-dunes, the latter with wooded grassland dominated by Parinari macrophylla. There are tiny patches of forest.
See Box for key species. The Bijol Islands and the mouth of the Tanji river are the most important sites in the country for flocks of most species of gulls and terns and occasionally hold more than 20,000 waterbirds. The islands also hold the only known breeding site in The Gambia for Sterna caspia, S. maxima and Larus cirrocephalus (up to 238 pairs). Larus fuscus and Sterna caspia predominate in winter. Larus audouinii was known from occasional counts of fewer than 10 birds on passage and in winter during the 1990s although there was an unprecedented count of 404 on the Bijol Islands in February 1998. Pelecanus onocrotalus has recently begun to roost in hundreds on the Bijol Islands and Charadrius marginatus probably breeds both here and on the mainland. It is suspected that the success of the island’s breeding population of Sterna caspia is low, due to disturbance. The diversity of breeding and migrant birds is impressive, due to Tanji’s position on a headland and the range of habitats. Regular observations have shown it to be the richest site for birds, measured by the number of species recorded, in The Gambia.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals of global conservation concern include Procolobus badius temminckii (EN), while Monachus monachus (CR) and the dolphins Sousa teuzsii (DD) and Tursiops truncatus (DD) occur in the surrounding waters. The turtle Chelonia mydas (EN) is regular offshore and breeds on the Bijol Islands.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The reserve was gazetted in 1993, is managed by the DPWM and is staffed with rangers and a reserve manager. The reserve has a headquarters and trails have been cut through the scrub. The fishing villages of Tanji and Ghana Town are situated at the edge of the reserve and both have large artisanal fleets and fish-curing sites on the beaches, which provide for both the Gambian market and export, particularly of shark meat, to Ghana. There is little cultivation within the reserve, but the demand for firewood for fish smoking is met by tree-felling and the cutting of the roots of mature trees so that the dead wood can be legitimately gathered. Ungulates are hunted on the mainland and turtles are hunted, or killed as by-catch, offshore. Tanji village is becoming a popular tourist resort. The Bijol Islands may, officially, only be visited for research purposes; however, they are regularly disturbed by tourists and also fishermen, who illegally collect tern and gull eggs. The effects of these activities on the birdlife have not been quantified, but are likely to increase as the entire coast south of the Gambia River, excluding the reserve, is zoned for tourist development.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Tanji River (Karinti) Bird Reserve. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 11/07/2020.