Abuko is a small area of fenced forest and woodland located on the main south bank road, 3 km from the edge of the main urban centre of Serekunda. The Lamin stream flows through the centre of the reserve. Bordering the stream is the largest and most botanically rich example of semi-evergreen forest in the country. Forest covers approximately one third of the area of the reserve. Characteristic canopy tree species are Elaeis guineensis, Khaya senegalensis, Erythrophleum guineense, Chlorophora regia and Anthocleista procera. There is an abundance of lianas and a dense understorey in more open areas, smothered by the climber Saba senegalensis. Away from the stream the forest merges into savanna woodland. There are several pools and patches of tall swamp vegetation along the lower reaches of the stream.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The reserve is probably the most intensively birdwatched forest in West Africa. Abuko has the richest assemblage in the country of species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome. Characteristic species which are locally common here include Tauraco persa, Tockus fasciatus, Andropadus virens,Hylia prasina, Apalis flavida and Terpsiphone rufiventer. Other notable breeding species include Gorsachius leuconotus and Accipiter tachiro. In addition, one species of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome occurs; see Table 2.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals of global conservation concern include Procolobus badius temminckii (EN). Abuko is the only breeding locality known in the country for the crocodile Osteolaemus tetrapsis (VU).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The reserve was protected as a water catchment area in 1916 and became The Gambia’s first gazetted protected area in 1968. It is managed by the DPWM solely for wildlife and visitors. The main efforts are to maintain the boundary fence, buildings, orphanage, hides and trails. No livestock-grazing or extraction of timber and forest products are permitted. Land-use is also controlled in a narrow buffer zone around the reserve. Inside the reserve is an animal orphanage, an education centre and hides. The reserve is the most visited tourist attraction in the country. More than one third of the 100,000 or so tourists who visit the country each year come to Abuko. The reserve is also regularly visited by school parties and used for environmental education. The headquarters of the DPWM is in the reserve buffer zone. The introduced plant Lantana camara is abundant in the understorey and may be suppressing the regeneration of native trees. More disturbing is the die-back of mature forest trees, most noticeably Elaeis guineensis and Anthocleista procera, and the poor growth of saplings of these species. It is thought that this is due to a lowering of the water-table, caused either by reduced rainfall or increased groundwater abstraction, resulting in a contraction of the forest edge towards Lamin stream and an expansion of the savanna woodland.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Abuko Nature Reserve. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 13/04/2021.