The park is on the south bank of the Gambia River, 100 km from the coast. It is, by Gambian standards, a substantial area of unpopulated savanna, although seven villages lie close to its border. Most of the site is on a low-lying plateau which supports a degraded savanna dominated by open Combretum and Pterocarpus erinaceus woodland with occasional taller trees such as Adansonia digitata and Ceiba pentandra and a layer of Andropogon grasses. There are a few areas of more closed-canopy woodland on escarpments and near the village of Jali. Towards the river the plateau is cut by the tidal inlets of Jarin, Jali and Nganingkoi Bolons. Here there is a typical zonation from Mitragyna–Acacia woodland to saltmarsh, Avicennia mangrove and Rhizophora mangrove. The park extends to the bank of the river. There are several small watering holes below the escarpment and beyond these are saltmarsh, mangrove and narrow tidal mudflats.
See Box and Table 2 for species. The reserve is well studied ornithologically. The park is a stronghold of Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome species such as Myrmecocichla albifrons, Cisticola dorsti, C. rufus, Emberiza affinis and Plocepasser superciliosus, all of which have restricted distributions in The Gambia. It is also probably important for species dependent on closed-canopy savanna woodland such as Campephaga phoenicia and Coracina pectoralis. The park is notable for its diversity of raptors including Terathopius ecaudatus. The mangrove forests hold an important population of Poicephalus robustus, although it is uncertain whether they breed here or in Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve (GM008) on the opposite bank of the river. There are generally low numbers of waterbirds on the bolons and riverbank.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals of global conservation concern include Procolobus badius temminckii (EN); Trichechus senegalensis (VU) used to occur but may now be extinct.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The park was gazetted in 1987 and is managed by the DPWM. The main management efforts are to maintain the firebreak which surrounds the park, to educate villagers about the park’s functions and to restrict illegal grazing, felling and hunting. Poaching, however, is still a problem. At present few tourists visit the park, but the planned trails, camps and guides will, it is hoped, change this. There are also proposals for aid to support the surrounding villages in agroforestry and for ecotourism projects in the buffer zone of the park, so that nearby villagers can benefit from the existence of the park. There is a little permitted rice cultivation inside the park boundaries and villagers can gather minor forest products and some firewood.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kiang West National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 13/12/2019.