In Senegal’s largest national park, where lions and elephants once roamed in great numbers, just a handful of larger beasts remain, habitats destroyed by fires lit by poachers, hit by cars on a multi-national highway, shot by hunters, scared off by illegal gold miners blowing up a mountain inside the park boundaries. A tiny band of over stretched, but committed rangers, supported by the international conservation group Panthera, do their best to protect them. And against the odds, they may succeed.
A herd of elephants have only just returned to the park, and the nearly extinct West African lions have been spotted more regularly by rangers of late.
Dionne Searcey and I saw a normal day in the life of Ranger Lt. Lang Halima Diedhiou at work recently: burning the brush around camp to prevent it from being enveloped by a nearby wildfire set by poachers; tracking an elephant herd and collecting their feces for sampling; collecting data from camera traps deep in the savanna down dusty red roads; and on the way back to camp, having to cut the throat of a dying antelope that had been hit by a truck on the highway.