The Wildlife & Wonder of Mali
By: Mike Jerrard
A harsh country with natural rugged beauty, Mali is a magical yet dangerous country. A country of stark contrasts, you have the Niger River which literally flows life to its inhabitants and the Sahara which continues to increase its empire as it makes its way southward stripping life in its path.
Mali has never been in a great position since gaining its independence from France. Rebellions, crippling droughts, and a long history of dictatorship, the country continues to suffer to this day like much of Africa.
Also like the rest of Africa however, it holds many incredibly beautiful landscapes which are home to iconic and rare wildlife. Sadly war and poaching has eliminated many species from areas including National Parks such as Boucle du Baoule. Here elephants, giraffes, lions, and chimps have all vanished leaving only a trace of the wildlife it once held.
Luckily one can still find areas where African wild Dogs, cheetahs, chimpanzees, bush elephants, and manatees can be found. Overgrazing and deforestation continue to be threats to the ongoing survival of Mali’s wildlife treasures and its people.
Mali is a place of authentic beauty in the way of its cultural traditions. This can be found in the annual catfish feast held by the Dogon people along the Niger River. As the rains cease and the river’s tributaries dry up, catfish are trapped inside shallow evaporating muddy lakes. Thousands of Dogon villagers from across the nations gather in Bamba to partake in catching the catfish with homemade archaic nets and tools. Although there is a competition to see which male will catch the most fish, the haul is shared equally among the villagers. Only males are allowed to catch while the females prepare for the feasts.
Mali is also home to the city of Timbuktu a place that has become synonymous with a far away place at the end of the world. Tourism is present and has somewhat increased over the years despite warnings from many governments to avoid non essential travel to the region due to ongoing conflicts.
The largest group of victims will however continue to be the flora and fauna of the region. Farming and building of dams has severely impacted the natural flow of nature causing at one point two thirds of bird colonies to disappear. The Niger River delta is home to over 600 bird species along with over 100 species of fish, both of which face declines if proper land management is not implemented.
Mali is a beautiful land not all that isolated in today’s world like it once was. It is an experience definitely worth seeing, however I wonder if increased tourism would only put more pressures on its land and wildlife. Only if the dollars it took in were put to good use could I see tourism benefiting, however with more pressing issues on the table I fear Mali’s wildlife and natural landscape will continue to take a backseat for many years to come until it may be too late.
Header Photo-Dogon Woman: Photo by Martijn Munneke