The collaboration of staff and students of the Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences to save the Western Derby eland in Senegal will soon turn its twenties. The conservation programme has certainly brought a lot of positives for Derby elands, whose number in the Bandia and Fathala reserves has grown from six to more than 120 individuals. It can be even more than they are currently in the wild, in the Niokolo Koba National Park. The increasing number of antelopes is a measurable achievement. But how to measure what the Derbianus project has brought us, the faculty, the university over the years?
At university level, we can measure (in addition to non-measurable prestige) the number of publications produced in Senegal on the antelope topic. The long-term average barely exceeds one impacted article per year, manuscript publications often take many years, editors of wildlife magazines reject antelopes in the enclosures because they are not "wild" and zoojournals because they are not "captive". And we’ve always learnt that we had a small "n", but what do you want if you simply don't have more in the world?
At the faculty level, the most measurable value of an antelope project is the involvement of students. Dozens of bachelor's, master's and doctoral theses we have not considered the greatest achievement. On the other hand, dozens of students with field experience, able to work in difficult climate and social conditions, willing not to give up. Dozens of students who, in addition to English, can cope with French to work successfully in West Africa. Dozens of students who have the motivation to protect the original environment of the fragile wooden savannah and understand that without it, neither agriculture, livestock breeding nor humans will thrive. Although none of us can solve the growing problems of Sub-Saharan African savannah in an easy manner, we feel better when we are more.
And at the team level? Hundreds and thousands of failures that will always move us forward. A profound and still to improve understanding of the cultural and social aspects of our cooperation. We learned French better. We found it wasn't all. We are dealing with presidents and ministers. We go to Senegal in a “bussiness dress” even though we would love to go into the field. We teach children to understand nature conservation and carry them to reservations. We talk to people. We talk to each other, solve problems, move forward.
Experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the European and World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA and WAZA) and experts from all over the world stand behind us and look with admiration at the Czech team that was the only one able to stand in Senegal, not to leave the elands and achieve tangible results. It is not a secret in the world that the Derbianus team values ??are in expertise, tenacity, energy, respect and cooperation.
Expertise, ténacité, énergie, respect, coopération.