As fears of violence in The Gambia grow following a disputed presidental election, 10 wildlife enthusiasts from the Rutland Ospreys team are preparing to fly home from the small west African nation.
President Yahya Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency this week after refusing to hand over power to opposition leader Adama Barrow, who won December’s election.
The Foreign Office has warned against all but essential travel to The Gambia, and Thomas Cook has begun evacuating 3,500 of its customers who have been on holiday there.
For the past six years, staff and volunteers from the Rutland Ospreys team – which is run by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust in partnership with Anglian Water – have travelled to The Gambia and Senegal in January to see birds which migrate there every winter.
A team of 10 are currently in The Gambia, but colleagues back in the UK say they are all safe and have seen no trouble whatsoever.
Senior reserve officer Tim Mackrill said: “The team were due to fly home tomorrow (Thursday) anyway and are still booked onto the same flight back to Gatwick as planned.
“We are aware that some tourists are being evacuated from the country but this is a precautionary measure and there is currently no trouble at all.
“I spoke to them this morning on the phone and they say you wouldn’t know anything is going on. They feel sad for the local people who rely very heavily on tourism as a source of income.”
Ospreys migrate to west Africa in late-August or early September each year, returning in March once the cold weather has passed.
Rutland Water is home to the first ospreys to breed in England for 150 years, after a translocation programme.