Jean-Marie Dupart, a staunch advocate of the environment, returns to his journey in Senegal and his work in the national parks. Passionate about ornithology, he leaves this year "Birds of Senegal", a book of popularization for the general public to make known the birds that populate Senegalese national parks. This work is one of the many ideas of Jean-Marie, who never ceases to defend the environment around several projects. Back on this figure multi-caps and on his book where his passions for ornithology and photography mingle.
How long have you been in Senegal and why have you chosen to live there?
I am in Senegal permanently since 7 years but I came for the first time in 1976. My choice is a long story! Already, I love Africa, I did a lot of going back and forth in Africa when I was young. I wanted to move away from the European rhythm, stress, so I decided to settle in Africa. And Senegal because it is the only country where you can have projects in the medium term because the other countries is unstable and at every election you can not know what it is likely to happen. It is the only democratic and stable country. In the other countries of West Africa, you can not start on medium-term projects because you do not know what may happen in the future. It is also a country with plenty of birds and things to do around.
Before the realization of your book and the photographs of the birds of Senegal, you also photographed your native region, the moors and the Basque mountains?
I am a photographer since the age of 16 years amateur. I come from a family of nature, with me they often left in the forest, in the mountain. And one day, I started to photograph. It has become a passion little by little, on the margins of my work, it is a passion like another.
Besides, you also have several arrows to your bow, since you are an engineer in agricultural techniques, but also passionate about environment and ornithology?
Cultural training I have thanks to my mother, a school principal, who is ahead of her time and who talked to me about ecology. She was doing lessons on animals in class. After the studies I am an engineer in agricultural techniques and I worked in three boxes on ecological projects. From the beginning the choices were based on it. After that, I worked for a company that manufactured machines for agriculture, so as not to treat soils. I have always had this ecological sensitivity. It may seem odd, but my great discovery is René Dumont, the first candidate of 74 in the presidential elections. His book is called Utopia or Death and he speaks a lot about Africa, he is a specialist in tropical ecology. And so it sensitized me to that, I was myself on the same path: Africa and ecology, and so it marked me. I read it again from time to time, it's my bedside book! Besides, as soon as 1974 wrote tucs that happen today, he had predicted quite a few things! Good and then, I have this desire to diversify because I am "touches everything", I am curious. I am interested in erosion, ecology, history etc ...
Why this passion for the African continent?
It is primarily a personal and family history. My father worked in Africa a long time ago and I have always heard him talk about Africa. So for my first trip, in 1976, I take my 4L and I go to Africa. I take the road through Morocco, Mauritania, I am in full green march with the Sahrawis, so it brings me closer to history too. I've always been attracted to it. I also have a love for African rhythm. I like to take my time, to ask myself, to discuss. You can spend a day doing nothing special, but doing nothing is also thinking!
Why this passion for ornithology?
Family history too! When I started making pictures of birds I had 16 years and when you start, you start to be interested. I am not an ornithologist, I am interested in birds in Senegal because unfortunately, in Senegal there are only birds. Mammals, everything that is elephants, giraffes, are no longer in Senegal. Colonial hunting played an enormous part in this process, even though the Senegalese took the torch to make money. It is also due to the increase in population and human pressure.
How did the writing of the book Oiseaux du Sénégal take place?
The book was written in several stages. For the parks of the North of Senegal I began to make visits a little more elaborate than what was done before and I began to make cards birds for the people who visited. By force I found myself making bindings of all these cards and people asked me: "but why do not you write a book? ". I finally decided to do it. There was also the feeling of lack, for people who are interested in nature without more precision than that. They did not have books or books because they were very expensive or they were inaccessible because they are books of scientific research, so for someone who visits a park it is not simple or adequate.
Where do the photographs from your book come from?
I made the photos in Senegalese national parks. And at home, then, I gathered the information in two to three months of research. I also have an advantage is that I write pretty quickly so it helped me.
Were there any difficulties?
The hardest thing was to choose the birds because there are so many! And to not make a book with 600 species one must therefore choose 100 to 150 species, the easiest to see. We need to study and choose which ones we keep or not. The first is fairly easy but then you have to make choices. Maybe these are choices rather emotional.
What did it bring you to write it?
It brought me a lot because I leaned more structured on the birds. Every day something new is discovered.
You also worked in the national parks of Senegal, what were you doing exactly?
I worked in the national parks because I knew the president and I had offered pictures for the park. They offered to come to work there. I did counting, all the work that there is done in national parks, planting filaos, mangroves ... I also put on Excel all the birds, month by month and years by years, Because they never structured that. It made it easier to research and study and to notice the evolutions easily.
Working on the environment in Senegal, is it not difficult in terms of waste management and the development of public policies?
The problem in Senegal is essentially the problem of plastic waste. For the moment there is no industrial pollution in Senegal apart on Dakar. And agricultural societies are European so the risks of agricultural pollution are more or less managed, because companies are obliged to respect European standards and therefore to plan water surveys otherwise their products do not leave Europe. So we have a small guarantee on that. I am more afraid of Senegalese agriculture where farmers can do anything, because dosages are not necessarily regulated. The problem here is essentially visual pollution that can be dealt with if there is a will of state. Effective picking treatment services must be in place because a population can not be asked to sort out if there are no trash bins or concrete and efficient pick-up.
How do you fight?
Currently we are on a project of caravan of environmental awareness, we leave 3 weeks with 50 students of Cheich Anta Diop and University of Saint Louis and we go around the parks of Senegal and the neighboring villages. Public awareness and tree planting are being developed. The idea is that it is the young people who will make a difference.
You work in parallel with the Cheich Anta Diop University on other projects, right?
University is a coincidence. In Dakar, some of them needed practical workshops on the environment, such as the breach of the St. Louis River. It is a recurring subject and therefore they do courses on the language of barbarism and I help them. I do not intervene in Dakar but it is a practical work.
Is the new generation of Senegal aware of the environmental issues that are currently being faced?
This is the same problem as in Europe, the new generation is becoming aware, there are student ecological associations but the problem is the elite, the people on the street, if you tell them "you have to protect the birds "They tell you" I'll first try to find food for lunch ". I am persuaded and even if it sounds bizarre, that the only solution to accelerate the phenomenon is the stick. First of all, the government must set up means of collecting, processing plants and then tell the population "If you do not throw in the trash, it is a fine of 1000 francs. That's what happened in Europe, too! Unfortunately, people in general are not interested. In France too, the proof is the elections, they are interested in the margin, it hurts for holidays, but good if it does not bother in life we do not care, we live in a schizophrenic society: We want good, leisure, but not the bother that goes with it.
With all this, you have created a training of tourist guides with the University? What is the ultimate goal?
These are two structures, a first one that is directly linked to the green UGB in St Louis. Currently there is a project that is led by a geography professor at the college to make some kind of BTS in ornithology nature, so that there are guides able to explain. Unfortunately today in Senegal, we are at this level of ease, guides only know the names of birds, they are unable to tell you why the bird is there, where it comes from etc ... there is also a second phenomenon , Is that you can not tell anything, people with internet are informed. You can not invent, you have to be serious. So we put this structure in place. There is another project that deals with national parks. There is an association of young eco-guards Senegalese that was created and that makes all the counts in Dakar. It is beginning to integrate into the life of national parks with the aim of making progress. It's interesting. The ornithologists and nature specialists here are still ex-settlers, and personally it bothers me. I think that raising awareness among young people here will involve intervention from their own, when it is external intervention that has much less impact. When it's their sons or their nephews, it completely changes the impression people have on that.
For example, with the children of the schools of Saint Louis and Gandiol, a mangrove cleaning and planting operation was carried out as part of the citizens' holidays. When their mothers threw away they would say, "Oh no! We cleaned there, we planted there ... "that's where it goes! These operations are done everywhere, I now find that the Senegalese national parks are evolving well, there is a real awareness because there is a new director also and that impulse on these issues!
Do you have any plans for the future?
Writing projects yes. I will make a book that will be the sequel to that one if that one works, because it will be on the rarer birds. And then I have another book project that I have already begun to write about all the little things that have happened to me since I was in Senegal. I would like to do it through the eyes of my dog, I have a border collie. It is an adorable dog, and therefore it plays with children. In Senegal it may seem odd because dogs usually get walked on. So I would love to write these little skits, but seen by the dog's eye. For example, the dog walking on the beach and getting bothered by all the plastic bags. It is an intellectual step to take the place of the dog, how he can see Senegal, maltreated, frowned upon, beaten up.
Jean-Marie Dupart Is an agricultural engineer, photographer, passionate about the environment and ornithology. He traveled through the swamps of the Landes and the Basque mountains on his shoulder. In Senegal for several years, he collaborates with many European professional ornithologists in projects on migratory birds and in particular the osprey, a bird on which he works with the English and Spanish. It has worked in collaboration with national parks and, in particular, with the National Park of the Barbarous Language, and more recently with the Park of Djoudj. He participates in training sessions for students of Master in Environment at the Institute of Environmental Sciences of Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and is currently working on a project of the same university for the training of tourist guides Specializing in nature and ornithology.