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A necessary condition for Rift Valley fever (RVF) emergence is the presence of Aedes (Aedimorphus) vexans and Culex (Culex) poicilipes mosquitoes carrying the arbovirus and responsible for the infection. This paper presents a detailed mapping in the Sahelian region of Senegal of zones potentially occupied by these mosquitoes (ZPOMs) whose population density is directly linked to ecozones in the vicinity of small ponds. The vectors habitats and breeding sites have been characterized through an integrated approach combining remote sensing technology, geographical information systems, geographical positioning systems and field observations for proper geo-referencing. From five SPOT-5 images (~10 m spatial resolution) with appropriate channels, a meridional composite transect of 290 x 60 km was first constructed at the height of the summer monsoon. Subsequent ZPOMs covered major ecozones from north to south with different hydrological environments and different patterns pond distributions. It was found that an overall area of 12,817 ha ± 10% (about 0.8% of the transect) is occupied by ponds with an average ZPOM 17 times larger than this (212,813 ha ± 10% or about 14% of the transect). By comparing the very humid year of 2003 with 2006 which had just below normal rainfall, the ZPOMs inter-annual variability was analyzed in a sandy-clayey ecozone with an important hydrofossil riverbed within the Ferlo region of Senegal. Very probably contributing to an increased abundance of vectors by the end of August 2003, it was shown that the aggregate pond area was already about 22 times larger than in August 2006, corresponding to an approximately five times larger total ZPOM. The results show the importance of pin-pointing small ponds (sizes down to 0.1 ha) and their geographical distribution in order to assess animal exposure to the RVF vectors.
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