You cannot have a web site showing African wildlife without mentioning conservation and the many and varied issues it raises.
Be it the senseless slaughter of Rhino, by well organised and ruthless syndicates, for their medically worthless horns; the killing of Elephants for their ivory; subsistence poaching for the bush meat trade which occurs on the fringes of every Game Reserve, National Park or Conservation Area; our insatiable appetite for the hard wood growing in the rain forests of West Africa or the minerals, many and varied, which we dig up giving no thought to the future of the land we decimate; the ever increasing encroachment of man, once nomadic, now pastoral, into the previously wild areas as their domestic herds increase or they need more room to plant their subsistence crops; and, of course, the numerous conflict situations occurring on the Continent.
The colonisation of the continent began in 1890 and is vividly described in Thomas Packenham’s excellent book ‘Scramble for Africa’. The five nations and Leopold of Belgium simply took, both from the land and the people, without any thought of the future and it is still happening today. Different players perhaps; China, India, and the Pacific Rim, but the results are the same.
As with any market it is the demand which is the driver. Reduce the demand in a market and you reduce the need to supply. Regrettably in most of the instances mentioned above there is an increasing demand for ivory, rhino horn, food, space and don’t let us ever forget the insatiable appetite for technology-hungry minerals.
Consider some specifics.
Rhino - South Africa is home to 90% of the world’s Rhinos. Latest estimates indicate over 1000 animals will be killed in 2013.
Elephants - Current ww population 470000. Poaching rate estimated at 8%pa. Birth rate approx. 7% so their numbers will stay largely static. Ron Thomson’s excellent article on the Kruger site justifies the need for culling.
Lion – Over 100000 50 years ago, current estimates are less than 21000. Extinct in 7 countries it used to roam.
African Wild Dog – Current estimates 3000 to 5500. Used to roam across Africa, now only found in 14 countries.
Mountain Gorilla – less than 900 left.
Grevy’s Zebra – less than 2000 left.
Cheetah – 7500 left out of an original population of over 100000. 76% of its habitat lost.
Bush Meat Trade - Over 100,000pa animals of all types killed in the Mara alone.
Okavango River- Both Namibia and Angola are drawing more water from the river which feeds the Okavango Delta, probably the greatest wildlife experience of all.
Serengeti NP- the Tanzanian Government still intends to build a road across the Serengeti NP in order to facilitate the transport of Cobalt from the Congo to the coast. The proposed route of the road will cut across the migration route of some 2 million wildebeeste and other plains animals.
Lake Natron -Also in Tanzania, Lake Natron, because of its unique biodiversity is recognised globally as a Wetland of International Importance. It is the only regular breeding area for 2.5 million Lesser Flamingo – status ‘near threatened’. Greater Flamingo also breed on the surrounding mud flats. The lake is a safe breeding location because its caustic environment, high salinity levels and temperatures in excess of 60C are a barrier against predators. Wrong. There are always predators.
The Tanzanian Government, in conjunction with Tata Chemicals of India, propose development of a soda ash plant on its shores. The plant would pump water from the lake to extract sodium carbonate to convert to washing powder for export. Accompanying the plant would be housing for 1000 workers, a coal-fired power station and infrastructure necessary to support the project.
So is there hope for the wildlife of our planet? A very difficult question to answer.
On the one hand many more people are visiting Africa to view Game; camps all support local communities and help the local populations understand that to protect the environment is to their benefit; NGO’s such as the African Wildlife Foundation are working incredibly hard to get the messages out and are receiving support from a greater diversity of donors; people in general are more aware for the need to support the efforts to protect the environment through the work of the NGOs and, of course, television.
Nelson Mandela’s recent quote:-
“If we do not do something to prevent it, Africa's animals, and the places in which they live, will be lost to our world, and her children, forever. Before it is too late, we need your help to lay the foundation that will preserve this precious legacy long after we are gone."
On the other hand world population figures continue to rise; religious, tribal and territorial conflicts are still rife across the Continent, with inevitable damage to the environment; Commercial pressures are ever increasing to provide more minerals and food; resources to protect the GameReserves and National Parks are inadequately funded. And don’t let’s ever forget the kids still need the latest electronic gadgetry for Christmas!
The jury is still out!
Useful web sites for information and to support:-