Africa’s wildlife park managers come together to boost conservation
“Protected and conserved areas in Africa face serious challenges that need to be addressed urgently,” said Ken Mwathe, Policy Coordinator for Birdlife International in Africa. He said climate change, declining quality of protected areas due to underfunding and growth in infrastructure development in protected areas are severely hampering biodiversity on the continent.
“The push for development in protected areas and other key biodiversity areas is an issue that governments and stakeholders should critically interrogate during the congress,” Mwathe said.
Those working on the front lines of conservation are already facing increasing challenges. On Kenya’s Wasini Island, where coral reefs and fish are protected by a community-run marine park, conservation officials say it’s difficult for such projects to succeed.
“The management of this local marine park is quite costly for the community and requires a lot of external support,” said Dosa Mshenga, a community member who deals with coral reefs. “However, he has a major upside. Since we began coral restoration and monitored the designated area about eight years ago, we have seen fish return, octopus and even lobsters that had disappeared.
But those gains are now threatened by the construction of a major fishing port at Shimoni, just 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the island, Mshenga said.
The Great Blue Wall Initiative – a project to protect marine life on the east coast of Africa – will play a leading role in marine conservation discussions, alongside community projects like Wasini, Luther Anukur, regional director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which is hosting the conference, said. He added that local communities and indigenous peoples will be at the forefront of conservation efforts.
“It is important to note that Africans have not only lived alongside wildlife, but have also been its protectors,” Anukur said.
African governments have come under mounting public pressure and international condemnation in recent weeks over the evictions of indigenous communities from conservation areas, with Maasai people in Tanzania appealing to the UN for better protection following violent clashes that forced them to leave their ancestral homes in Ngorongoro Conservation Zone.
The congress brings together managers of parks and wildlife reserves, scientists and Aboriginal and community leaders. It is hoped that increased dialogue between groups will improve the health of Africa’s biodiversity hotspots and combat worrying trends, such as increased poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
A high-level discussion on the link between climate change and biodiversity, with a focus on protected areas that can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, will be at the heart of the meeting, added organizer Anukur.
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