University of Granada & Phys.org – 2018-05-13 23:35:08
Armed Conflicts in Sahara and Sahel Endangering Wildlife in the Region
University of Granada
(May 4, 2018) — An international study involving researchers from the University of Granada has established that the escalation of armed conflicts in the Sahara-Sahel region is leading to a dramatic population decline of species such as the African elephant and dorcas gazelle. The research paper calls for greater emphasis on environmental factors in the peace process initiatives that aim to bring an end to the conflicts.
According to the study, led by the Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO-InBIO) at the University of Porto, the increase in the number of armed conflicts and other factors in the Sahara-Sahel region in Africa is accelerating the population decline of endangered local animal species. Specifically, the rise in the number of firearms available, the over-exploitation of resources, and human intervention in previously remote areas have resulted in the extinction or near-extinction of 12 of the 14 species of large vertebrates in the region.
Published in the prestigious scientific journal Conservation Letters, the study involved the collaboration of 20 international academic institutions, including the UGR, represented by Juan M. Pleguezuelos Gomez, a professor at the Department of Zoology.
The Sahara-Sahel region is vast and stretches over several countries, among them Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Tunisia. In order to obtain useful data, the scientists mapped the spatial and temporal occurrence of conflicts and other threats to local wildlife in the region, such as the exploitation of natural resources.
Next, they contrasted these threat factors with the distribution and decline of large endangered animal species, including gazelles, addax, antelopes and African elephants.
The researchers warn that armed conflicts in the region, which have been escalating since 2011 and now represent 5 percent of all conflicts in the world are wiping out animal species such as the African elephant and dorcas gazelle at an alarming rate. “Likewise, oil drilling in the region has given rise to the progressive extinction of the addax, a type of antelope, underscoring a catastrophic decline in fauna in this part of Africa,” the team explains.
The data also supports the theory that illegal animal hunting is more common in regions already affected by human trafficking, terrorism and organised crime. “There’s a vicious circle connecting arms trafficking, conflicts, migration and the extinction of animal species,” they explain, also condemning the negative impact of EU and US military interventions in Libya.
The study concludes that local fauna can be protected by raising awareness about the situation, encouraging sustainable resource exploitation and by imposing sanctions on those who do not abide by the regulations designed to protect the wildlife. It warns, however, that these proposed measures must be implemented as a matter of urgency to prevent a major environmental disaster.
JosÃ© Carlos Brito, the principal investigator of the project, says, “Areas where fauna is seriously endangered due to the rise in conflicts need to be identified, and effective policies need to be implemented in order to reduce the impact of these conflicts on biodiversity.”
In terms of immediate interventions which would help to achieve the necessary changes, the researchers call for “the introduction of environmental factors into peace strategies, the disarmament of civilians and extremist groups, and restrictions on the purchase of firearms and ammunition.”
The most important message this study sends, however, is that the issue can only be tackled by achieving a greater balance between environmental preservation and socio-economic development.
More information: JosÃ© Carlos Brito et al, Armed conflicts and wildlife decline: Challenges and recommendations for effective conservation policy in the Sahara-Sahel, Conservation Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1111/conl.12446 Journal reference: Conservation Letters.
Militias, Poachers Wreak Havoc on
Central Africa’s Wildlife: Monitor
(December 8, 2017) — Sudan’s Janjaweed, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army and other notorious militias are wreaking havoc on wildlife in central Africa, poaching and trafficking elephants, hippopotamuses, buffaloes and other animals, a monitor said Friday.
The threat comes from “highly organised armed groups who are linked to human rights violations and ongoing political instability” as well as state actors, armed pastoralists and poachers, Traffic said in a report.
Joseph Kony, a self-styled mystic and prophet who launched a bloody rebellion three decades ago, “tasked a group of LRA fighters with obtaining 100 tusks… over the course of nine months” from the Garamba natural reserve in Democratic Republic of Congo, Traffic said.
The report also tracked poaching in Bili in DRC and the Chinko reserve in Central African Republic. The research covered nearly 90 villages in the region.
“This region is perhaps the most remote and underdeveloped on the continent,” said Liz Williamson, one of the authors of the report.
“The lack of governance and enforcement has rendered local communities and wildlife an easy target for exploitation by armed groups, while illegal wildlife trade fuels continued instability across the landscape.”
Exacerbating the problem was endemic corruption in a region mired in poverty, but things were improving in DR Congo where poaching by government soldiers has been declining in the past few years due to “stronger collaboration with park enforcement authorities,” it said.
The Pastoralist Threat
But animals are also under threat from pastoralists like the Fulani, who are spread over a swathe of western and central Africa, and the Mbororo, a Fulani sub-group which kill Giant Eland — a Savannah antelope — and buffaloes “to sell as bushmeat and to poison predators.
“Fulani have also been reported as trafficking wildlife products such as ivory and leopard skins across borders, primarily to South Sudan and Uganda,” Traffic said.
And there were armed “poachers targeting large mammals, including bongo, buffalo, elephant and hippopotamus in the protected areas” selling their meat to individuals and restaurants and transporting high-value products such as ivory, skins and other trophies further afield.
“Hunting serves as an income-generator for people living around protected areas and about 20 percent of men in northeast DRC reported that they engage in small-scale poaching,” it said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has previously found that Africa’s elephant numbers fell by 111,000 between 2006 and 2015.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species said the elephant population in southern Africa and much of East Africa is now either stable or increasing but illegal killings remain high across the continent.
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