Biodiversity in Africa
Africa has an abundant diversity of fauna and flora. It constitutes the highest proportion of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) globally. Some studies show that Africa is home to some one quarter of the world’s 4,700 mammal species. This includes 79 species of antelope. It also has more than 2,000 species of birds (one fifth of the world’s total); at least 2,000 species of fish; and 950 amphibian species. The African mainland harbours between 40,000 and 60,000 plant species. It also has about 100,000 known species of insects, spiders and other arachnids. Eight of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots are in Africa.
Wildlife conservation means protection and sustainable use of wildlife. The goal of conserving wildlife is to ensure that wildlife resources are not consumed faster than they are replaced. Conservation concerns include sustainable use, protection, maintenance, rehabilitation, restoration and enhancement of populations and ecosystems. Wildlife resources are classified as being renewable but if not properly conserved, they can become extinct.
There are strong reasons to conserve wildlife resource. This is because wildlife resources contribute towards improvement of human well being. They also contribute to national development through the provision of ecosystem services. Examples of ecosystem services are water and carbon storage, soil and natural resources. Every country has its own policies and laws to ensure sound conservation practices. Polices also address the degradation and loss of wildlife resources.
Threats to Wildlife in Africa
Serious challenges associated with prevalence of multi-faceted pressures are threatening the continued existence of most of the wildlife species in Africa. Wildlife loss results from a wide array of complex factors. One of the greatest threats is the increasing overexploitation of wildlife and wildlife habitats. As human populations grow and economies expand, activities like mining and infrastructure development tends to displace wildlife. Climate change and pollution are also leading contributors to loss of wildlife in Africa.
Wildlife crime still remains a serious conservation issue which has grown so much as to have international ramifications. It includes poaching, illegal exploitation of wildlife resources, encroachment into protected areas, illegal wildlife trade and destruction of wildlife habitats. It has both direct and indirect negative impacts on local communities. This includes depletion of the resource base on which they depend for their livelihoods.
According to recent studies, wildlife crime is the fourth largest illegal activity in the world. It comes after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking. It has an annual turnover of at least US$ 19 billion. Highly organised groups are now getting involved in poaching. These groups are well networked and technologically equipped. Their activities result in significant loss of wildlife resources. For example, the existing trends indicate that the poaching crisis is taking away 3 rhinos every day and 30,000 elephants every year. Poaching is driving Africa’s iconic species to the verge of extinction.
It is therefore crucial to put in place the necessary measures to reverse the escalating prevalence of wildlife crime. In this regard, wildlife issues need to be taken as key measure of governance. Wildlife issues should therefore become a burning development agenda of all countries in Africa. All concerned bodies should strengthen their collaboration towards this endeavour.