Wildlife Protection and Restoration
Wildlife across Africa are under siege, whether elephants for their ivory, rhinos for their horns, or bushmeat for local consumption. The Central African region lost 66% of its elephant population in just 10 years, and the situation is similar with rhinos, which have dwindled from 100,000 to just 25,000 left on the continent. Wildlife habitats, such as forests, woodlands, savannahs and wetlands are under enormous pressure and are almost entirely restricted to Africa’s national parks, due to being converted at an alarming rate for the increasing demands of a burgeoning human population. The result is that Africa’s ecosystems and biomes are under tremendous strain and there is an urgent need to make sure they are conserved before they collapse.
African Parks’ wildlife conservation approach combines habitat management, wildlife reintroductions and translocations, monitoring programs, as well as relevant research to inform conservation actions. Often the parks require total rehabilitation including the reintroduction of wildlife that have become locally extinct for a variety of reasons. Where necessary, we secure park boundaries through fencing and we implement stringent law enforcement and anti-poaching practices to alleviate the key threats, and provide for safe, secure areas in which wildlife can thrive.
Some species are more vulnerable than others because of the high value of their body parts, whether ivory from elephants or horns from rhinos, which fetch a very high price on the illegal wildlife market; or various other wildlife species that are targeted for local bushmeat consumption by communities relying on them as their main source of protein. Another reason they may be more vulnerable is because they are perceived to be a greater threat to people, such as predators that prey on livestock, or other species that raid crops, both of which can cause harm to humans. African Parks focuses on effective law enforcement measures, conflict mitigation schemes, and community engagement in order to protect these species, along with providing them with the habitat and security of core areas these animals need in order to breed and thrive.
Research and Surveys
Research is a vital part of monitoring the health of the ecosystem and also an important way to track the management progress of the park. Regular censuses provide essential information on wildlife trends, which even with the best monitoring can take several years to determine, but ultimately dictate whether interventions are working. The diverse and often rare fauna and flora found in each of the parks also provide numerous opportunities for research institutions and other partners to carry out important studies and investigations. Data from these projects can be used to assist communities in addressing some of the challenges they face, such as improved methods to mitigate wildlife conflict, or strategies that could increase fishery yields, which is why, where possible, the parks can serve as “open laboratories” and are accessible for this purpose.
Monitoring individual animals, through collaring or fitting tracking devices, helps us gather critical information on its ecology and behavior, its survivorship or mortality, and advances our knowledge on the ecosystem as a whole, as well as how to better manage the wildlife within them. For example, by tracking elephant movements, we can determine if they migrate outside of the park, and if so, how best to protect them outside park boundaries. Through monitoring efforts, we can establish the ways in which we should focus our resources, both in terms of time and spatial planning, or the “when and where” of our operations. Wildlife monitoring also provides us with essential information for long-term land-use planning and enables us to provide evidence that could lead to potentially changing the boundaries if required.