By Wallace Mawire
With efforts from concerned world conservation organizations, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), species protection laws, animal rights activism, both community and individual awareness campaigns, there were improvements around the African continent in curbing wildlife poaching and trafficking, according to Dr Charlotte Ndiribe, Senior Lecturer in Ecology at the Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, at the University of Lagos in Nigeria.
Dr Ndiribe says that in spite of these efforts, current statistics indicate that the disastrous acts of forcefully removing animal species from nature continue to thrive unabated on the African continent.
‘Efforts to prevent biodiversity loss from human poaching and trafficking activities in Africa cannot be deemed fully successful yet. Several species are now on the verge of extinction from the wild. For instance, pangolins in Africa contribute to the global 20% of all illegal wildlife trade. Their populations have been decimated by millions through this sustained crime. Similarly, the rhinoceros is a threatened species because of its horn, while the African elephant is critically endangered predominantly for its ivory according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List),’ Dr Ndiribe said.
According to her, biodiversity is a concept that describes the variety of living organisms on earth. She says that Africa is one of the most biodiverse continents of the world with a large representation in the over two million documented animal species on earth.
She adds that with a location in the southern hemisphere, Africa has one of the largest intact assemblages of mammals living in different natural environments, nature reserves and zoological parks.
Also according to her, poaching is the illegal killing or capturing of wildlife. She adds that in the first place, the problem of poaching and wildlife trafficking on the continent originated because of the abundance of the wildlife species.
‘The animal species were harvested from the wild for their body parts, hides, oil, tusks, aesthetic value, medicinal and culinary benefits, among others. The practice was propelled by several factors bordering around poor education, limited access to quality information, poverty and greed for profits,’ she said.
Dr Ndiribe said that it is important for people to realize that protecting biodiversity is for collective good because the victimized species perform various ecological functions that cannot be done by humans, and contribute to the balance of nature.
‘By protecting them, we protect ourselves from unwarranted disasters,’ she adds.
Asked to what extent are policies and community involvement solving climate and biodiversity challenges in Africa, she says that climate change is one of the most overarching topics of the 21st century because of the enormous scientific research and evidence that indicates that people’s only home, the earth, is tilting towards warming.
Dr Ndiribe said that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently listed climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution as the three major crises confronting humanity.
‘The three interlinked issues are dubbed the “Triple Emergency” or “Triple Planetary Crises” because they rightly specify urgency from humans to eliminate or effectively minimize them,’ she said.
She adds that to achieve this, new policies have emerged in countries across Africa, similar to most parts of the world involved in making informed decisions following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports over the last decade.
Dr ndiribe adds that for instance, the African Climate Policy Centre of UNECA has been strengthening and enabling climate-resilient developments in Africa through the Africa Climate Change Policy.
Also, she says that there are now close to twenty existing climate change policies in West Africa alone, and the East African Community (EAC) through the Heads of State have adopted an EAC Climate Change Policy Framework to ensure they are adequately prepared for the future.
On one hand, it is reported that community involvement has seen different concerned groups of people leverage on technology and the internet to raise awareness and collaborate on projects to tackle climate and biodiversity challenges in Africa.
According to her, these measures are yielding solutions for Africans on the continent.
She says that more Africans are adopting the circularity approach to life.
‘More people are involved in renewable green energy transitions and reduced energy consumption. More Africans are benefitting from increased funds to support sustainable local industries and waste to wealth innovations, including biodiversity projects, such as tree-planting projects and wildlife conservation. For example, the African Development Bank (AfDB) recently pledged a $25 billion fund to support climate change adaptation for countries across Africa,’ she said.
She says that there is general optimism that the current extent to which the policies and human involvements are tackling the triple emergency will grow,particularly as Africa faces the most severe consequences of the emergency with respect to increased economic inequality, gender-based violence, and migrations.
In response on the issue of the major challenges being faced by African countries in protecting their ecological environments and systems and the solutions being implemented for their safeguards, she says that Africa is the second largest continent on earth with a land area of 30.4 million km2 and 54 official countries.
There are different ecological biomes and ecosystems spread across the continent. Some examples are the tropical rainforest, mangroves, savanna, and deserts.
‘ Importantly, they deliver several ecosystem services that include wildlife habitats, natural resource centers and carbon sinks that check greenhouse gas emissions,’ she said.
she adds that different countries have their peculiar challenges with safeguarding their ecological environments emanating from the type of ecology they have in the first place and geographical location or accessibility to the disruptive factors.
Dr Ndiribe adds that the existing challenges faced by countries can be widely classified as natural or man-made. She cites the example of desertification a major problem in North Africa and even among most West African countries bordered by desert-encroached countries. Similarly, flooding and erosion are reported to be prevalent in the coastal cities and other areas of coastal countries.
She adds that some of the major anthropogenic challenges that impede the protection of ecological environments by African countries are governmental policies and bureaucratic bottlenecks.
‘They come into focus in checking mass rural to urban migration, population and birth control laws, illegal waste disposal and pollution, and human land use. In short, human encroachment into ecological environments continue majorly because of urban expansion, human population explosion, and indiscriminate pollution,’ she said.
She adds that some immediate solutions to these issues are the intentional improvement of the education and lifestyle of rural dwellers to discourage the rising influx of unemployed youths into cities, advocating for a largely educated populace particularly across most sub-Saharan African countries, achieving a population size that is commensurate with the available resources that do not deplete national reserves, tackling pollution effectively, and importantly striving to live within the 17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).