Tag Archives: protected areas

A Glimmer of Hope: protected areas

Niassa Reserve in Mozambique. Image from wikipedia

Globally, one-third of protected land is under intense pressure from road building, grazing, urbanization, and other human activities, according to a new study in the 18 May 2018 issue of Science…Nations around the world have committed to preserving biodiversity under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), through protected status designations ranging from nature reserves with strict controls on human impact to regions where people can extract natural resources in a sustainable way. This study suggests that many of these nations are failing to meet their conservation goals.

James Watson, a researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Society and an author of the study, noted that 111 nations currently claim they have meet their obligations under the CBD based on the extent of their protected areas. “But if you only counted the land in protected areas that are not degraded, which play a role in conserving biodiversity, 77 of these nations don’t meet the bar. And it’s a low bar.”

Watson and a team of researchers decided to take advantage of a recently released human footprint map to look at the degradation of protected areas. “The results are quite staggering,” said Watson. “We found that 2.3 million square miles — twice the size of Alaska — was impacted by road building, grazing, logging, roads and urbanization. That is 32.8% of all protected land — the land set aside by nations for the purpose of biodiversity conservation — that] is highly degraded.”  Regions that were found to be particularly burdened by human activity include western Europe and southern Asia.

In terms of protected land that is free of any measurable human pressure, 42% could be classified as such; however, many of these areas are within remote regions of high-latitude nations, such as Russia and Canada.

Some conservation efforts have been fruitful, though. “We did see glimmers of hope,” said Watson…. (e.g., the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, and Niassa Reserve in Mozambique)

Protected areas designated after 1993 have a lower level of intense human pressure within their borders than those previously designated, the authors found. They suggest this may indicate that more recently designated areas were targeted as protected spaces because they were recognized as being under low human pressure.

Exceprts from Michelle Hampson, One-Third of World’s Protected Areas under Intense Human Pressure, American Association for the Advancement of Scicence,  May 16, 2018

Only One Protester was Killed by a Bullet: Kenya

Flag of Masai peoples

One person was killed and several injured on Monday [January 26, 2015] when Kenyan police clashed with Maasais protesting against a local governor they accuse of misappropriating tourism funds from the Maasai Mara game reserve, an official said.  Police fired shots and teargas as thousands of people from the Maasai ethnic group, clad in traditional red cloaks, marched to the governor’s office in Narok town, the administrative centre of the sprawling Maasai Mara park, witnesses said.

Narok County Commissioner Kassim Farah, an official appointed by the president, said: “Only one protestor was killed by a bullet.  “We regret it but the organisers of the demonstration should be held responsible, not the police.” Kenya Red Cross said seven people injured in the clashes were taken to a nearby hospital.

Demonstrators marched to the gates of Governor Samuel Tunai’s office, shouting: “Tunai must go.” Some hurled rocks. The dispute began when Tunai’s administration contracted a company to collect Maasai Mara park entry fees, a deal the locals say was suspect.

Visitors to the Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s biggest tourist draws, pay $80 per day to roam an area full of wildlife such as lions, rhinos and giraffes. Upmarket lodges and luxury tented camps can charge hundreds of dollars per person per day for the experience, although a spate of militant attacks in Kenya as well as the Ebola epidemic on the other side of Africa have scared off many tourists….

Local government finance has come under increased scrutiny from Kenyans since a newly devolved system was introduced in 2013 under which local governments receive about 43 percent of the national budget directly and are responsible for raising their own additional revenues.  Devolution was designed to spread wealth and help local communities benefit from revenue earned in their areas but analysts say corruption and other issues that have blighted national politics have now also spread to local bodies

Corruption protest in Kenya’s Maasai Mara region turns deadly, Reuters, Jan. 27, 2015

Demand for Gold Causes Deforestation

gold mine

The global gold rush, driven by increasing consumption in developing countries and uncertainty in financial markets, is an increasing threat for tropical ecosystems. Gold mining causes significant alteration to the environment, yet mining is often overlooked in deforestation analyses because it occupies relatively small areas. As a result, we lack a comprehensive assessment of the spatial extent of gold mining impacts on tropical forests.

The study Global demand for gold is another threat for tropical forests published in Environmental Research Letters provides a regional assessment of gold mining deforestation in the tropical moist forest biome of South America. Specifically, we analyzed the patterns of forest change in gold mining sites between 2001 and 2013, and evaluated the proximity of gold mining deforestation to protected areas (PAs)….Approximately 1680 km2 of tropical moist forest was lost in these mining sites between 2001 and 2013. Deforestation was significantly higher during the 2007–2013 period, and this was associated with the increase in global demand for gold after the international financial crisis….In addition, some of the more active zones of gold mining deforestation occurred inside or within 10 km of ~32 PAs. There is an urgent need to understand the ecological and social impacts of gold mining because it is an important cause of deforestation in the most remote forests in South America, and the impacts, particularly in aquatic systems, spread well beyond the actual mining sites.

Excerpt from Abstract, Global demand for gold is another threat for tropical forests

Amazon Region Protected Areas: the 215 Million Fund

soybean field

Brazil’s government, the World Wildlife Fund and various partners are expected to unveil an agreement that would establish a $215 million fund for conservation of protected jungle in the Amazon rainforest.  The fund, which seeks to ensure conservation of over 90 protected areas in the Amazon, comes as renewed developmental pressures mount in the region, resulting last year in an uptick in deforestation figures after years of record lows.

Under the terms of the agreement, partners in the fund will make annual contributions to help Brazil meet financing needs for the protected lands, whose combined area totals more than 60 million hectares, or an area 20 percent larger than Spain.  Contributions, partners said, will be contingent upon conditions required of Brazil, including audits of the government body that will administer the fund and continued staffing and financing of government offices required to administer the rainforest areas.

Money from the fund would be used for a range of basic conservation measures, including fences and signs to delineate protected areas and to pay for vehicles used to patrol them…

Brazil’s government through 2012 made large inroads against deforestation, largely through strict environmental enforcement and financial measures that blocked credit for companies and individuals caught doing business with loggers, ranchers, farmers or others known to exploit illegally cleared land.

In recent years, however, the government has made changes to environmental agencies and regulations that critics say make it easier for would-be developers to target protected areas. The government has also altered borders of some parkland to make way for infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric dams on various Amazon tributaries.

Financing for the new fund, expected to pay out over 25 years, was secured from private and public sources including the German government, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, philanthropists and the Amazon Fund, an existing facility financed mostly by the Norwegian government and administered by Brazil’s national development bank.

Together, the forest zones targeted by the fund are known as the Amazon Region Protected Areas, or ARPA, a program established in 2002 to coordinate financing and conservation strategy in the region.

Whereas previous financing for the effort relied on cumulative fundraising efforts, partners this time agreed to an all-or-nothing approach, borrowed from private-sector financing practices, to build momentum toward a target total. The $215 million is the amount calculated as necessary to help the Brazilian government, over the 25 years, become self-sufficient in terms of financing the rainforest areas.

 

Excerpts from  PAULO PRADA, Donors commit $215 million for Amazon conservation in Brazil, Reuters, May 21, 2014

Poaching Rhinos and Elephants: Namibia

Bwabwata National Park , Namibia

The rising tide of elephant and rhino poaching in Africa is spreading to the sparsely-populated vastness of Namibia in the southeast of the continent, latest official figures show. Between 2005 and 2011 just two elephant were killed, while 121 have been killed in the past two and a half years, according to figures presented by the environment ministry.  And while no rhino were poached between 2005 and 2010, a total of 11 have been killed since then — rising from one in 2011 to four already this year.

Deputy Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta told AFP that the government is worried by the trend and is working with law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem. “We don’t want the numbers to escalate further,” Shifeta said.  “There is a high probability that attention will shift to Namibia as we have recently experienced.”

Across the border in South Africa, rhino poaching has reached crisis levels, with more than 290 killed already this year.  Most of the poaching in Namibia has taken place in protected areas, such as the Bwabwata National Park in the northeast, where 13 elephant were killed in 2012, the environment ministry report said.

“The immediate requirement is to control the emerging commercial ivory poaching in the northeast part of the country and to prevent the westwards spread of rhino and elephant poaching into the Etosha National Park and beyond,” Shifeta told a meeting of police officers and rangers.  Namibia has 79 conservation areas covering more than 100,000 square kilometres and inhabited by some 300,000 people.

Several poachers have been arrested in recent years, with the latest suspects being two Asian men who were held in March this year allegedly in possession of rhino horn worth around $230,000 (167,000 euros). Asia is a major market for rhino horn, where it is believed to have medicinal value, and for elephant ivory.

Namibia caught in net of elephant, rhino poaching, Agence France Presse, May 13, 2014.

Protected Conservation Areas, from words to deeds?

In Namibia, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has earmarked an additional 15 550 square kilometres of land for conservation. The land will be brought under protected landscapes management arrangements under a new project which is designed to conserve biodiversity.  The recently launched Namibia Protected Landscape Conservations Areas Initiative  (NAM-PLACE) is a five-year project,which aims to establish protected landscape conservation areas. It also aims to ensure that land uses in areas adjacent to existing protected areas is compatible with biodiversity conservation objectives and that corridors are established to sustain the viability of wildlife populations.  The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to the tune of US$4.5 million.  NAM-PLACE will be implemented jointly by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“The NAMPLACE project is designed to lift conservation barriers and advocates for the establishment of a large scale network of protected landscapes in order to address eminent threats to habitat and species loss at a landscape level, thereby ensuring greater responsiveness to variability and seasonality aspects that are inevitable due to climate change,” says Environment Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.  However, setting land aside for conservation without implementing appropriate measures to manage it effectively will not safeguard biodiversity, says Nandi-Ndaitwah.  The ministry therefore continuously explores ways to improve management effectiveness through new initiatives, she said.

Namibia has gained worldwide recognition for its conservation initiatives. The country currently has 20 state-run protected areas which account for 17% of the total land area, while communal conservancies cover over 17% of the land. Private land used for conservation represents slightly over 6% of the country’s land surface.  “A growing demand to create more conservancies across the country is an indication of the Community-Based Natural Resource Management programme’s success. The success on both communal and freehold land can be attributed to incentives derived from the use of natural resources for economic, social and environmental benefits,” Nandi-Ndaitwah says.

The minister adds that despite these achievements, some vegetation types that are not represented in the national parks and the demand for other land uses are on the increase, making opportunities to proclaim more land as protected areas few.  “Furthermore, predictions indicate that some parks are likely to get drier and others wetter due to the effects of climate change. More space would therefore be needed for some species particularly the species that require vast areas to survive. Some species are likely to seek new home ranges due to climate change. In order for the country to prepare itself to these changes, new proactive initiatives to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change are needed,” says Nandi-Ndaitwah.

The NAM-PLACE project is one such initiative. The project has five demonstration sites including the Mudumu Landscape, the Waterberg Plateau, the Windhoek Green Belt landscapes, the Sossusvlei-Namib; and the Fish River Canyon landscapes in the south of the country.

Clemencia Jacobs, Namibia: More Land for Conservation, AllAfrica.com, Nov. 25, 2011

Congo’s Rainforest: ready to be managed for REDD

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has entrusted a Canadian company with managing a vast section of its forest, including containing deforestation, the environment ministry has announced.  Ecosystem Restoration Associates (ERA) will handle a project covering nearly 300,000 hectares (740,000 acres) of woodlands in the Mai-Ndombe forest, in western Bandundu province, the statement said.  The project is part of the country’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD+) programme.  “For us, it’s about containing deforestation, restoring the forests and making this country a green country in the interest of the international community,” Congo’s Environment Minister Jose Endundo told AFP.  It was also about ensuring the country’s credibility in the fight against climate change, he said.

John Kendall, ERA’s Africa representative, told AFP Mai-Ndombe had been a strategic choice to demonstrate what Africa could do in the fight against climate change.  They would be working with local communities to teach them sustainable farming, such as how to grow their crops without being obliged to burn down woodlands, he added.  The Democratic Republic of Congo has 75 percent of the Congo basin’s forested land and 50 percent of Africa’s.  The REDD+ programme was adopted during the UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico at the end of 2010.  It offered financial incentives to encourage countries with large tropical forests to manage them in a sustainable way.

DR Congo entrusts forest management to Canada’s ERA, Agence France Presse, Aug. 23, 2011