Researchers consider the benefits of conservation retreat: smaller reserves and focused funding – Anthropocene magazine
Decades of declining herbivore populations in central African national parks have conservation scientists arguing that smaller reserves might be better for wildlife.
As conservationists press for a major expansion of protected habitat around the world, scientists with years of experience in central Africa say new evidence calls for just the opposite in the region.
With few exceptions, protected savannas in the central African countries of Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo have witnessed a steep decline in large herbivores such as elephants and antelopes in recent decades. The new findings have led researchers studying the problem to a sobering conclusion: It’s better to focus on saving smaller patches of the best habitat.
“It’s a shame that we have to say, ‘Look, you have to retreat and we can’t conserve it all,’” said Paul Scholte, a Dutch ecologist who has worked for governments and nongovernmental agencies on conservation efforts in the region and helped lead the new research. “We would be the first who would love to conserve it all. But by experience we know that that’s no longer realistic.”
The challenges of wildlife conservation in Africa have long been documented. Parts of the continent remain havens for charismatic wildlife such as elephants, rhinos, lions, gorillas, and antelope herds. Yet poaching, the encroachment of farming, and deforestation have all led to worrying declines in wildlife.
The savannas of central Africa haven’t been spared. But the scale of the losses and the primary forces behind the problem have proven elusive. Habitat in the region sprawls across a number of countries, some wracked with civil strife. Methods for counting animal populations have varied over time, making it hard to make exact comparisons.
To get a clearer picture of what is happening to wildlife and why, Scholte, who first studied wildlife in Chad and Cameroon in the 1990s, teamed up with scientists from Africa, Europe and the U.S. as well as wildlife managers in several central African countries.
The team amassed 68 population surveys for large herbivores – both wild and domesticated – from the region’s seven main national parks with savannas, dating back to 1960. Those nature reserves cover 245,000 square kilometers – a quarter of the region’s northern savannas. To account for differences among species, the scientists estimated the total weight (biomass) of the overall herbivore populations. To understand how natural forces might affect population trends, they tracked rainfall over that same time. To gauge human activity they measured changes in revenue from tourism at each park and in the number of park rangers, who enforce wildlife protections.
The results were grim, for the most part. In six of the seven parks, populations of large wild herbivores have declined precipitously in recent decades while domesticated livestock has grown. At the same time, revenues from tourists that often come to watch, photograph or hunt the animals has plummeted, according to results published in the journal Conservation Biology.
At two parks in Cameroon and one in the Central African Republic, large herbivores have declined by more than 90%. In Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo the news is nearly as bad, with a roughly 75% decline, while another Cameroonian park, Bouba Ndjida, has seen its herbivores cut in half. Only Zakouma National Park, in southern Chad, had wild herbivores increase.
In 2022, the Forest Declaration Assessment included a regional pilot in the Congo Basin. Nine civil society organizations participated in this regional assessment, providing expertise, collecting data and contributing to the first regional Forest Declaration Assessment report that will be published in November 2022. This interview series highlights the work of these regional partners.
Delegates gathered against an ominous backdrop of multiple crises: energy, cost of living, indebtedness, nature loss, and geopolitical tensions among major powers. But the need to act in the face of the climate crisis has never been clearer. Global average temperature rise is already 1.1°C. People around the world are experiencing the effects of climate change, from heatwaves and droughts to floods and superstorms. Only the wealthiest countries can (so far) cope. As Sherry Rehman, Minister of Climate Change, Pakistan, implored “Vulnerability shouldn’t be a death sentence.”
FLEGT’s achievements must be saved at all costs, says Christian Mounzéo of Rencontre pour la paix et les droits de l’homme (RPDH), Republic of Congo. When the European Commission published its draft Regulation on deforestation-free products last November, the first reaction among Congo’s civil society was surprise. The second was concern.
The EU’s deforestation regulation must strengthen the FLEGT process and producer countries’ own efforts to combat deforestation, says Justin Kamga, Coordinator of Cameroonian NGO Forêts et Développement Rural (Foder).
In September, Fern’s civil society partners from the Congo Basin, West Africa and South East Asia came to Brussels to talk with policymakers about deforestation’s impact - on landscapes as well as people. More specifically, they shared their expertise on how the EU can tackle its responsibility for destroying forests around the world, and to highlight the potential ramifications of its proposed.
UN Climate Change News, 20 November 2022 – The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 closed today with a breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.
Here we summarize the discussions regarding how Central African countries could achieve the 30 × 30 target by addressing the following four matters. (1) Several financing mechanisms centred on forest carbon sequestration have started. Yet despite awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the fight against climate change, funding remains cruelly short of the required 10-fold scaling up. (2) Public–private partnerships, in which governments delegate the management of protected areas to private partners, have shown increased management efficiency and financing. Please download the Document....
Ministers return to Egypt to lend their political weight to delegates wrestling with key issues. About 200 nations from around the globe continued to chase a deal at the Cop27 summit in Egypt that will help in the struggle to save the planet from climate change. But despite hurdles, small but significant signs surfaced that an agreement at the UN summit remained possible.
Exclusive: Funding from rich countries is critical issue at Cop27 and poll shows many think UK has duty to provide it. A significant majority of people in the UK think the country has a responsibility to pay for climate action in poorer and vulnerable countries, an opinion poll shows.
Negotiations moved slowly on several issues, particularly finance. For other issues, texts were forwarded to the COP Presidency or ministers for further consideration. Agreement on a decision on the Santiago Network was met with applause from negotiators. Talks on the Adaptation Fund Board also reached compromise.
While ministers gave high-level speeches that relayed their national priorities, negotiators worked to clear as much of the backlog of pending issues as possible. By the end of the day, numerous issues remained unresolved. Ministers will take up a shortlist of issues to bridge the remaining differences.
Vanuatu’s climate change minister says Pacific support for Australian bid should be conditional. Australia must stop subsidising new fossil fuel developments if it is to win a key Pacific nation’s support for its plan to co-host a major UN climate summit in 2026.
Sharm El-Sheikh, 15 November 2022 – Senior officials from several governments, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) launched a new five-year work programme at COP27 today to promote climate technology solutions in developing countries.
Monday began with a recognition of the significant volume of work ahead. The Subsidiary Bodies forwarded a long list of issues to this second week of talks, adding to the slate of political-level discussions on key issues to be facilitated by ministers and the Presidency later in the week.
UN Climate Change News, 14 November 2022 – Two weeks of transparency events kicked off at COP27 in Egypt last week under the banner “Together4Transparency”. With discussions ranging from the need for reliable greenhouse gas emissions estimates accessible to all to the role that information plays in reducing risks and uncertainties in order to attract financial support for action, the series of events addresses the full range of actors and issues related to transparency.
UN Climate Change News, 14 November 2022 – Important progress on sustainable forest management and conservation has been made at the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh with the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP), which aims to unite action by governments, businesses and community leaders.
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, 11 November 2022 – At launch events held today at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, a major package of support of over USD $150 million for adaptation was launched. The package was announced at a special session on "Advancing Adaptation Action in Africa" co-hosted by H.E. Sameh Shoukry, COP27 President, and United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry.
Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, 12 November 2022 – The Adaptation and Agriculture thematic day at COP27 focused on how the world will feed eight billion people. Throughout the day, a series of sessions and initiatives shed light on pathways forward on adaptation and climate resilient agriculture.
The first week of the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference concluded with the closing plenaries of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). Substantive conclusions were adopted on a limited number of issues, mostly related to the consideration of reports by constituted bodies and to reporting. On many issues, only procedural conclusions were adopted which noted that further work is required to finalize the relevant decisions.
With the end of the first week of the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference nearing, co-facilitators across many negotiation rooms reminded delegates of the need to conclude consideration of the items set to be forwarded to the closing plenaries of the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs), scheduled for the next day.
Funding urgently needed to cope with climate disasters – and to prevent distrust crashing UN negotiations. Money is likely to be a flashpoint at the UN Cop27 climate summit starting on Sunday in Egypt, where world leaders will attempt to tackle the climate crisis.
World Leaders Launch Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership to accelerate momentum to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 - bringing the total funds committed to $24,5 bn November 7, 2022 at COP27 - 26 countries, including some Central African countries and the European Union – which together account for over 33% of the world’s forests and nearly 60% of the world’s GDP launch the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP).
Heads of State and Government and their entourages took over the conference venue on the second day of the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference. With their presence, leaders aimed to signal sustained momentum on climate action. In parallel, intergovernmental negotiations got up to speed. Discussions on some agenda items, such as those related to cooperative approaches under the Paris Agreement (Article 6.2), drew such crowds that they surpassed room capacity. Please download the Document....
At what is being referred to as the "African COP," political, industry, and civil society leaders voiced strong condemnations of shortcomings in adaptation financing for Africa. Against a backdrop of global economic slowdown and political instability, the African continent is making headway in designing initiatives to overcome the worst impact of climate change. Hosted by Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana, and organized by the United Nations Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment (SPBF), this high-level event called for greater leadership and renewed international cooperation to support African-led adaptation efforts.
Today at COP27 world leaders will launch the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP), committing to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 in the fight against climate change and as promised in the Glasgow Climate Pact.
At COP26 in Glasgow (2021) twelve donors committed to a collective Congo Basin pledge of at least US$1.5 billion of financing between 2021 and 2025. Over the course of 2021, the donors have collectively provided over $508 million towards the Congo Basin Pledge, with just under $311 million disbursed in the region so far. The report provides more detail on the collective spend, including case studies. Please download the 2021 report...
On the sidelines of this international climate governance conference, the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), gathering 11 member states1, is organizing today, November 7, 2022, at the DRC Pavilion (P80), from 12:30 pm the day of the ECCAS at COP 27, under the Leadership of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), country presiding over this instrument of regional integration. Please download the press release of the day...
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to declare open the twenty-seventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Friends, let me begin by thanking our friends here in Egypt for such a warm welcome.
We are five days from the start of the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP27). As COP President, Egypt is proud to host more than 45,000 registered COP27 participants representing Parties, UN and regional organizations, businesses, the scientific community, indigenous and local communities and civil society to jointly enhance and accelerate the implementation of climate action and follow up on our collective commitments and pledges. We hope that the welcoming people and natural beauty of Sharm El Sheikh can provide some inspiration for us to take the very needed meaningful steps to fight for the people and planet and save lives and livelihoods.
Cairo, Egypt - November 2022 – COP27, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted by Egypt in Sharm El Sheikh will see delegates from around the world participate in the annual climate change negotiations. With over 40,000 estimated attendees, the summit is expected to host one of the largest number of participants in the annual global climate conference, which is running from November 6 to 18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Gabon has just been certified for carbon credit by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The government welcomes a step forward for the marketing of carbon credits in Gabon. On Friday 7 October 2022, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) published́ its report on the technical analysis of Gabon’s activities over the period 2010-2018 on reducing emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, as well as conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+).
Experts agree there has been “some movement” but inclusivity, political goodwill and resources are still needed. When leaders from 141 countries signed the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use, a critical step had been made in recognizing forests as critical in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. However, what will it take to achieve these commitments? How have governments “walked the talk” so far and what support is needed to reach the six key efforts declared by the world leaders?
Previously unrecognized, the Congo Basin’s Cuvette Centrale is now seen as an important carbon sink and the world’s largest undisturbed tropical peatland. Safeguarding this newfound treasure means actors on both sides of the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo (RoC) will need to work together to anticipate threats and govern proactively.
Solving climate change without protecting forests and ending deforestation is an impossible task. The world forests provide important ecosystemic and livelihood services and are more than a store of carbon which needs protecting – they are also actively taking it up. By recent scientific estimates, forests absorb one-quarter of global fossil fuel emissions from the atmosphere every year.