Urgent priorities include addressing the threats of habitat conversion and loss, poaching, and wildlife trafficking
BRUSSELS (26 November, 2015) – Conservation and animal welfare groups are welcoming the European Commission’s announcement of a new report that will inform the EU’s strategy to save Africa’s unique wildlife and ecosystems.
The Commission’s Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO) has released “Larger than Elephants: Inputs for the design of an EU Strategic Approach to Wildlife Conservation in Africa,” which outlines how the EU will address the rapid decline in wildlife over the next 10 years. The report focuses on the conservation of large functioning ecosystems or landscapes supporting key African wildlife populations.
DG DEVCO’s leadership on this strategy is essential because Africa’s biodiversity is tied so closely to the development and livelihoods of its people. The strategy recognises the link between loss of biodiversity and poverty, and works to address both issues in tandem. Evidence suggests the rural poor depend disproportionally on local ecosystems for their survival. When the circumstances are right, and local communities are empowered, biodiversity conservation can be a route both out of poverty and away from unsustainable development.
European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, who unveiled the report, said, “Wildlife conservation is a complex challenge that calls for this comprehensive approach, having strong implications on biodiversity conservation, on livelihood of rural population and stability of large territories. We must develop win-win solutions to preserve natural resources and wildlife while creating real benefits for the populations living in wildlife rich areas and tackling decisively illegal wildlife trade.”
Africa has seen the precipitous decline of many of its most iconic species in recent years. While attention has focused on African elephants and several species of rhinoceros, many other species of the continent’s unique flora and fauna are also heading in the direction of extinction. Much of the decline is due to increased pressures from habitat loss and degradation, poaching and illegal wildlife trade, bush-meat hunting, and climate change, all exacerbated by political instability, weak governance and rule of law, resource scarcity and extreme poverty.
As conservation organisations with a long-standing presence in Africa, including decades of field conservation by some, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and BirdLife International have today applauded the European Commission for the release of the comprehensive report by DG-DEVCO. Noting the escalation in habitat loss, wildlife trafficking, prevalence of bush-meat hunting, and challenges managing national parks, a strategic, coordinated and large-scale response across sub-Saharan Africa is urgently needed.
Joe Walston, WCS Vice President for Field Conservation, said: “Africa’s wildlife crisis is worse now than ever. But WCS’s work on the ground has convinced us that we can make progress with the right kind of comprehensive approach to effective protected area management, anti-poaching and anti- trafficking efforts, and efforts to empower local communities—and DEVCO’s document provides such a framework. We are eager to work with the European Union and its Member States on implementing the important ideas presented here, and look forward to seeing these ideas manifest themselves in a strategy whose fully funded measures truly make a difference for African wildlife and wild places.”
Jason Bell, IFAW’s Elephant Programme Director said, “By placing the landscape and wildlife crime at the heart of this continent wide strategy, the European Union and its Member States have made a worthy attempt at bridging the poverty-biodiversity nexus. The EU must now ensure that it follows through and fully funds this effort. A landscape approach which views keystone species sufficiency, such as with elephants, as a pre-requisite for advancing human development, not only caters for the immediate needs of humans, but assures their long-term development. This acknowledgment of resources competition and human elephant conflict provides for mitigation measures and livelihood interventions which result in greater protection for both humans and elephants.”
Dr. Julius Arinaitwe, Regional Director for Africa, BirdLife International said: “Today’s launch is an important chance to highlight the challenges faced by wildlife in Africa and make sure the EU acts on its recommendations. BirdLife welcomes the chance to contribute to this report, in particular through working with our 24 African partners who themselves work with a number of local conservation groups supporting and investing in developing livelihood initiatives.”
The EU strategy will still need to be funded; if sufficient funds are galvanised after the strategy is finalised, then it will truly be a game-changer for African wildlife species. This effort thus far by DG DEVCO marks good progress and it will now require EU Member States to signal their support and provide financial assistance. The establishment of a special EU Trust Fund for African wildlife would be a reliable way forward and help to leverage the funds needed. The EU and its Member States have significantly funded biodiversity conservation over the years, but if properly funded an integrated and well developed strategy will provide an opportunity for a large-scale, highly effective, and interconnected approach.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: +1 347-840-1242.
International Fund for Animal Welfare
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. Together we are 120 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country – and growing, with almost 13 million supporters, 7,000 local conservation groups and 7,400 staff.