What is at Stake?

Habitat loss is currently ranked as the highest cause of species extinction worldwide. Rapid human population growth and poverty have contributed to a loss of over 65% of the original wildlife habitat in Africa as a result of agricultural expansion, deforestation, and overgrazing (Newmark). Africa is no more a pristine wildlife sanctuary than it is an economically developed continent. Climate change and the heavy human footprint have led to the degradation of native habitats throughout the globe, Africa included. Conservation of African wildlife involves its own set of challenges and barriers due to a variety of factors, including a lack of ecological monitoring, corrupt governance, and widespread poverty.

The 1992 Caracas Action Plan of the Worlds Parks Congress set a goal of protecting at least 10% of the world’s major biomes. Currently, most developing countries protect less than half that amount (Krosby, 2013). Habitat loss and the resulting loss of biodiversity will lead to devastating biological effects at both small and large scales. Aside from the more grave concerns regarding the health of the environment, there is the aesthetic beauty of nature in Africa to be lost.
This map shows the relationship between protected areas and land type (http://na.unep.net/siouxfalls/publications/biodiversity/biodiversity.php)

Biodiversity is a critical component at every habitat level, including less popular types of biota such as plants and bacteria. The intrinsic value of species diversity, as well as co-dependent nature of community dynamics demands more attention paid towards less publicly recognized ecosystems, such as grassland and savanna. It is important to be taking a habitat approach rather than a species approach to conservation. Focusing on entire habitats, ecological communities, and regions, rather than simply attempting to save a certain species of mammal is a much more effective and realistic way of making real steps towards effective preservation. Oftentimes the economical benefits of preserving areas where tourism is especially prevalent brings less ecological benefits than targeting protection of ecosystems based on goals to preserve watersheds or biodiversity hotspots.

Masai Mara, Kenya (original photo)
Wildlife conservation in Africa is critical to the sustainability of pastoral and agricultural societies as well, despite the immediate benefits of exploitation for local communities
Reliance on agriculture and hunting is central to most cultures in Africa. A level of maintenance must be maintained at which the local people are getting what they need from the environment in a sustainable way.

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