The Yasuní ITT Initiative (see Yasuní and the True Value of the Environment) is a revolutionary approach aiming to conserve one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, in Ecuador. The idea is simple: the world compensates Ecuador for half the sum of money they could gain from the oil beneath the area. Like many, we have been following this story closely since the initiative began.
Entries in rainforest (4)
Rainforests. They are always on the forefront of conservation campaigns, whether being promoted by NGOs, used in advertising campaigns or being studied nature programmes. They are the most spectacular resource and are stunningly beautiful; however, studies have shown that we aren’t doing enough to conserve them.
It is hypothesized that large seeds produced by a number of tropical trees were once dispersed by giant mammals, similar to today’s elephants, called gomphotheres. Gomphotheres would have ingested and defecated the seeds, dispersing them across large distances; however, the last gomphotheres are believed to have gone extinct approximately 10,000 years ago.
A study by the University of British Columbia’s Zoological Department recently revealed that humans play a significant role in the fate of African elephants with human conflicts such as civil war and genocide being one of the greatest impacts particularly within the Eastern Congo.
The war torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the largest tract of rainforest in the Congo basin at 1.6 million square kilometres thus making it the second biggest continuous rainforest in the world. Scientists have suggested that much of this forest was probably inhabited by elephants in the past, but poaching and human encroachment have severely reduced their numbers. Before the civil war population numbers of elephants in the DRC were around 22,000 however, current estimates suggest that only 6,000 are left in the wild.
Alongside human conflict, the ivory trade is the other largest threat to elephants. African elephants have been hunted ruthlessly for their ivory since the 19th Century. The last big poaching even occurred in the late 1970s and 1980s when the total population was reduced from 1.3 million to less than 600,000. The international ban in ivory trade in 1990 almost stopped poaching for good but unfortunately a recent resurgence has been noticed.
It was found in the study that the elephant population in the Okapi Faunal Reserve which is one of the last strongholds of forest elephants in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), saw a 50% decline in the last decade due to civil war and ivory poaching. It was estimated that population numbers of elephants within the reserve decreased from 6,439 to 3,288 in the last 15 to 30 years. Lead author of the study, Rene Beyers stated that “Having protected areas is not enough to save elephants in times of conflict”.
Despite this decline Beyers suggests that even in times of war, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with the right funding and staffing can have a positive impact on elephant conservation. In Rwanda, for example, national parks and reserves that received support from international NGOs were far less affected by the genocide in 1994 than sites with no support.
The fact that International NGOs can have such a positive impact on the survival of elephant populations, particularly within areas such as the DRC, therefore makes their involvement vital in safeguarding the future protection of elephants from resurgent threats such as poaching.
By Anthony Kubale