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Experts seek ways to stimulate wildlife economy in Africa  

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Experts on Thursday discussed ways that can help stimulate the wildlife economy in Africa at a conservation meeting held in Rwandan capital Kigali, but the continent was also warned against habitat loss for wildlife due to human encroachment.

The Business of Conservation Conference, running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, draws top African chief executives, political leaders, investors, entrepreneurs and innovative conservationists to explore practical avenues to economic growth in Africa through wildlife conservation.

The conference, co-organized by the Rwandan government and the School of Wildlife Conservation of Africa Leadership University, with campuses in Rwanda and Mauritius, will explore the intersection of business, economic development and conservation, according to organizers.

Fred Swaniker, founder and chief executive of the Africa Leadership University, outlined key areas to stimulate the wildlife economy.

These include finding ways to attract capital into wildlife, empowering communities around protected areas to generate income from wildlife, creating a new generation of leaders to drive wildlife economy, applying technology to improve efforts against poaching and illegal wildlife trade, setting appropriate economic policies that stimulate wildlife and providing incentives to invest in the wildlife economy to reap benefits from it.

There is wildlife potential in Africa that can guarantee sustainable wealth for the continent, he said.

While promoting the wildlife-pillared economy, the conference also heard that habitat loss due to agriculture, infrastructure and urbanization is becoming a serious threat to wildlife conservation efforts in Africa.

Efforts to get rid of poaching have been at the center of wildlife protection and conservation in Africa, “but the threat remains the loss of natural habitat,” said Kaddu Sebunya, president of African Wildlife Foundation, at a panel discussion on the conference.

“If we don’t act fast and save wildlife habitat from human encroachment, wildlife in Africa will not survive, given present rates of habitat loss,” said Gautam Shah, founder and chief executive officer of Internet of Elephants, a wildlife conservation company based in Kenya.

The survival of Africa’s wildlife is dependent on large, wild protected lands and requires a deliberate choice by African governments to protect habitat for them, he said.

According to African Wildlife Foundation, a rapidly rising human population accompanied by infrastructure development and rising levels of consumption will make it ever more challenging to find room for wildlife in the next 100 years.



Tanzania launches aerial wildlife census in Selous-Mikumi ecosystem

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- Tanzania on Wednesday launched an aerial wildlife census in the Selous-Mikumi ecosystem, targeting large mammals like elephants and buffalo.

The census is conducted by state-owned Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), and the Tanzania National Park (TANAPA), in collaboration with Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS).

“The census targets large mammals, such as elephants and buffalo, and will estimate wildlife populations, their distribution as well as signs of illegal human activities in the Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park and the Selous-Niassa corridor,” said an FZS statement.

Aerial wildlife censuses in the Selous-Mikumi Ecosystem have been conducted every three to four years since 1976.

The overall coverage of the Selous-Mikumi Aerial Wildlife Census is approximately 110,000 square km.

The latest census was initially planned to be conducted in 2017, but had to be postponed due to excessive tree canopy cover that hampers aerial survey visibility, the statement said.

TAWIRI, the leading organization in the census, said the current conditions allowed the assessment to be successfully completed and provide reliable data for the estimate of wildlife populations and trends in the Selous-Mikumi Ecosystem.

Selous Game Reserve has faced many conservation challenges in recent decades, the statement said, adding that subsequent to the massive decline of elephants in the late 1970s and 1980s, elephant population estimates dropped from approximately 109,000 to 31,889.

Elephant numbers showed recovery later, reaching an estimated 65,000 individuals in 2006, it added.

The most recent surge in poaching occurred in the late 2000s and early 2010s, driven by soaring demand for ivory, cut elephant population estimates to 14,867 in 2014, according to the statement.

“Selous Game Reserve was placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2014 mainly due to the poaching threat,” said the statement.

Tanzania has since made great strides in curbing poaching and strengthening the Selous Game Reserve management and protection, including the establishment of Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority, improved law enforcement, and intensive anti-poaching initiatives that include regular aerial surveillance, the statement added.


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