For how long will wildlife still roam in East Africa?

The East African landscape is undergoing alarming changes.  The rapid degradation of the natural environment due to human activities, worsened by the continent’s harsh climate, is paving the way for a barren, infertile and deserted East Africa.  With expectations for climate change to turn East Africa into a hostile environment, the question remains – for how long will wildlife still roam in East Africa?

Wildlife migration out of East Africa due to climate change

Uganda recently hosted the African Climatic Change Leadership Training conference.  A statement by the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre made headlines: Climate change will increasingly force East Africa’s wildlife to migration from our national parks, in search of alternative habitats.  The East African country of Kenya already experienced such migrations – The Biodiversity Research Unit of Kenya Wildlife Services  reported how rivers run dry, forcing wildlife populations to migrate elsewhere in search of food and water.  The impacts of climate change induced ecological disruptions are far-reaching.

What are the implications of wildlife migration out of East Africa?

The East African countries including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are renowned for its wildlife populations.  In fact, it is one of the few world landscapes where nature and wildlife still dominate.  Africa’s big five, the lion, African elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino, accompanied by hundreds of smaller animals, roam freely and in abundance.  People from across the world make their way to Africa to experience this unique environment.  Which leads to the question: can tourism be Africa’s wildcard for environmental conservation and economic stability and growth?  Africa’s tourism industry is the fastest growing industry on the continent, growing by an average 15% annually.  Eco-tourism, where tourism activities positively contribute to the natural and social environment, combined with a strong conservation focus, is increasingly setting the trend for the continent’s tourism activities.  And there is an important relationship to be noted here:  Africa’s wildlife, tourism, resulting revenue and conservation of the continent’s environment, are intrinsically related.  But take wildlife out of the equation, and ecological disturbance and economic instability will result.

Call for management of human activities & planning for climate change

With these anticipated negative climate change impacts, urgent planning and  management measures are required.  The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre highlighted another critical matter – energy insecurity forcing community reliance on wood to meet their energy needs.  Trees have  important ecological roles and with the rapid removal of these from the savanna biome, East Africa’s environment may find it even harder to cope with the onset of climate change.  The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre urged for the government to plan for the community’s needs, preventing a worsened climate change onset.  But the organisation did not exclude the need for communities to take responsibility – responsibility for the well-being of their natural environment.  Kizazi Kipya Initiative, a Kenyan NGO, called for implementing of simple renewable energy technologies on a large-scale.  Energy generation from agricultural wastes is one technology that can provide communities with their energy needs, while preserving ecosystems and strengthening the ability of ecosystems to fight climate change.

But, if climate change planning is not refined, adopted and implemented across East Africa, then East Africa’s precious wildlife might not remain to roam the landscape in the coming century.

Photo credits: some rights reserved by Mark Abel, frederic.salein and moonlight*1 via flickr

Sources: SciDev.net,  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,  AllAfrica.com

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