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Europe and Central Asia
26 Nov 2015

Europe urged to do more to tackle threatened African wildlife

White-back Vulture - Photo: © Francesco Veronesi/Flickr
By Finlay Duncan

Conservationists are welcoming the launch of a new European plan to help protect wildlife in Africa.

The full ‘Larger than elephants – Inputs to a strategic approach for Africa's wildlife conservation report is being presented at an event today in Brussels. Released by the European Commission’s Development Directorate-General, it’s the EU’s first integrated strategy across the breadth of sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim to bridge the poverty-biodiversity nexus.

BirdLife International, which helped with the report’s creation, is calling for its recommendations to be taken forward.

It details the huge declines seen in wildlife and biodiversity in Africa, with a particularly welcome focus on migratory birds – a potent symbol of what Europe and Africa share.

At least two billion ‘European’ birds (more than a quarter of our total overall species) spend more than half of their year in Africa. But many have an uncertain future, with some having already seen population declines of up to 80% over the last thirty years.

Biodiversity declines are also having a huge impact, particularly through the loss of habitats to agriculture, with the changes thought to affect three quarters of all African birds.

The “Larger than Elephants: Inputs for the design of an EU Strategic Approach to Wildlife Conservation in Africa” strategy also profiles threats faced to species such as the African grey parrot and Grey-crowned crane from illegal hunting and trafficking.

Vulture populations in Africa too are seeing shocking declines. These are birds that have a key role in protecting people, livestock and wildlife from infectious diseases such as anthrax, tuberculosis and botulism, by helping with the disposal of rotting carcasses. That’s why BirdLife has already launched its new Love Vultures campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

In Kenya, a study showed carcass decomposition time nearly tripled in the absence of vultures, and both the number of scavenging mammals and the time they spent at carcasses increased threefold, facilitating disease transmission at carcasses.

This demonstrates why failing to tackle wildlife declines cannot be an option. A number of benefits for people and for ecosystem services are felt where conservation efforts succeed.

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. 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 is unveiling 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.”

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.


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.