The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Proverty can be fought by contributing to the Conservation of Endangered Apes

BLURB - Conservation of endangered apes in many African countries could contribute to the fight against poverty, suggests a recent study.

WINDHOEK – Where there are apes, there is poverty – in Africa. But, pointed out a study by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), this scenario can be turned around.

This comes with an increased understanding and acknowledgement that the conservation of biodiversity leads to the conservation of livelihoods, especially for those living close to the environment.
“Efforts to conserve apes have great potential also to reduce poverty but the actual, or perceived, negative impacts of conservation may result in local apathy – or even outright hostility – to conservation efforts,” commented a senior researcher with the IIED, Dilys Roe.
The International Union of Conservation of Nature has declared Africa’s apes – the bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas – as endangered or critically endangered because of hunting and deforestation.

The IIED said early efforts to conserve these species in strictly controlled protected areas have often led to conflict with local communities, whose access to forest resources they enjoyed for generations have become restricted. But the introduction of a new integrated conservation and development strategy that aims at creating benefits for local communities, while reducing their reliance on forest-based resources in natural parks, has shown a significant reduction in conflict, and hence reduction of the destruction of apes.

This project first started in two national parks in Uganda and was eventually extended to 18 other African countries.

In Uganda, there was a serious onslaught on the natural forests of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, leading to a threat to the conservation of the highly endangered Mountain Gorilla.

Bwindi borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and is home to about half of the world’s population of Mountain Gorilla.

It has been managed as a protected area since 1932, and later gazetted as a forest reserve and then as a game sanctuary in 1961.

From 1961 until 1991, said the IIED, it was managed as a forest reserve and game sanctuary. By 1991, it was gazetted a national park in an attempt to conserve its threatened fauna and flora.

In 1994, the park was declared a World Heritage Site. This meant that the local communities who for centuries used this forest area as a source of timber, minerals, non-timber forest resources, game and agricultural land, now could no longer do so, even though these activities have led to significant losses to the forest, especially during the 1980’s.

The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park borders Rwanda and the DRC, and was initially managed as a gorilla sanctuary from 1931 to 1941 before it became both a game and forest reserve until 1991.

The IIED said the park was heavily encroached on and settled, and when the Ugandan government declared the areas as national parks in 1991, more than 2400 people were displaced at Mgahinga.

The 1991 legislation intensified conflict between local communities and the management of the parks, with the closure of the forest-resource use coupled with the arrest of local people engaged in mining and timber harvesting.

At Bwindi, about 1773 people were evicted and the local people could no longer legally use the forest-resources, which led to a massive increase in prices of forest products.

This in turn led to declining incomes for forest-dependent households and a reduction of food security, according to 1996 statistics.

“These impacts were felt most acutely by the poorest and most marginalised social groups (mostly the Batwa community chased out of the Bwindi area) who tended to be most heavily dependent on forest products,” said the IIED.

The Batwa is considered a marginal group of hunter-gatherers who drew important cultural and social values from the two forest areas. Today, they are all evicted from the Bwindi area and live squatter lives on the periphery of the two national parks.
The IIED said resentment and discontent over the dislocation persists to this day, nearly 20 years later, which is aggravated by “crop raiding” of adjacent agricultural fields by wildlife from the national parks.

Hence the decision to embark on the integrated conservation and development initiative of which activities range from single outreach programmes that aim to ‘improve’ local attitudes to conservation, to initiatives that give communities decision-making power over natural resource management and ways to benefit from them.
Hence the integrated conservation and development initiative, stated the IIED, of which activities range from single outreach initiatives that aim to “improve” local attitudes to conservation, to initiatives that give communities decision-making power over natural resource management and ways to benefit from them.

“These conservation initiatives are making a concerted effort to address poverty issues, but surprisingly few of them seem to explore whether or not they have been successful by measuring or reporting on the results of their efforts,” said researcher Chris Sandbrock.

One strategy is to generate income from ‘gorilla tourism’, or ‘great ape tourism’, which is a popular way of exploiting the presence of apes into money for local communities.

However, the IIED suggested that revenue from great ape tourism is rarely shared with local people on a “significant enough scale” to give local communities enough incentive to support the conservation of these apes.

Another strategy piloted in 1993 was to re-establish certain specific user rights of buffer zone communities to key resources within the national parks like medicinal plants, fibers for basket weaving and the production of granaries, as well as bee-keeping.

Another was a first attempt by the Ugandan authorities’ protected area system - and a first for Africa – to develop resource use agreements with local communities.

These allow for beekeeping and the collection of bamboo rhizomes for on-farm planting.

Yet another strategy introduced in the late 1990s was park revenue sharing in support of the adjacent community development projects, such as the rehabilitation of schools and health facilities.

This revenue was initially generated from gorilla trekking fees, and was later changed to an allocation of a certain percentage from the park entry fees.

The IIED said this has led to a significant decrease in revenue to the communities because most money was generated from gorilla trekking.

With lobbying from local and international groups, the Ugandan Government decided to add one percent of the gorilla trekking fee to the community development revenue pot.

Other funds generated through a forest conservation fund have so far been invested into communal infrastructure projects, mostly schools.

And, said the IIED, the tourism programme has generated local benefits through community-based tourism enterprises.

But communities, their leaders and politicians differ over how the generated funds should be spent.

On the one hand, individual households have favoured projects that generate income that can be used to offset some of the direct costs of conservation – like crop raiding by wildlife – while local leaders and politicians have favoured social infrastructure projects, to which the bulk of the funds have been directed.

But, stated the IIED, the new strategy has led to the conservation of the Mountain Gorilla and other wildlife in the parks.

A 5 percent increase in the Mountain Gorilla numbers have been recorded since 2002, which compares very favourably with other African countries that have great ape populations.

Furthermore, it said that park boundaries have stabilised with almost no loss of forest cover inside the national parks as incidences of encroachment have rarely been reported since 1995.

Furthermore, said the IIED, when deliberate steps are taken to spread the effects of tourism revenues, benefits through local employment can be realised through a range of channels.
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