Unit # 1
The Major Crises affecting African Wildlife
This course focuses on the major crises effecting African Wildlife, including elephants, primates and predators. It examines the attitudes towards animals, and the conservation efforts that are put in place to negate the effects of the crises.
Issues affecting wildlife
There are two types of ecological crises; one is human-induced and the other is caused by natural events.
Broadly speaking an ecological crisis defines a situation where an environment is changed in a way that destabilises the ecosystem to the point that the survival of species and/or populations is threatened with extinction.
Although incidences of climate change are recorded in pre-human history, recent changes are considered to be the result of human activity.
Learn about the conservation efforts that strive to solve the crises facing wildlife.
Challenges affecting wildlife
Increases in temperature and altered rainfall patterns affect global ecosystems. Another type of ecological crisis occurs when increased predation pressure changes the environment in a way that renders it less favourable for some species. Examples of this are over-fishing, and the hunting to extinction of some species used as food by humans. Overpopulation of one species may also leave an environment unfavourable for other species.
For example, removal of top predators from an ecosystem may result in the overpopulation of prey species, which can lead to over-grazing and degradation of the land. Natural events can also cause ecological crises, and include volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes and fires.
These events have the capacity to eradicate significant numbers of organisms, including vegetation and animal life. The result on the environment can be devastating, taking years for the soil and vegetation to recover enough to sustain consumers. Let’s find solutions! This course aims to inform and inspire.
African Wildlife Issues
Ethiopia has the second largest human population in Africa and the demand for fuel (firewood), agricultural land and housing has led to the destructive deforestation of large areas of Ethiopia. The low rainfall of the country has resulted in many famines and this is exacerbated by deforestation as removal of forested areas reduces infiltration of rainwater into the soils. Without trees to prevent erosion along riverbanks, and vegetation to retain the water and nutrients of the soil, much of Ethiopia’s soil nutrients are leached into the Nile and to neighbouring countries like Sudan and Egypt, where land is very fertile.
When desert conditions encroach on moister zones along the margin of a desert, this process is called “desertification”. The effect is the result of activities that cause plants and soils to become desiccated through overuse (e.g. from humans draining ground water or overgrazing by livestock).
There are several categorical threats to non-human primates throughout Africa. Amongst the Great Apes, every species and subspecies is endangered and some are on the brink of extinction.
Other non-human primates face similar threats to their survival in the wild. All of these threats result from contact and conflict with human populations.
While each one is a distinct threat to the survival of particular species these threats are usually found in combination. For example, logging of the forests leads to human encroachment into gorilla habitats. This results in hunting (for bush meat, the pet trade or illegal capture and trade). Encroachment of human settlements into gorilla habitat also increases the danger of diseases spreading amongst the resident gorilla populations, since gorillas are affected by human diseases. African countries have been badly affected by desertification, since two thirds of the African continent is already arid or semi-arid. With a relative lack of good farming land (compared to other continents such as America and Europe), people in Africa are forced to farm dry, marginal land. Climatic fluctuation, along with overgrazing, wood harvesting, soil exhaustion (loss of fertility often due to continual burning) and land misuse has resulted in the desertification of over 270,000 miles of farming and grazing land in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past 50 years.
The adaptations and specialisations of the African predators have evolved to enable them to obtain sufficient food and live long enough to mate and pass on their genes, while also competing successfully with other predators. However, despite millions of years of evolution to get the predators to the form that we see them in today, they have not yet been able to evolve mechanisms to escape the pressure placed on their populations by human development. Whether by direct persecution (e.g. hunting, trapping or poisoning) or indirectly via loss of habitat or prey, many African predators are threatened with extinction.