March 28, 2011
"Rainfall is the main abiotic (i.e. non-living) factor determining ungulate grazer populations across Africa […] In West-Central Africa, 1970 was a turning point in terms of natural conditions for most large mammal populations, with their subsequent decline having been triggered by a prolonged decline in rainfall, coinciding with increased human pressure. When rainfall improved, human pressure lifted only partially," the author, Paul Scholte, writes. Concluding that mammal populations in west-central Africa were abnormally high in the 1970s—the starting point of Craigie's study— Scholte writes that this "[explains] part, but certainly not all, of the reported 85% decline".
A dead kob antelope in Waza National Park in Cameroon. A dam upstream led to a crash in the kob population from 20,000 to 5,000. Photo by: Paul Scholte.
Other studies in Central Africa have shown declines, but not as steep as those presented in the Craigie study. However, a study of five protected areas in the Central African Republic was close, finding a decline of 65%.
Scholte states that the most effective way to deal with these mammal losses is to close the gap between existing funding and the funding required to actually run the parks effectively. According to a 2003 study parks in the regions are underfunded by 90%.
"The few quantitative studies available suggest that a 3- to 10-fold increase in the operational budget of African [protected areas] is required. In addition to up-scaling the funding, a dramatic increase in the (institutional, human, and local) capacity to handle such up-scaled support would be necessary," Scholte writes.
CITATION: Scholte, P. 2011. Towards understanding large mammal population declines in Africa’s protected areas: A West-Central African perspective. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 4 (1):1-11.
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