- As much as three-quarters of forests flanking Mozambique’s Mount Namuli have been lost since 2006, researchers say, threatening the newly described Namuli horseshoe bat.
- Environmentalists fear a new pipeline linking oil fields in Niger to the Atlantic coast in Benin will damage forest and wetland habitat along its length.
- Forests & Finance is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin of briefs about Africa’s forests.
Newly described bat from Mozambique mountain under threat, researchers say
A forest that harbors Mozambique’s most recently identified species of mammal could disappear within the next two years as small-scale farmers fell trees to grow potatoes and other crops.
The Namuli horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus namuli) is named after Mount Namuli, a granite mountain, or inselberg, in the country’s northern Zambezia province. At more than 2,400 meters (7,900 feet), it’s the country’s second-highest peak.
But only fragments of the moist evergreen forest growing on its flanks remain, and the bats, which were collected by a research team more than a decade ago in forests higher than 1,200 m (3,900 ft), may soon be without a home.
“Mount Namuli is severely threatened, and the natural forests have been heavily degraded, even since we first went there in around 2006,” said Julian Bayliss, the co-author of a recent paper in Acta Chiropterologica describing the new species.
“Since that time a lot of the forest, maybe 75%, has been destroyed.”
Farmers clear-cut small patches of forest to access the rich loamy soils beneath it that are perfect for growing so-called Irish potatoes. But the soil’s fertility only lasts for three to four years, after which the farmers move on to another patch.
Bayliss and his co-authors estimate that at current rates of loss, the forest could disappear entirely by 2025.
Namuli horseshoe bats belong to a group known for the horseshoe-shaped structures on their faces that send out soundwaves to help them navigate and catch flying insects. The species has also been recorded in northern Malawi and in southern Tanzania. But by naming the bats after Mt. Namuli, the scientists hope to highlight the rich diversity of life within its remnant forest patches and the need to protect what’s left of them.
Efforts are underway to promote sustainable agriculture and alternative livelihoods to try to slow the rate of deforestation. Conservation group Legado and partners are working to create a community conservation area and secure land rights for many of the roughly 24,000 people who live around the mountain and use its resources.
Nearly 5,000 people now hold title to their land, with 69% of those deeds issued in the names of women, according to the group’s website. These interventions appear to be bearing fruit: annual deforestation has dropped to around 2% since a peak of more than 8% in 2015-2018, according to data published in 2020 by Legado’s partner organization, Nitidae.
Rob Cunliffe, a Zimbabwean ecologist who worked as an adviser to the Namuli conservation initiative around five years ago, told Mongabay that forest loss around the mountain remains a key concern.
“I would be reluctant to say all will be gone by 2025, it is likely that remnant pockets will remain on the steepest and least accessible slopes, but certainly it is not a rosy picture,” he said.
Environmental concern and community complaints as Niger-Benin pipeline advances
Nigerien authorities say 600 kilometers (370 miles) of an oil pipeline linking the Agadem field in eastern Niger to the port of Sémè in southeastern Benin has been completed. Environmental NGOs say the project will have harmful consequences along its route.
The government of Niger, which plans to boost its oil production from 20,000 to 100,000 barrels per day, expects to export 90,000 barrels a day via this pipeline by June 2023.
In Benin, construction of the pipeline will affect 17 communes in four regions and have significant impacts on forests, farmland and wetland areas.
“Several mammal, bird and reptile species are threatened [by the construction]. Biodiversity will also decline due to habitat displacement, forest fragmentation and deforestation,” says Joséa Dossou Bodjrenou, president of the Benin national committee to the IUCN, the global wildlife conservation authority.
According to Benin’s environment ministry, 152 towns and villages will be affected. The authorities say those losing farmland have been consulted and compensated.
“In Sèmè Kpodji, beneficiaries are receiving 2,350 CFA francs [less than $4] per square meter in compensation, but they are not satisfied,” Félix Bandjou, village chief of one affected community, Kraké Daho, told Mongabay.
The pipeline project, launched in 2019, was to have been completed in 2022, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed construction, according to Nafiou Issaka, deputy general manager of the West African Oil Pipeline Company, the project owner.
Ryan Truscott and Lawon Olalekan contributed to this bulletin.
Banner image: Mount Namuli, a granite mountain, or inselberg, after which the Namuli horseshoe bat is named. Image courtesy of Julian Bayliss.
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