While it’s often what gets the most attention, wildlife trafficking isn’t the only threat to Africa’s wildlife. As people and wildlife increasingly find themselves in closer quarters a new problem is intensifying: that of human–wildlife conflict.
With the world currently experiencing many of its effects, it is a critical time for drawing attention to the threats of climate change. In Africa, prolonged droughts have been felt across the continent. Between 2007 and 2009, severe droughts in Kenya and Tanzania significantly reduced local communities’ crop yields and livestock productivity. But it also had a big effect on the region’s wildlife.
The world’s appetite for ivory has, for years now, been the driving force behind the catastrophic decline in Africa’s elephant population. A recently completed census revealed that Africa’s elephant numbers have declined by a full 30 percent over a period of just seven years.
A s part of the Serengeti–Mara ecosystem, the Naboisho area in southern Kenya sees tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra pass through the landscape each year. But the area began experiencing pressure from uncontrolled development and overgrazing. With the assistance of a few operators, among them ecotourism operator Asilia, the Maasai landowners in Naboisho formed a conservancy in 2010— eventually transforming a degraded landscape into a prime tourism destination.
In July 2015, the first class of dogs graduated from the African Wildlife Foundation’s (AWF) unique anti-trafficking program, the Conservation Canine Programme. The eight graduates are currently stationed in airports and seaports in Kenya and Tanzania, working closely with the wildlife authorities to diligently detect wildlife products bound for international travel. The enthusiastic canines sniff their way throughout these highly trafficked venues, searching high and low for contraband wildlife products.