When left to its own devices, nature does a remarkable job of taking care of itself. Consider Chernobyl, the Russian city that was permanently evacuated when a nuclear power plant exploded in 1986. According to a study in the October 2015 issue of the journal, “Current Biology,” wildlife numbers in Chernobyl now appear to be higher than before the nuclear disaster, largely because of the lack of human presence. “This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife,” says study coauthor Jim Smith, “just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming and forestry, are a lot worse.”
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.
Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park is home to some of the world’s most unique and endangered wildlife, including one species of mountain goat (the Walia ibex) that is found exclusively in the park. Due to its exceptional beauty and endemic wildlife, Simien Mountains National Park was among the very first sites to be inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. It stands with places like Yellowstone National Park and the Galapagos Islands as one of the world’s greatest natural treasures.
It was more than two years ago that AWF, through the African Apes Initiative, began reaching out to priority African great ape sites to offer our assistance in improving protection.
Africa is in a crisis that few would have anticipated, at least not the extent to which it is impacting the most visible symbols of conservation, the continent’s iconic species. Not only are current levels of illegal offtake unsustainable, but the species affected are also in much-reduced populations and ranges.