Some Endangered Species, Human Health Threatened
Long a source of sustenance for many rural people in Africa, the meat from wild animals is becoming increasingly popular as a delicacy in other parts of the world-so popular, in fact, that consumption threatens some endangered species and may pose risks to human health.
By R. Michael Wright, President, AWF
Dust billows in through the open top of the battered Land Rover as we slowly squeeze between two gnarled acacia thorn trees. We drive for hours through an empty landscape, searching for signs of the pack of wild dogs that had reportedly reappeared in Melepo Hills west of Namanga, the border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania.
Protecting the black rhino in the wild is considerably less expensive than preserving the endangered animals in captivity, a recent AWF-sponsored study has found.
Poaching has resulted in a 95 percent decline in the world's black rhino population over the last three decades to fewer than 2,600 in 1997. The only surviving populations live in protected areas, sanctuaries established in the wild or captive breeding programs, typically in zoos and open paddocks.
Cape mountain zebra were never very numerous to begin with, but back in 1950, their numbers had nosedived to a precarious 91. Intense conservation efforts began to reverse the decline, gradually raising their numbers to more than 400 by 1984 and to 1,200 today.
East Africa's priceless rangelands for years have struggled against degradation caused by overgrazing and soil-depleting crop farming. Now ecologists are coming to grips with a third villain: the leleshwa weed, a fast-growing, tough-to-control shrub that is overtaking large sections of grassland.