By the time the rains had failed yet again in October 2019, more than 100 elephants had already succumbed to the southern drought in Zimbabwe alone. One of the harshest dry periods experienced in the region in the last four decades, the extended drought disappeared water sources across shrinking grazing areas. Wildlife mortalities continued to rise in Zimbabwe’s iconic protected areas, most notably in Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks.
The illegal trafficking of protected African wildlife species can take various gory forms across the continent. Wildlife management authorities and investigators often discover concealed elephant tusks still dripping with blood or even pieces of flesh and hides, but they are also likely to find crocodile eggs or pangolin scales. The contraband counts as evidence, as do the tools and weapons found at the crime scene, which can range from handmade bows and arrows to AK47s.
Elephants don’t know borders.
Elephant populations in Southern Africa roam freely across many countries, seeking food, water, and suitable habitat. As a result, monitoring, protecting, and securing habitats for elephant herds is particularly difficult.
Agriculture and population growth threaten wildlife in Zambia.
Historically, wildlife roamed freely around the Sekute Chiefdom in southern Zambia. But, in recent years, human population growth, agricultural enterprise, and tourism-related development have threatened these critically important wildlife dispersal corridors.
An insatiable demand for wildlife products.
Poaching of many of Africa’s iconic species has reached an all time high. With an estimated 35,000 elephants poached in Africa in 2014 and 1,215 rhinos poached in 2014, in South Africa alone, demand is growing at unsustainable levels. Consumption, in addition to existing on-the-ground efforts, needed to be addressed.
Kenyan wildlife is diverse but threatened.
Kenya is home to some of Africa’s most diverse ecosystems and identifiable species. Lush savanna landscapes play host to the African wild dog, leopard, hyena, Grevy’s zebra, and kudu, among other wildlife, but, unfortunately, these species and their homes are under constant threat from deforestation, poaching, and unsustainable agricultural practices.
Kenya’s ecological health is in danger.
The ecological health of the Mau Forest Complex in Kenya’s Rift Valley region is in imminent danger. Deforestation and industrial encroachment have destroyed large tracts of this important ecosystem, while years of indiscriminate forest clearing and settlement have taken their toll. This 40,000-hectare forest is East Africa’s largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem and serves the important purpose of storing rainwater during wet months and releasing it during dry periods.
A need to protect Africa’s largest elephant population.
The Kazungula District of Zambia, the location of the Sekute Chiefdom, lies close to the borders of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. Elephants and other wildlife regularly move between these countries to access various habitats.
Over time, human settlements have obstructed critical wildlife corridors connecting protected areas, and the close proximity of wildlife to people has resulted in increased human-wildlife conflict.
Namibia still faces eco-challenges.
Despite being at the forefront of conservation in Africa, Namibia still faces issues of poverty and habitat loss. Human-wildlife conflict still poses issues, and too often, communities do not see the benefits of the tourism businesses in their region.
Wildlife trafficking keeps the poaching industry alive.
Motivated by a lucrative illegal wildlife trade, poachers target Africa’s iconic species like the elephant and rhino through well-funded, highly trained, and increasingly sophisticated criminal syndicates. The poaching of rhinos has increased nearly 3,000 percent since 2007 as growing markets seek out rhino horn for its fabled medicinal properties. Although demand for ivory is sometimes limited by international embargoes, it still reaches consumers through the black market.