Tag Archives: war

How losing gorillas and elephants changes an ecosystem – VIDEO

Here’s another of Ian Redmond’s YoG interviews, this time with John Kahekwa at the Kahuzi Biega National Park. The park has lost most of its gorillas and elephants to poaching related to coltan mining and the war which started in 1994, and the absence of their ‘gardening’ activities has led to profound changes in vegetation cover and other ecosystem features.

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Go to www.yog2009.org to find out more about the campaign and how to support.

Year of the Gorilla Project – Eastern Lowland Gorilla – Rebuilding Surveillance and Monitoring in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DR Congo

Another of the expert-selected YoG projects – this one focuses on the currently hardest-hit subspecies: the Eastern Lowland Gorilla.

Introduction: The Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has probably suffered the greatest losses, in relation to its total population, of all gorilla species over the last 10-15 years. War and conflict in eastern DR Congo are to blame for this, as militias invade protected areas making long-term, steady conservation work practically impossible, and the civilian population is forced by hardship to turn to poaching and habitat destruction for firewood.

Chimanuka, an Eastern Lowland Gorilla silverback. Picture by Ian Redmond.

Project summary: The main goals of this important project are to reinstate regular monitoring and effective surveillance of the remaining Eastern Lowland Gorilla population throughout the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern DR Congo, which has been largely inaccessible to researchers and rangers due to instability and the presence of various armed factions in this region. The last reliable data on population size and distribution were recorded in 1995, and it is suspected that the population has shrunk dramatically since. New, precise information will be one outcome of this project, enabling intelligent and effective approaches to the conservation of this rare species.

Implementing partners: Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature with experienced international partners: GTZ (German Development Cooperation), WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and MGVP (Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project).

Budget: € 283,250 for 12 months

Please support this project, crucial for the survival of the remaining Eastern Lowland Gorillas, by donating.

For all the details, please click here.

Russel Mittermeier on war and conservation

I just found an article in the Miami Herald titled “Protecting nature during war can aid recovery” by Russel Mittermeier and Thor Hanson which has enormous relevance to what is happening in gorilla range states throughout Africa, not least the DR Congo. It is such an important article that I’ve reproduced it in full here

Protecting nature during war can aid recovery

An urgent call to protect nature in the midst of violence and loss of human life may seem naive or misguided. But if you consider where most major armed conflicts take place, wartime conservation is one of the best hopes for wartime recovery.Our recently published paper, ”Warfare in Biodivesity Hotspots,” reveals that 80 percent of the world’s major armed conflicts have occurred in some of the most biologically diverse and threatened places on Earth. Conservation activities must remain strong during such conflicts to ensure that local people will have the natural resources they need to survive and reestablish healthy communities in the post-war period.

The world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots have within their borders more than three-quarters of the world’s most endangered species. More than half of all plant species and at least 42 percent of all vertebrates occur within the hotspots and nowhere else. Our study shows that these areas are hotspots in other ways as well. A total of 23 experienced a significant violent conflict in which more than 1,000 people died between 1950 and 2000, and many suffered repeated episodes of violence.

We must not abandon these places. Loss of healthy functioning ecosystems makes people more vulnerable to many other threats, including the spread of disease, famine and severe weather events such as massive flooding. A majority of the world’s poorest people who rely on natural resources for their daily survival live in the biodiversity hotspots, which are largely concentrated in developing tropical nations. Forests and other healthy ecosystems help cleanse freshwater supplies and provide sources of food, medicines and materials for building homes. Nature is often intertwined with centuries-old traditional lifestyles and unique indigenous cultures.

Violent conflicts have various far-reaching impacts on ecosystems. In some cases, the scale and technology has led to what has been termed ”ecocide.” Such was the case during the Vietnam War, when poisonous Agent Orange was dumped from low-flying planes, defoliating 14 percent of the country’s forest cover and more than 50 percent of its coastal mangroves — with disastrous consequences since mangroves provide some of the richest fish habitat, and they shield coastal communities from severe impacts of hurricanes and tsunamis.

Beyond the battlegrounds, indirect effects of conflict have more far-reaching impacts. In Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Congo, war money came from extensive timber harvesting, and the cultivation of illicit drugs has provided financing for violent conflicts in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

War has devastating impacts on wildlife and other natural resources. Refugees are in no position to consider the environmental consequences of their actions. They hunt, gather firewood or build encampments to survive. The local proliferation of small arms leads to increased hunting for wild animals, or bush meat. And all too frequently, poaching during these lawless times leads to annihilation of wildlife, such as the loss of 95 percent of the hippopotamus in Congo’s Virunga National Park in 2006, and the deliberate slaughter of mountain gorillas in that same park in 2007.

Ecosystem protection must be integrated into military, reconstruction and humanitarian programs in the world’s conflict zones. Conservationists must work alongside these sectors in the wartime planning stage as well as during and after conflicts.

Supporting national institutions and local staff throughout the duration of a conflict is key. Local conservationists often remain to work in conflict areas because these places are their homes. Maintaining salaries and providing safe houses and funds to rebuild homes is an ethical imperative as well as a good conservation strategy. Yet very often the response of conservation organizations and other donor agencies is to pull out as soon as conflicts begin, which only exacerbates the problem over the long term.

The pattern of violence appears to be continuing into the 21st century. And while one must be cautious in speculating cause and effect, the fact that so many conflicts have occurred in areas of high biodiversity loss and natural resource degradation warrants much further attention.

Russell A. Mittermeier is president of the Arlington, Va.,-based Conservation International; Thor Hanson is an independent conservation biologist and author based in Washington state.