A forest without wildlife is like a jet without an engine
Australia’s Prime minister Tony Abbot recently caused a public outrage after fronting government’s attempt to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian wild forests. Conservationists dismissed the suggestions the area is significantly degraded and logged. The areas the Tony Abbot government wants to delist is part of 170,000 hectares of tall eucalypt, old-growth and rainforest that in June 2013 were added to the 1.4 million hectare Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. In East and Central Africa, tropical rainforests just like any other parts of the world have been found to be the most species rich ecosystems in the world and in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo there are hundreds of tree species, birds and mammals, and countless other creatures that remain unknown. The disappearance of species, birds, mammals is what is happening in African countries forests. In countries worst affected like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, DR Congo, Cameroon, Gabon among others the forests with big trees and good canopy structure are without wildlife and has seen nearly every single larger animal face extinction.
I recall a conversation with a Ugandan Journalist sometimes back in 2012 who narrated how at his childhood birds were singing, gecko calls were a norm every day. Nowadays, he cant believe nothing much moves on the ground, and for him the last parrot he saw in his neighborhood is quite many years ago and even a forest he had recently visited, it was strangely silent. As a lover of nature, Contador Harrison can only guess what happened to Uganda and other African countries forest’s wildlife as I wasn’t there. The main difference between African countries and say Australia, as far as I can see, is the persistent collecting pressure by local communities in Africa, and the near-complete absence of it in Australia. In late 1990s, the then Australian Prime Minister John Howard supported the idea of camera trapping programs deep in the forested areas by researchers to primarily track down illegal loggers and keep a watchful eye for expensive forest products and that saved thousands of birds and mammals from losing their habitats. In East, Central and Southern Africa countries, governments are facing local and international pressure to nail down the criminal gangs involved in poaching of elephants and rhinos due to an enormous demand in Southeast Asia and China for horns, tusks and wildlife products.
Also, a long list containing huge variety of song birds are among the many species traded in vast quantities for exportation to Asian countries from African countries. The latest craze in East African region is ivory trade that is sold in the Chinese market. Various reports have cited security agencies involvement in the illicit business. With the East and Central African region having one of the largest forests remaining in the world, and wildlife populations on the continent already very much depleted, Sub Saharan African is easily becoming the main supplier of wildlife products in the world. To prevent the forest cover from disappearing in Africa something needs to be done urgently and even though there are plenty of protected areas like national parks managed by state agencies, effective guarding in all areas of remote forests need to be considered. Countries should consider educating their population on what they stands to lose if they don’t find sustainable plans to manage forests that act as habitats for species. African countries need to work extra hard on how to not just maintain Africa’s forests but also the plenty of services to society. They should also ensure that these forests are ecologically functioning and have wildlife in them otherwise their usefulness will be zero.