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Changing the game

By | Friday, 20th September, 2019

Just a quick note with regards to African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), one Africa’s oldest and finest NGOs, and who over the years I’ve kept in fairly regular contact, first with Fauna & Flora International, and now with Wild Philanthropy. I’ve just received an invite to AWF’s December fundraiser, which prompts this short post.

Co-hosted with a number of leading conservation groups and individuals, Changing the Game is a call to action. It has long been AWF’s position that in protecting ‘wild animals and wild lands, we protect Africa’s future’, a philosophy informed by the idea that our future is intrinsically tied to the health of the ecosystems that regulate the planet’s weather systems, that underwrite the quality of our air, water, energy and food chains, and that protect us from natural disaster.

It’s the same message delivered this year by the UN’s much-publicised Global Assessment Report, which assesses one million species as being at risk of extinction, and which states categorically that nature is on the ropes, and that it is human activity that has put it there. Reasons for the rampant loss of species are land conversion, bush meat hunting and poaching, climate change, pollution, and the invasion of alien species. We have had, it says, a deleterious effect the world’s land and water surfaces. The forecast rate of species decline has few precedents, and those that we know of are logged in the fossil record as eras of catastrophic environmental change. Early signs that we are on the brink of another such catastrophe can be found in vast and growing ‘dead zones’, areas bereft of life. The report warns of the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet – such is the rate of devastation wreaked by human activity. It is an extremely sobering read.

AWF shines a concerned light on keystone and endangered species in Africa. Just 415,000 strong, the elephant could be extinct within our own lifetime. The black rhino has declined 97.6% since the 1960s. Lion live in considerably smaller habitats, are extinct in 20 countries, and number less than 35,000. Numbers of giraffe, cheetah, and wild dog have declined. Meanwhile, the illegal wildlife trade is worth a staggering US$26 billion a year.

And yet, as its work in the likes of northern Tanzania, the Lower Zambezi, and in Rwanda clearly demonstrate, all is not lost. When genuinely partnered to key stakeholders, conservation solutions can reverse decline. Hence there having been no poaching in Manyara Ranch since 2015, or the fact that 79% of carnivore populations supported by the organisation are stable or growing, or that work with the Rwandan government has seen the number of mountain gorilla increase – from 300 to 1000.

The long and short of it: the kind of conservation strategies championed by the likes of AWF work – and are key to tackling the devastation outlined by the abovementioned report. However, we’re running out of time, and need to change up the way we organise and implement those strategies. Its aim to protect Africa’s most endangered species, Changing the Game takes place 4 December, at Somerset House, London. See you there.