- The cost of conservation work in all of Africa's protected wildlife sites has been found to be a fraction of the amount spent by governments and consumers in other areas. These African sites, among the world's richest in biodiversity, could be effectively protected for just US$ 300 million annually, a new study has found.
Research by the African Protected Areas Initiative and BirdLife International's African network shows that just US$ 300 million annually would cover the minimum costs of managing all of Africa's 1,200 national parks and reserves, compared to US$ 51 billion on EU farm subsidies and US$ 450 million on UK arms subsidies. Worldwide, shoppers spend US$ 26 billion on dog and cat food and in Europe, US$ 11 billion on ice cream, the environmentalists point out.
The report, 'Financing Protected Areas in Africa', is being launched tomorrow, the second day of this week's UN biodiversity meeting in Italy, and will be used to persuade developed governments that fulfilling promises to fund protected areas is less onerous than they believe.
BirdLife fears that if developed nations fail to fulfil funding pledges made more than ten years ago, wildlife sites will "continue to be destroyed and with them will go the substantial benefits man gains from them," according to a statement released by the group today.
Dr Muhtari Amino-Kano, of BirdLife International and one of Africa's leading conservationists said: "The value of wildlife-rich sites to regional development and to the world as a whole is not recognised or supported by governments outside Africa."
Some 188 governments worldwide have ratified a treaty to help conserve the world's biodiversity and help fund conservation in poorer states, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Ten years later in Johannesburg, world governments agreed to set a target of reducing biodiversity loss by 2010 and in Kuala Lumpur last year, ministers agreed to establish a network of protected areas, and to examine ways of funding it.
Africa was chosen for the environmentalists' study because the continent has substantial development needs but also a wide range of wildlife. The African continent, hosting a wide range of habitats, was also selected because biological resources provide food, medicine and many sources of income.
Alistair Gammell, Director of International Operations at the RSPB noted that every day television schedules across the developed world show films of Africa's charismatic wildlife. "But will it still exist for our grandchildren to see? When we hear stories of poaching and illegal logging we need to ask ourselves what we are doing to help," he added.
While the world's rich countries are now pledging to increase development aid to Africa and cancelling some debts, Mr Gammell urged the rich G8 countries to widen their horizon. The G8 should "address poverty immediately, ensure the conservation of natural resources for the future, and guarantee compensation for communities giving up the opportunity to exploit natural resources so that they may be conserved for the benefit of us all," Mr Gammell said.
- Decisions at this meeting will be crucial, he added. "Unless substantial progress is made, the future of the world's most important wildlife sites and the well-being of the communities surrounding them will lie on the consciences of the rich world," said Mr Gammell while noting that conservation of African key sites was "a bargain".
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