African wildlife is facing an unprecedented crisis. Currently, about 5,000 African flora and fauna species, which represents 27% of all species assessed on the continent, are listed on the IUCN Red List threatened with extinction. The main threats to African wildlife are weak governance, poaching and wildlife trafficking, and the loss of habitats through land conversion and climate change. In addition, wild species are used unsustainably for purposes such as firewood and bushmeat.
The European Commission is developing a Wildlife Conservation Strategy (Larger than Elephants: Inputs for the design of an EU Strategic Approach to Wildlife Conservation in Africa) to counteract this crisis, and has invited input from stakeholders at a recently organised conference. The meeting gathered over 150 experts from Europe, Africa from both governmental and intergovernmental institutions as well as non-governmental organizations.
The European Commission estimates that at least 6 billion EUR will be required to manage most of the natural resources in Africa over the next ten years. Crucially, however, these resources should not be considered as a ‘cost’, but as an investment to safeguard the livelihoods of millions of Africans as well as the unique wildlife on the continent.
The current draft Strategy focuses on terrestrial species, but DG Development and Cooperation announced that flora and fauna from marine as well as inland waters will be added in due course.
For the occasion, the IUCN Brussels team was reinforced by some senior officials of various Specialist Groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) (African Elephant, African Rhino, Antelope, Conservation Breeding, Wild Pig Specialist Groups), the SSC Policy Sub-Committee, and the IUCN Species Programme. In his presentation, Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of the Species Programme, highlighted the need for continued investment in monitoring, and called for a stronger consultation and involvement of African governments, citizens and civil society (private and NGO sectors). He also emphasised that sustainable funding, and improved governance were needed to address the crisis, and that efforts should be better coordinated.
He also highlighted the work of IUCN/SSC Specialist Groups in providing the most needed data and elaborating species-specific strategies that complement the proposed conservation strategy; and presented SOS – Save Our Species, a small grant mechanism aiming at supporting civil society organizations acting on the frontline of wildlife conservation.
IUCN very much looks forward to the final version of the Wildlife Conservation Strategy (expected in May/June 2015) and trusts that the European Commission will be able to rapidly implement this, in cooperation with its partners in Africa.