VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Each year, during the dry season, a large swath of the African countryside goes up in flames. During two distinct seasons—October through March in the northern hemisphere, and June through November in the southern hemisphere—fires are set to clear land, remove dead and unwanted vegetation and drive grazing animals to less-preferred growing areas. This is called “biomass burning,” and Africa is responsible for an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the total amount burned globally each year. Biomass burning also occurs when fires start naturally (such as after a lightning strike on the savannah), but they’re rare. Worldwide, 90 percent of biomass burning can be attributed to humans.
For the last nine years, CITES parties have been negotiating a “decision-making mechanism,” (DMM), which would establish a process for a future trade in ivory. Today, the parties of CITES voted to end the long-running discussion.
Every single living organism on Earth has a role to play for the ecosystem to be balanced, says Fominyam Njoh Christopher, Conservator for Kimbi-Fungom National Park, Cameroon.
A challange for the new national park in the West African country is to find ways “through [a] participatory approach” to win the support and cooperation of the people who live in the villages around the park. “We try to win them on our side, get their confidence, ask them to collaborate with us, and make them understand the benefit of having that wildlife in there,” he explains in this video.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature released its 2016 African Elephant Status Report this morning, and the results are sobering: Africa has approximately 415,000 elephants, a net decline of more than 110,000 from the beginning of 2007 to the end of 2015.
There are many challenges rangers face, says Fyson Suwedi, in this video. A Senior Assistant Parks and Wildlife Officer in Malawi’s Lengwe National Park, he should know. “Poachers look at rangers as obstacles. They can do anything to make sure they get what they want. They can kill the rangers,” he says. The video is part of a series featuring voices of those fighting against organized wildlife crime.
Wildlife does not belong to an individual,” says Julius Kamwendwit Cheptei in this video interview. Assistant Director of the Southern Conservation Area, Kenya Wildlife Service Parks and Preserves, Cheptei is a veteran of the struggle to protect his country’s wildlife from poachers, ivory traders, and other criminals. For Cheptei, wild animals belong to everyone, so everyone should be involved in fighting wildlife crime.
“Success is collective…and there’s a lot of hope because everybody all over the world is rallying behind the same. Without hope, we will not be doing what we are doing. There is hope because we come together to preserve it. There is hope because we are fighting for a common good. So there is hope for the survival of these animals. Hope is there for me, for you, for my children, and your children, too. There is hope.”
Things have improved since the dark days of 2011 and 2012 when ivory poaching across Africa appeared to be spiralling out of control and conservations began to contemplate the unthinkable: the extinction of the African elephant. On World Elephant Day 2016 there are grounds for cautious optimism. Nevertheless, it is too soon to assert that Africa’s elephants are safe.
Though death is preventable if vaccines are received quickly, rabies still kills with terrifying frequency, and manifests itself so violently that witnesses tend to remember a single case for years.
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and filmmaker Dereck Joubert, a world-renowned expert on lions and the African wilderness, shoots down the myths trophy hunters use to justify killing big cats. He reveals the devastating impact on African economies, employment, and ecology that hunting inflicts at the cost of the much greater wealth that may be generated from ecotourism, and he calls for support of the petition of the U.S. Government to list the lion as an Endangered Species, which would make it illegal to import lions and their parts (such as trophies) into the U.S.
Humanity was born from the ocean, we survived by the ocean, and we followed the shore to the furthest corners of the planet. A story about freediving and our ancient connection to the sea.