African wildlife parks under threat from climate change, infrastructure projects
Africa's national parks, home to thousands of wildlife species such as lions, elephants and buffaloes, are increasingly threatened by below-average rainfall and new infrastructure projects, stressing habitats and the species that rely on them.
A prolonged drought in much of the continent's east, exacerbated by climate change, and large-scale developments, including oil drilling and livestock grazing, are hampering conservation efforts in protected areas, several environmental experts say.
The at-risk parks stretch all the way from Kenya in the east — home to Tsavo and Nairobi national parks — south to the Mkomazi and Serengeti parks in Tanzania, the Quirimbas and Gorongosa parks in Mozambique and the famous Kruger National Park in South Africa, and west to the Kahuzi Biega, Salonga and Virunga reserves in Congo.
The parks not only protect flora and fauna but also act as natural carbon sinks — storing carbon dioxide emitted into the air and reducing the effects of global warming.
An estimated 38% of Africa’s biodiversity areas are under severe threat from climate change and infrastructure development, said Ken Mwathe of BirdLife International.
“Key biodiversity areas over the years, especially in Africa, have been regarded by investors as idle and ready for development," said Mwathe. “Governments allocate land in these areas for infrastructural development.”
He added that the “powerlines and other energy infrastructure cause collisions with birds, due to low visibility. The numbers killed this way are not few.”
In their quest to bolster living standards and achieve sustainable development goals, such as access to clean water and food, boosting jobs and economic growth and improving the quality of education, African governments have set their sights on large building projects, many of them funded by foreign investments, especially by China.