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Today, less than one thousand wild mountain
gorillas remain in the wild, and lions are extinct regionally in seven African
countries according to the statistics measured by African Wildlife Foundation
(AWF) (1961). Africa is home to many wild animals; however, most of these
animals are facing significant decrease in population. The biggest threat to these
endangered animals is deforestation. Deforestation is caused by the increase in
human population because more and more lands are needed for agricultural and
industrial development, and people tend to prefer the same lands as wildlife
because these lands are fertile and have reliable water resources (AWF,
1961; Ntshane & Gambiza, 2016, p. 242). Without these lands, wild animals
are unable to survive. The
African Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1961, aims to
protect
land and habitat and empowers communities in
Africa. This paper will describe, critique, and offer improvements for two
solutions provided by AWF to
protect land and habitat in Africa: creating protected spaces for animal
migration and engaging communities
in holistic land-use planning.

Creating protected areas

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One of the solutions proposed by African Wildlife
Foundation is to create protected
areas for wildlife migration. The organization cooperates with the government
and communities to conserve national parks,
and create protected areas adjacent to
national parks for wild animals. In Tanzania, AWF helped the government establish Manyara Ranch Conservancy,
which allows wildlife to migrate between Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National
Park that are forty kilometers apart (AWF, 1961). The organization also works with
individuals. People who are willing to set aside their lands for habitat
preservation can contact the organization, and then fill out an environmental
easement agreement provided by the organization. For example, in Kenya, John
Keen’s family voluntarily signed an environmental easement agreement with AWF
to keep their land open for wild animals. Keen’s land is extremely helpful to
alleviate the decrease in wildlife population because the land is adjacent to Nairobi National Park,
which increases the total area of the park by 107 hectares (AWF, 1961). Both methods add more habitats for wild
animals. Therefore, creating protected spaces for wildlife is helpful to preserve
land and habitat in Africa.

            The strength of this solution
is that the organization not only conserves national parks, but also works on
creating protected areas near national parks because wild animals are not confined only to the
national parks, while the weakness is that lands lack
connectivity.
As part of protected areas, tropical rainforests reside more than sixty percent of all known species
in Africa although rainforests cover only seven percent of land
surface (Tranquilli
et al., 2014, p.2).
Protected areas play a fundamental role in reducing biodiversity loss because they provide habitat and protection from
human hunting for endangered species and can be part of the wildlife migration
routes. However, protected areas lack landscape connectivity due to land conversion and habitat degradation. According to Riggio and Caro (2017):

Wildlife
populations that lack connectivity to other protected areas can suffer from an

inability to disperse between protected areas,
compromised genetic variability within isolated populations due to lack of
immigration, an inability of dwindling populations to be rescued from
extirpation, and reduced opportunities
for range shifts in response to global climate change (p. 2).

Protected spaces should be all connected
and located on wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors are the same
as migration routes which allow wild animals to travel from one habitat to
another without interfering with human activities. Sometimes, there are several
lands adjacent to one national park, but they don’t connect one national
park to another. It will be pointless to create many protected areas that are
unable to use as wildlife migration routes because more and more lands are
needed by people as human population increases. In general, this solution works
on creating protected areas, but it can be improved by increasing landscape
connectivity.

To
modify the solution to make it effective, AWF should identify wildlife migration
routes and assure connectivity between protected areas. In Imam, Kushwaha, and
Singh’s research (2009), satellite data was collected and
information gained from geographic information system (GIS) was analyzed in
order to identify wildlife migration
routes (p. 3623); in Riggio and Caro’s study (2017),
a landscape connectivity model was
created by using Linkage
Mapper, a tool designed to map and analyze connectivity
between protected areas (p.4-6). By using GIS, AWF can drop protected spaces if
they are not located on the routes, and by using Linkage Mapper, AWF can make
sure that protected areas are all connected to form wildlife corridors. In
this way, best protection for wildlife is provided, and least amount of lands
is used to achieve the best effect. In addition, AWF should validate wildlife migration routes every three years because wildlife might change their
routes due to environmental factors such as climate change. According to Riggio and Caro (2017), the
best way for verifying wildlife migration routes is to interview people living
within or adjacent to wildlife corridors in order to get accurate information
with the least cost on both money and time (p.4). By using results from the interviews, AWF can
update migration route and adjust locations of protected areas in time.
Modifications like these to current solution will greatly increase the
effectiveness of creating protected areas.

Engaging local communities

Another
solution proposed by African Wildlife Foundation is to engage local communities in holistic land use
planning. AWF
helps local communities to
understand and determine how to use their lands in the future in order to best
promote the economy and sustain the land for longer time. For
instance, in the Congo Heartland, AWF and the local residents together
developed a land use map that provided a clear picture of where habitat
conservation
was taking place and where human activities were permitted
based on data from GIS (AWF, 1961). By helping local
residents to determine how lands should be used as a group
rather than individuals, conflicts over lands were minimized and lands were
able to maintain healthy for longer time periods. Thus, it is important for the
organization to cooperate with local communities to plan future use of lands. Moreover,
AWF promotes programs like Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
(REDD+) (AWF, 1961). These programs show local residents that leaving lands
alone can also generate income (Asare, Kyei, and Mason, 2013, p.2). Knowing
that income can be earned by simply without doing anything to their lands,
local residents are more willing to engage in land use planning since they no
longer need to worry about their livelihoods. Therefore, it is important to
engage local communities in land use planning.

This solution enables the local communities to
engage in the process of habitat preservation instead of having the
organization doing all the work itself, but not all local people are willing to
participate. Based on the
research of Ogutu, Kuloba,
Piepho, and Kanga (2017),

The number of individuals of each species
counted outside the protected National

Parks
as a percent of the total number counted both inside and outside the parks from
1996 to 2015 averaged 92.8% ±13.2%, emphasizing the importance of the private
and communal lands to the success of conservation efforts. (p. 23)

With community
engagement, the outcomes of habitat preservation can be significantly magnified.
Thus,
it is beneficial
to engage local communities in land use planning and create strategies to
maintain both agricultural and infrastructural
goals. However, some people only focus on
their own interests in the short run and are not willing to set aside their
lands to plan future uses even though they know the importance of wildlife
habitat preservation. According to
Pienaar, Jarvis, and Larson (2013), a cause for lack of support from local
communities is that protected lands can no longer be used for agriculture and
wildlife ranging outside protected areas destroys crops and livestock (p.315). Thus,
it is not surprising that local communities are unwilling to engage in habitat
protection because wild animals threaten their crops and livestock. Other than
conflicts between human and wildlife, lack of city development plans also leads
to little support from the communities (Irengbam,
Dobriyal, Hussain, & Badola, 2017, p.1194). Without knowing the city
development schemes, local communities are unable to plan their lands for
future based on the big blueprint. They will just use their lands in the ways
that can benefit themselves in the short run. Although the solution involves
communities in habitat protection, it lacks support from local people.

            To improve this solution, AWF should
promote programmes like Community
Based Natural Resource
Management (CBNRM) to motivate local communities to protect
wildlife habitats. According to the study of Pienaar, Jarvis, and Larson (2013),
CBNRM is based on the Nature Conservation
Amendment Act of 1996. This act puts local people into the leadership
position. (Pienaar, Jarvis, and Larson, 2013, p.315). In
this way, local people can determine how they want to manage wildlife and natural
resources. It helps to reduce conflicts between local residents and wildlife. CBNRM also contributes to reduce poverty in
rural areas by providing rural residents with conservation jobs. A total of
nine different types of conservation jobs are available for local residents to
choose based on their own interests. Based on statistics from Mufune (2015), this
programme has produced 1,512 permanent and 11,223 part-time jobs in 2011. It
enables local residents to generate income while conserving wildlife habitats. Programmes
like CBNRM encourage local
communities to engage in habitat preservation. With community engagement, the
outcomes of habitat preservation can be significantly magnified. Therefore, the
solution should be modified in order to better engage local communities in land
and habitat protection in Africa.

Conclusion

            AWF
describes two solutions to preserve land and habitat in Africa by creating
protected spaces for animal migration
and engaging communities in land use planning. The solutions have several
strengths, but there are also weaknesses that this paper offers improvements on.
It is helpful and necessary for AWF to cooperate with local communities because
AWF can gain more accurate information on wildlife corridors through
interactions with local communities. Also, offering local communities with
conversation jobs can not only engage local communities in habitat preservation,
but also allows them to earn income while they set their lands aside for
preservation purpose. By making these improvements, better effects on habitat
preservation can be achieved. Other than the efforts made by organizations like
AWF and local communities, the general public should also pay more attention to
the issue of lacking wildlife habitats in Africa. Although a majority of people
are not able to be involved in solving this problem physically, they can donate
money to support organizations’ projects. It is time for people to engage in
habitat protection because wild animals and people live in the same space. 

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