Past, present and future perspectives


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Figure 2s.2: Threats to Africa's biodiversity

Africa is endowed with rich and diverse biological resources. These have enormous value for indigenous populations, commercial enterprises, and for development of tourism. These resources are, however, declining rapidly under the pressures of habitat loss, overharvesting of selected species, the spread of alien species, and illegal activities. In Western and Central Africa the main issues are loss and fragmentation of forest habitat and poaching of endangered species to meet the growing demand for bushmeat. In Eastern Africa, encroachment of human settlements into protected areas and pastoral areas outside of reserves and their cultivation are priority concerns. In Southern Africa, loss of indigenous knowledge and inadequate protection of intellectual property rights are hampering conservation measures, as are overharvesting (legal and illegal) of medicinal plant species, rare and endangered plants, and "trophy" animals and exotic pets. Overharvesting of certain species, particularly medicinal plants is also the primary cause of biodiversity loss in Northern Africa. Alien invasive organisms are a widespread problem throughout the region, particularly in closed ecosystems including Lake Victoria and the Western Indian Ocean Islands.Formal protection of Africa's biodiversity at both national and international levels has been strengthened over the past 30 years, but the paradigm of conservation is now shifting away from protection and preservation and focussing more on sustainable use and sharing of benefits. If this is to be achieved in Africa, wider involvement of stakeholders is required, together with additional research and documentation. Biological resources can and should be used to enhance economic growth opportunities, but consumptive and non-consumptive uses need to be managed with a long-term rather than a short-term view, and a fair and protective framework needs to be established to ensure that the benefits of resource use accrue to African communities and nations, rather than to international companies. Figure 2s.2 summarizes the main threats to Africa's biodiversity.