Known as the site of the world's most famous migration, the wildebeest of the Serengeti, these savanna lands are home to some of the most spectacular and iconic megafauna left on the planet—elephants and rhinos, lions and cheetahs. East African forests also house diverse and charismatic wildlife, but they are equally important to local communities who rely on them for natural resources like water and traditional medicine. Today, both forests and savannas face severe threats, notably habitat loss.
A growing human population across sub-Saharan Africa and the developing world's view of the continent as a wealth of natural resources (i.e. the "Last Frontier") threaten the region with habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation.
Much land is being lost to both small-holder and large-scale industrial agricultural development. Similarly, infrastructure development (including everything from oil and gas development to transportation systems, like roads and rails) further threatens to block wildlife movement between and within protected areas. This is of increasing concern, as many of Africa's most iconic species—elephant, giraffe, zebra, and buffalo—travel long distances between the wet and dry seasons to survive. In fact, we still have a lot to learn about the movements of many iconic species.
With less space and more people, the existing protected area networks are also more vulnerable to climate change, as adaptation strategies are limited.
We're working to conserve these habitats for the benefit of all.
How Will We Get There?
We employ a few core strategies:
Strengthen protected area management.
Help communities become more self-reliant.
Through research, identify priority areas for conservation.
Improve monitoring to inform our conservation strategies for greater impact.
WCS rediscovered the white-eared kob, tiang, and gazelle migrations in South Sudan in 2007, estimated at 1.2 million animals, that rivals the wildebeest migration.
In 2004, WCS helped establish and continues to support one of Tanzania's first government-sanctioned, community-based wildlife management areas adjacent to Ruaha National Park.
This includes our efforts to provide training and support for SMART (the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool). SMART captures ranger-based anti-poaching and ecological data that can be easily analyzed to improve the impact of law enforcement.
We are also working with national-level protected area agencies in Gabon, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Mozambique, and Madagascar, to support implementation across their entire networks of protected areas.
Help Communities Become More Self-Reliant
In Uganda, WCS is engaged with pastoralists around Queen Elizabeth National Park to reduce lion and livestock conflicts. To do this, we're working with the herders to restore traditional rangelands outside the park by removing invasive plant species and improving access to water. As a result, the pastoralists will be able to keep cattle out of the park and further away from lions. We're also testing the efficacy of solar lights to deter lions from human habitation at night.
Through Research, Identify Priority Areas for Conservation
WCS continues to conduct ecological surveys to better define key areas so that they will be conserved in the face of development pressure. In forest surveys in Tanzania, we discovered a new genus of monkey (Kipungi) and guided the conservation of its habitat. Surveys are underway in Uganda to provide information to oil and gas companies and the Ugandan government to ensure that the most ecologically important areas are not developed.