Environment, conservation wins for 2020
Milliam Murigi @millymur1
Kenya bans single-use plastics in protected areas
On World Environment Day, the country celebrated by banning single-use plastic in protected natural areas.
The ban came into effect on June 5 , 2020 in national parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas.
The ban means visitors will no longer be able to carry plastic water bottles, cups, disposable plates, cutlery, or straws into protected areas.
The move follows Kenya’s ground-breaking step of a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags in 2017.
The protection of elephants is bearing fruit. The Amboseli National Park experienced an elephant baby boom, with about 170 elephant calves born as at August 13, 2020 and more are expected.
This is in contrast with 2018, where only 113 calves were born for the whole year.
This has also been facilitated by the country’s anti-poaching efforts. Only seven elephants have been poached in 2020, compared to 34 in 2019 and 80 in 2018.
Jewel of biodiversity
Scientists discovered along the Kenya, Tanzania coast, a rare ocean refuge for coral, where species are still thriving even despite the climate crisis that is destroying the nearby reefs.
The reef complex is found at an ocean cool spot, which scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) believe is protecting marine mammals and corals from the rising sea temperatures.
They believe that the geology of East Africa is responsible for this spot, which should be protected at all costs.
“Coral sanctuaries are regions where reefs have the best chance to survive climate change.
Scientists are scouring the world’s oceans to find and protect them,” said the study’s author and lead WCS coral scientist, Dr Tim McClanahan.
Black rhino numbers on the rise
In Africa, there’s some hope for one of the world’s most endangered animals: the black rhino.
It was recently announced that numbers of these incredible creatures are slowly, but surely on the rise.
In 2012, the black rhino population was at just over 4,800. However, due to the efforts of relocating groups and a clamp down on poachers, that number rose to around 5,500 in 2018.
This annual increase of 2.5 per cent over six years may feel like slow progress, but it is progress nonetheless.
Rare gorillas spotted
Another exciting wildlife capture is the new images of Cross River gorillas in Nigeria.
The Cross River is one of the most endangered gorilla subspecies in the world and has suffered decades of persecution, with estimated numbers being around 100 in Nigeria and 300 in the mountainous forest expanse extending over the border into Cameroon.
The camera-trap images were taken in the Mbe mountains in south-east Nigeria by the Wildlife Conservation Society and feature seven individuals, including infants.
The gorillas, rarely spotted, residing often in the deepest and least accessible areas of terrain, are believed to be cautious of humans following a long history of maltreatment.
Once thought to be extinct due to aggressive poaching, the species was rediscovered in the 1980s.
The new images are believed to be the surest sign of the Cross River’s gradual recovery, an encouraging indication that the species is now well protected and successfully reproducing.
China crack down on illegal wildlife trade
Covid-19 pandemic is believed to be a direct result of wildlife trade. Since it was linked to have started in China, the country has now made it illegal to trade and eat wild animals.
Not only will this help save lives of numerous species, but it has become an example for other countries to follow suit. Vietnam is one of the countries said to be considering this vital change.
Hope for pangolins as protection boosted
Still in China, the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, saw a small, but significant success.
The country delisted them from the official list of traditional Chinese medicine treatments, shortly after the species’ protected status was elevated to critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Pangolins are an endangered species as they are targeted by illegal hunters for their scales and meat.
Conservation charities have welcomed the move; however, more campaigns continue to be held to ensure that China’s next move will be to enforce the regulations and work to change consumer behavior.
Pangolins eat ants and other insects and are often known as the scaly ant-eater. All eight species are protected under international law, but trade has been growing.
Law that could make climate change illegal
Denmark recently passed an ambitious new climate law to help them stay committed to mitigating climate change.
With this new law, climate targets are legally binding and are subject to yearly approval. If members of government fail to meet climate targets they must step down from their position.
Denmark is not relying on purchasing carbon credits to offset their carbon footprint; instead, they are taking real action to reduce Greenhouses Gas emissions within the country’s borders.
One way they are doing this is by taking a look at the impact of Danish imports and consumption, and examining in what ways this can be reduced. Local businesses will also be involved in the country-wide initiative.