• Protect Elephants and Gorillas to sustain our forests

    Ramesh Tiwari
    March 20, 2014
    Protect Elephants and Gorillas to sustain our forests

    By Bradnee Chambers  ————————

    BONN (IPS) – Of the endangered species listed for protection under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) a great many are forest dwellers – West African elephants, gorillas, bats and many birds.

    And it is not simply a case of the animals depending on the forest for food and suitable habitat to breed and raise their young — the forest often depends on the animals too.

    Conservationist and CMS ambassador Ian Redmond describes elephants and gorillas as “gardeners of the forest”. Elephants provide an invaluable service by uprooting trees, thereby making holes on the jungle canopy which allows light to reach plants closer to the ground and encourages their growth.

    Forest ecosystems, the most biodiverse of all terrestrial habitats, are often very finely balanced.
    Gorillas eat fruit and the seeds pass through their digestive tract to be deposited as fertiliser. Tropical fruit bats also play an important role in the pollination of plants.

    Forest ecosystems, the most biodiverse of all terrestrial habitats, are often very finely balanced. The more diverse, the more robust they are and the better they are at doing what we want – and need them – to do.

    While usually many species perform the same function, the removal of a top predator, pollinator or seed disperser can set off a chain reaction, with far-reaching consequences.

    A reduction in the forest’s resilience, increasing the likelihood of further species loss, can impinge on its ability to provide the ecosystem services, such as water purification and the production of oxygen upon which human well-being depends. The livelihoods of as much as a fifth of the world’s population are directly linked to forests, which also provide a home for 300 million people.

    The presence (or absence) of an animal as significant as elephants can have huge effects on the character of the habitat, as has been demonstrated by comparing two similar forest landscapes in Uganda.

    Douglas Sheil and Agus Salim Center for International Forestry Research, Jakarta, Indonesia found in 2004 that the patterns of succession and regeneration in Budungo forest, which has no elephants, are totally different from those in Rabongo forest. Both forests are in Uganda where there exists a large elephant population.

    It has been estimated that approaching one sixth of all greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to deforestation and forest degradation.

    A similar proportion of human-generated carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere by forests acting as “carbon sinks” through sequestration. Tropical forests also help to cool the planet as large quantities of water evaporate forming clouds that reflect sunlight away from the surface.

    Eco-tourism is a booming business worth billions of dollars a year and wildlife watching forms a significant part of the sector. Sensitively managed, all players reap the benefits – the tourist gets the “close to nature” experience, employment opportunities are created in the local economy and the animals are seen as a valuable asset, not as an irrelevance, nuisance or a threat and therefore worth protecting.

    Visitors are prepared to pay fees of 750 dollars to see the mountain gorillas of the Virunga National Park in Rwanda, where 10 groups of the reclusive animals have now been habituated to human visits. The visits are conducted under strict conditions: no more than eight tourists at any time; no noise; no approaching the animals; no litter; and, given the gorillas’ susceptibility to human diseases, no participants who are visibly ill.

    During the 1990s the mountain gorilla numbers rose by 17 percent, with the greatest increase amongst those groups habituated to tourists and researchers. Without gorilla watching and the associated conservation efforts it is probable that the mountain gorilla subspecies would not have survived.

    Instead it is estimated that today there might now be as many as 1,000 Mountain gorillas – still too few for the International Union for Conservation of Nature to regard them as anything more secure than critically endangered. The outlook is less rosy for the more numerous lowland gorilla subspecies, which are seeing their habitat destroyed by logging and conversion to agriculture and which are hunted for bushmeat, with some of the traumatised, orphaned young ending up in the exotic pet trade.

    The baby animals certainly look appealing and generally gorillas are characterised by their gentle demeanour, but they do not stay young and cute for long. They are totally unsuited for domestication with a two-metre adult male weighing in at over 200 kgs.

    Many endangered migratory species cannot do without forests; and the forests need the migratory species.

    Humans need both as they contribute to a healthy environment, a benign climate, a sustainable economy and to a shared natural heritage that enriches our live in ways that cannot be expressed in monetary terms. 

    March 20, 2014

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      2017 in review -Top stories

      January 1 : New year nightclub attack leaves 39 dead in Istanbul
      January 20 : Republican billionaire Donald Trump sworn in as 45th US president
      January 23 : Syria peace talks begin in Kazakh capital Astana
      March 29 :United Kingdom officially launches the Brexit process
      April 4 :Syria launches chemical attack killing 90 people
      April 6 : US cruise missiles destroy Syrian air base
      April 9 : Bombings at two churches in Egypt kill dozens
      April 16 : Refugee death toll passes 1,000 in Mediterranean
      April 16 :Turkey says YES to presidential system
      May 6 :Emmanuel Macron elected French president defeating Marine Le Pen
      May 19 :Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani wins re-election
      May 22 : Terrorist attack kills 22 at Manchester concert
      June 5 : Gulf nations severe ties with Qatar
      June 7 :Suicide bombers attack Iranian parliament killing 13 people
      June 14 :London fire kills 71 in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower
      July 4 :North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s missile ambitions
      July 28 : Pakistan’s top court disqualifies Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office
      August 5 :US withdraws from Paris climate change pact
      August 17 :Storms cause record damage in Caribbean and southern United States
      August 25 :Muslim Rohingya start fleeing Rakhine state in Myanmar
      September 15 : NASA’s 13-year Saturn mission ends
      September 20 : Earthquake kills more than 200 in Mexico
      September 24 : Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wins fourth term
      September 26 : Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving
      October 1 : Gunman opens fire on Las Vegas music festival killing 59 people
      October 14 : Massive bombing in Somalia’s capital Modadishu kill more than 500 people
      October 24 : China confirms the elevation of President Xi Jinping to the same status as the nation’s founder, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping, by enshrining ‘Xi Jinping thought’ in the party’s constitution at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
      October 27 : Catalonia declares independence from Spain
      November 4 : S audi Arabia detains 11 princes, four ministers and ten former ministers in a corruption probe
      November 12 : Iran-Iraq magnitude 7.3 earthquake kills more than 500
      November 15 : Argentine navy submarine disappears with 44 crew on board
      November 21 : Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years in power. His former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa will become president.
      November 22 : Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic convicted of genocide in Srebrenica during the 1990s Bosnian War
      November 24 : Gunmen kill hundreds at Sinai mosque in Egypt
      December 4 : Houthi militants assassinate Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
      December 5 : Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics for state-sponsored doping
      December 6 : US President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
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      Top ten most visited cities

      Between January and August 2017, destinations worldwide welcomed 901 million international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors), 56 million more than in the same period of 2016 .The top ten most visited cities are:
      CityVisitors
      HONG KONG26.6 million
      BANGKOK 21.2 million
      LONDON19.2 million
      SINGAPORE16.6 million
      MACAU15.4 million
      DUBAI14.9 million
      PARIS14.4 million
      NEW YORK12.7 million
      SHENZHEN12.6 million
      KUALA LUMPUR12.3 million

      Source: Euromonitor International

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