CLIMATE change threatens to add to the risks faced by Tanzania threatened wild species, with knock-on effects for people whose livelihoods depend on them – from farmers to those employed in the tourism sector.
A report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that unless action is taken, the loss of wild species will accelerate because of a range of threats. These include drought and wildfires, the spread of invasive species, pests and pathogens, changes to the way species interact with each other, and increased conflict between humans and wildlife.
With climate change adding to existing threats – such as deforestation, pollution, hunting, and urban expansion – the future looks bleaks for 200 animal species in Tanzania that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies as “endangered” or “critically endangered”.
These include the black rhino, green turtle, rondo bush baby, Usambara bluebellied frog, Tanzania shrew, woolly bat, wild dog, Sokoke scops-owl and hammerhead shark. But efforts to protect the habitats of wild species – from both climate change and other threats – can bring benefits to people too.
The FAO report Wildlife in a Changing Climate urges governments to act to maintain current ecosystems, particularly those that are still healthy and intact and are most likely to best withstand climate change. Other measures it recommends include setting up networks of protected areas, integrating conservation with forest management, and restoring ecosystems that are important for climate change resilience but are already badly degraded.
These include mangroves, inland wetlands, forests, savannahs and grasslands. It says these kinds of actions could help people adapt to the impacts of climate change by protecting the natural resources that can make them resilient. Edmund Barrow, head of the IUCN’s Ecosystem-based Adaptation Programme, offers an example from the past with relevance for the present: the case of Shinyanga.
In 1985, then-President Julius Nyerere declared Tanzania’s Shinyanga area to be a desert. People had lost many of the important environmental goods and services that their livelihoods depended on – including dry season grazing, timber and fuel wood, traditional medicines and fruits and other products they could sell such as honey and resin.
Barrow says that thanks to good development practices, farmers managed to restore over 300,000 hectares of forest and woodland by 2004. “Although in 1985, climate change had not yet come onto the agenda, it is clear that resilience and risk management were important to the people of Shinyanga,” says Barrow.
“Now over 25 years later – these foundations of resilience and risk management are important foundations on which to build and develop climate change strategies.” “The Shinyanga people are now far more resilient to shocks and climate variability. Now the task will be to assess how resilient these systems are in the face of real climate change,” he added.
Although Tanzania has many conservation areas such as national parks, game reserves, marine parks and nature reserves, many of them are under threat from human activities and extreme weather events.
George Jambiya, governance adviser for WWF’s Coastal East Africa Network Initiative, notes that laws have been established to protect the conservation areas but the government does not have enough money, staff and equipment to enforce the laws. “The lack of these things has led to poaching and other illegal activities,” he said.