Problems using REDD for wildlife conservation

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) was set up to reduce greenhouse gases, with biodiversity conservation as a “co-benefit”.

It is therefore encouraging to see this project in Kenya, the Kasigau Corridor REDD Project,

WWC’s first project at Rukinga, Kenya, has been operating since 2005 protecting local wildlife and forests. The aim of this project is to bring the benefits of direct carbon financing to surrounding communities, while simultaneously addressing alternative livelihoods. Human-wildlife conflict has been a problem in the past, as local agents are reliant on flora and fauna as a means for subsistence. The Rukinga project directly addresses such sources of conflict in a holistic, sustainable approach. An additional goal is to secure a contiguous wildlife migration corridor between Tsavo East and West National Parks.

The project is being carried out by Wildlife Works Carbon LLC.

Our first REDD project in Rukinga, Kenya builds on a successful decade long track record, of bringing much needed jobs to a community that was being forced to destroy their magnificent wilderness in order to survive. In the last ten years we have turned back time, and restored a huge piece of land to a healthy vibrant ecosystem, full of elephants, lions, and 50 other species of large mammal. At the same time, the community has received 18 new classrooms for their children, and the employees and their families have received full health care benefits in a community with incredibly high HIV incidence. Wildlife Works also founded an organic greenhouse to promote healthier farming practices, to provide local farmers with cash generating citrus trees and free agroforestry trees to use for building and fuel wood. Wildlife Works Carbon will provide the financial additionality to ensure long term sustainability of Wildlife Works efforts in Kenya and beyond.

What seems to be missing here is a clear description of the distribution mechanism to a local contracting party (village council, group ranch, or other organization) the revenue stream the local party can expect over the life of the project. And how was free, prior and informed consent obtained?

Assessing protected areas in Africa

From the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre,

This EXPERIMENTAL information system is part of a first attempt at a large scale assessment of protected areas using objective continent-wide data sets and methodologies as opposed to case studies on individual parks or global assessments (e.g. Chape et 2005 et al.). The website contain information on 741 protected areas, across 50 countries, and includes information on 280 mammals, 381 bird species and 930 amphibian species, and a wide range of climatic, environmental and socioeconomic information.

The site is here.

South Africa Department of Mineral Resources grant mining prospecting rights in protected areas

The trend towards greater corruption in South Africa is worrying,

JOHANNESBURG – Sometime early in 2009, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) granted mining prospecting rights over substantial portions of a private game reserve. Ditto a national game reserve.

The reserves are adjacent; the private one, the Welgevonden Wildland Scheme, is one of the most acclaimed nature conservation areas in the country and internationally. The other is Marakele National Park; covered, as such, by section 48(1) of the Protected Areas Act, which prohibits commercial prospecting or mining activities within a national park…

The rights were apparently awarded to Salestalk 443 (Pty) Ltd, which, according to the national company database Cipro, has never had any directors (apart from one Christiaan Gouws, whose name appears on the register of numerous shell companies, which he apparently sells). At one point, on June 4 2008, Welgevonden’s legal representatives telephoned one Raisibe Francina Phosa, who had purported to be a director of Salestalk. Phosa confirmed her identity and that she was a director of Salestalk.

Upon enquiries regarding the application for the prospecting right, Phosa was said to be “unable to respond coherently”. In another attempt to contact Phosa, one Faizel Yusuf answered the telephone. Yusuf refused to disclose his involvement (if any) with Salestalk and/or with Phosa. And that was that.

Read the story here.

Update: Are politically connected people plundering mining rights?

Are bonobos hippie chimps?

Probably not. Very good article in The New Yorker.

Most of our current knowledge comes from observing bonobos in captivity.

Captivity can have a striking impact on animal behavior. As Craig Stanford, a primatologist at the University of Southern California, recently put it, “Stuck together, bored out of their minds—what is there to do except eat and have sex?”

Gorillas murdered

dead-gorillas.jpg

The BBC reports from Congo’s Virunga National Park,

Conservationists have expressed concern over the “senseless and tragic” killing of four mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The bodies of three females and one male were discovered by rangers earlier this week in the Virunga National Park.

Officials said the “executions” were not the work of poachers because they would have taken the bodies.[…]

Because poachers would have sold the bodies as food or trophies, conservationists think the apes were killed by a group that was trying to scare wardens out of the park.

Similar killings of mountain gorillas took place in Rwanda to get back at the late Dian Fossey, of Gorillas in the Mist fame. She was widely hated in the local community because of her outspoken racism and violence against local people. It makes one wonder if community relations in the Virunga National Park are as good as they should be. And do the benefits to the local population of Virunga National Park outweigh the opportunity costs of the park?

Update: National Geographic reports that “Virtually all the charcoal supplied to nearby Goma—worth an estimated U.S. $30 million a year—is made from wood harvested illegally inside Virunga National Park”.