Climate Change and its effects on African Wildlife Part I
Climate change has been slowly creeping up to Africa now for the past ten to twenty years. Many species of animal and flora have been affected by such catastrophic climate changes of which needs taking into account when we point the finger of blame at “hunters” with regards to species decline.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa does not support hunting however we have to make it aware to many activists that call out hunters that climate change and global cooling is more a contributing factor today than one singular hunter.
Our climate is changing, both naturally and due to human exploitation. There is already undeniable evidence that animals, birds and plants are being affected by climate change and global warming in both their distribution and behaviour. Unless greenhouse gas emissions are severely reduced, climate change could cause a quarter of land animals, birdlife and plants to become extinct. Coupled with “poaching and hunting” Africans wildlife is in more danger than originally thought.
International Animal Rescue Foundation last year 2013 documented daily on many Africans aves species of which seven out of ten species were coming under extreme threat from climate destruction and global temperature rise.
Climate variability and change affects birdlife and animals in a number of ways; birds lay eggs earlier in the year than usual, plants bloom earlier and mammals come out of hibernation sooner. Distribution of animals is also affected; with many species moving closer to the poles as a response to the rise in global temperatures. Birds are migrating and arriving at their nesting grounds earlier, and the nesting grounds that they are moving to are not as far away as they used to be and in some countries the birds don’t even leave anymore, as the climate is suitable all year round.
A sea level rise of only 50cm could cause sea turtles to lose their nesting beaches – over 30% of Caribbean beaches are used by turtles during the nesting season and would be affected. The already endangered Mediterranean Monk Seals need beaches upon which to raise their pups and a rise in sea level could there could damage shallow coastal areas used annually by whales and dolphins which need shallow, gentle waters in order to rear their small calves. We have also noted the vast decreasing populations of Spheniscus demersus, Bucerotidae family, deer, antelope and all Africans big cat species.
Humans have already destroyed many of the natural migrations of animals. The migratory journeys of Wildebeest in several African countries are stopped by fences. Changing rainfall patterns are causing dams to be erected in some areas of our planet, not taking into account the migratory fish and mammals that annually migrate up river to breed and spawn and water birds which rely on wetland sites for migration are at threat from rising sea levels caused by human effects. On the other side of the coin, the atmosphere is sucking moisture from the land at a greater rate than ever before causing severe droughts in many countries which are now facing reduced crop production and major drinking water shortages.
Although it is thought that no species has yet become extinct exclusively because of climate change, many migratory and non-migratory species are expected to become extinct in the near future. Over hunting is concerning of course – climate change is ever more worrying of which has potential to wipe out over a period of ten years for example thousands of species unless climate change in Africa and internationally is addressed accordingly.
We must also not forget humans that will also suffer from climate change destruction of which again places animals in danger within Africa. Evidence has already proved that dogs and cats are being consumed on a regular basis in small towns and city’s dotted over the Africans continent. Agriculture is also vastly affected by climate change of which has a knock on affect to “cattle stock and arable land”. No fertile lands equals a reduction in food for cattle = reduction in human food. This most certainly induces hunger and famine. Evidence proves too that in famine hit and war torn areas within Africa poverty stricken families have been involved in poaching of wild Rhino, Elephant and other mammals just to live and provide income and whatever food they can access of which has increased in price.
Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate variability, a situation aggravated by the interaction of ‘multiple stresses’, occurring at various levels, and low adaptive capacity (high confidence). Africa’s major economic sectors are vulnerable to current climate sensitivity, with huge economic impacts, and this vulnerability is exacerbated by existing developmental challenges such as endemic poverty, complex governance and institutional dimensions; limited access to capital, including markets, infrastructure and technology; ecosystem degradation; and complex disasters and conflicts. These in turn have contributed to Africa’s weak adaptive capacity, increasing the continent’s vulnerability to projected climate change.
We regularly see many animal activists arguing that hunting has the most devastating effects on wildlife either in Africa or internationally. Hunting is not our major concern though to “species depletion”. Many animals that are hunted within Africa are mostly hunted on private and thus do not place wildlife “within the wild” in any real danger. Activists must concentrate their anger and frustrations now on “climate change” as a whole. Ignoring this most critically important issue will just see more species perish from lack of awareness and actions in helping to reduce Co2 (carbon) emissions internationally that have undesired effects on the Africans continent.
Tourism and Wildlife – Climate change;
Changes in a variety of ecosystems are already being detected, particularly in southern African ecosystems, at a faster rate than anticipated (very high confidence). Climate change, interacting with human drivers such as deforestation and forest fires, are a threat to Africa’s forest ecosystems. Changes in grasslands and marine ecosystems are also noticeable. It is estimated that, by the 2080s, the proportion of arid and semi-arid lands in Africa is likely to increase by 5-8%. Climate change impacts on Africa’s ecosystems will probably have a negative effect on tourism as, according to one study, between 25 and 40% of mammal species in national parks in sub-Saharan Africa will become endangered.
East Africa can expect to experience increased short rains, while West Africa should expect heavier monsoons. Burma, Bangladesh and India can expect stronger cyclones; elsewhere in southern Asia, heavier summer rains are anticipated. Indonesia may receive less rainfall between July and October, but the coastal regions around the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand can expect increased rainfall extremes when cyclones hit land.
“It is virtually certain that in the long term, global precipitation will change. High latitude countries, such as in Europe or North America, are expected to receive more rainfall, but many … subtropical arid and semi-arid regions will likely experience less precipitation … Over wet tropical regions, extreme precipitation events will very likely be more intense and more frequent in a warmer world,” said the report’s authors.
They added: “Monsoon onset dates are likely to become earlier or not to change much while monsoon withdrawal rates are very likely to delay, resulting in a lengthening of the season.” Developing country scientists and commentators have welcomed the report, which they said backed their own observations. The report derives from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
“The IPCC makes the case that climate change is real and happening much more strongly than before. We are already seeing the effects of climate change in Bangladesh and across south Asia. It’s not news to us. Most developing countries are facing climate change now. They do not need the IPCC to tell them that the weather is changing”, said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Dhaka.
Scientists have also lowered projections of sea-level rises. Depending on future greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels will rise an average of 16-24in (40-62cm) by 2100. Nevertheless, there will be significant geographical variations; many millions of people living in the developing world’s great cities, including Lagos and Calcutta, are threatened. Weather disasters are also more likely in a warmer world, the report suggests. Although the global frequency of tropical cyclones is expected to decrease or remain essentially unchanged, they may become more intense, with stronger winds and heavier rainfall.
Life in many developing country cities could become practically unbearable, given that urban temperatures are already well above those in surrounding countryside. Much higher temperatures could reduce the length of the growing period in some parts of Africa by up to 20%, the report said. Dr Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, says: “Climate models are not yet robust enough to predict impacts at local and regional scales, but it is clear … that everybody is vulnerable in some way.”
Oxfam predicted that world hunger would worsen as climate change inevitably hurt crop production and disrupted incomes; this will most certainly place wildlife and domestic mammals in grave danger too. They suggested the number of people at risk of hunger might climb by 10% to 20% by 2050, with daily per-capita calorie availability falling across the world.
“The changing climate is already jeopardising gains in the fight against hunger, and it looks set to worsen,” said Oxfam. “A hot world is a hungry world. If the remainder of the 21st century unfolds like its first decade, we will soon experience climate extremes well outside the boundaries of human experience.”
Climate change effects – Lion species
Back in 2008 the National Geographic reported the following based on Lion studies and climate change. Activists must take heed of this information now.
Droughts and downpours exacerbated by climate change allowed two diseases to converge and wipe out large numbers of African lions in 1994 and 2001, according to past studies. Lions regularly survive outbreaks of canine distemper virus (CDV) and infestations by a tick-borne blood parasite called Babesia. But both normally occur in isolation.
In 1994 and 2001, however, a “perfect storm” of extreme drought followed by heavy seasonal rains set up the conditions for the two diseases to converge, the study said. The effect was lethal: The synchronized infections wiped out about a third of the Serengeti lion population in 1994. The nearby Ngorongoro Crater lion population experienced similar losses in 2001.
“It was already well known that die offs can be triggered by droughts and floods,” Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, explained in an email from his research site in Tanzania. “We were able to identify the interacting components of a lethal co-infection that had not previously been considered,” he said. The research is published in the issue of the journal PLoS ONE.
“Lethal One-Two Punch”
Packer and his colleagues combed through more than 30 years of data on the lion populations to determine the complex combination of factors that caused the mass die offs. They found that at least five CDV outbreaks swept through the lion populations with no ill effect. The two die offs, which are also tied to CDV outbreaks, were preceded by extreme droughts. Probing further, the researchers discovered the droughts weakened lion prey, including the Cape buffalo. No Cape buffalo will evidentially decrease Lion populations of which the Buffalo is the Lions most sought after prey. Do you see the problems here that are almost identical to that of human overpopulation yet many activists still continue to lay blame at the hunting fraternity which must now change. We are all to blame for increasing climate change – Climate destruction is much more volatile than a hunter with a rifle too.
When the rains resumed, Babesia-carrying ticks emerged en masse and proliferated in their buffalo hosts. Many of the buffalo died. The lions feasted on the weakened, parasite-infested buffalo, but the feast left the hunters with unusually high concentrations of Babesia. The subsequent CDV outbreak proved lethal, according to the study.
“CDV is immunosuppressive—like a short, sharp bout of AIDS—thus greatly intensifying the effects of the Babesia,” Packer said. This co-infection, or synchronization of the diseases, caused the mass die offs, Packer and his colleagues concluded. Sonia Altizer is an ecologist who studies wildlife diseases at the University of Georgia in Athens. She was not involved with this study, which she said is “at the leading edge” of the field.
“[It] lays out mechanistically how a climate anomaly could allow a combination of pathogens to have a lethal one-two punch,” she said.
Study author Packer and his colleagues warn that as global climate change continues to produce more extreme weather anomalies, potentially fatal synchronized infections are likely to become more common. “Many mysterious maladies [such as] colony collapse disorder in honeybees are likely to result from co-infections,” Packer noted. Altizer said the research adds to a growing body of evidence showing how extreme climate events can have major impacts on the spread of infectious diseases. Since more deadly co-infections are likely to arise, she said researchers need to reconsider how they treat wildlife and humans.
“Understanding the mechanism by which the animals are actually dying or succumbing to disease then changes how you should go about preventing that,” she explained. In the case of the lions, Packer noted, wildlife managers may be able to better protect populations by reducing their tick loads immediately following a drought rather than controlling for CDV. National Geo-Graphic.
Climate variability and change could result in low-lying lands being inundated, with resultant impacts on coastal settlements (high confidence). Climate variability and change, coupled with human-induced changes, may also affect ecosystems e.g., mangroves and coral reefs, with additional consequences for fisheries and tourism. The projection that sea-level rise could increase flooding, particularly on the coasts of eastern Africa, will have implications for health. Sea-level rise will probably increase the high socio-economic and physical vulnerability of coastal cities. The cost of adaptation to sea-level rise could amount to at least 5-10% of gross domestic product.
Turkana is a prime example of how climate change is forcing people within Kenya, Africa to now kill and consume dogs and cats. Famine is rife; agriculture has been greatly scaled back due to lack of rains. Soil stability and access to water has worsened of which any form of suitable crops simply cannot be grown. We have picked Turkana as an example here to show how climate change can push people into attacking our wildlife on a vast scale. No water or food will force you into consuming whatever is edible. In this case dogs and cats are now on the menu. A taboo food many people in within Turkana actually do not want to consume, they are left though with no choice.
Agricultural production and food security (including access to food) in many African countries and regions are likely to be severely compromised by climate change and climate variability (high confidence). A number of countries in Africa already face semi-arid conditions that make agriculture challenging, and climate change will be likely to reduce the length of growing season as well as force large regions of marginal agriculture out of production. Projected reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50% by 2020, and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90% by 2100, with small-scale farmers being the most affected. This would adversely affect food security in the continent forcing many poor Africans to hunt for whatever is available. Decreasing human birth rates and introducing contraception is not the whole answer here to the problem. Even if human population was decreased it still does not answer the problems that climate change is actually causing. Aggravated by many countries that still use fossil fuels famine and poverty will only increase more.
Richard Leakey has spent a lifetime exploring Kenya’s Turkana Basin searching for the origins of man.
Each layer of sediment, says the paleoanthropologist and founder of the Turkana Basin Institute, helps to tell the narrative of human evolution. “You get the whole story of life represented going back from the present right back to the beginnings of an ape that has two legs as opposed to four,” Leakey said.
“So the whole story of humanity you can actually trace to the Turkana Basin.” But Leakey says these ancient hills tell another story, a history of climatic changes that gave rise to some species and led to the extinction of others.
With climate change, he says, this history could be repeated. “The future of humanity is not going to be in the sediments, it is going to be in our minds and our thinking and unfortunately what we find here is that evidence,” Leakey said.
“What we find here that is scientifically provable, immutable facts doesn’t necessarily get absorbed for the moment by the political class who simply don’t want to know the ugly truth that the world is a mess.” On the shores of Lake Turkana — the largest desert lake in the world — they don’t need to know the science of climate change.
For more than 1,000 years, fishermen have been bringing in their catch, but, in less than a generation, they have witnessed disturbing changes.
“When I was young this lake was full, says Lazarao Maraka, a local fisherman.
“The water just keeps going down. We used to get big fish every day, now they are tiny.”
Turkana’s climate catastrophe
Maraka has reason to worry. Sometimes it is hard to see the effects of climate change, but not at Lake Turkana.
Global human impact on Earth
Thirty years ago the area was covered with water. Now, it is just sand and gravel. And scientists believe that in just a few decades it will be reduced to a couple of puddles. Upriver dam projects could further hasten the retreat, a potential catastrophe for the entire region that depends on the lake for food and economic survival.
“I think the prospect of many of these half million people living around the lake today of having to relocate to cities and to slums and to abandon their culture, abandon their ancestral land, become paupers in their own land, I think it is very real,” Leakey says. “I think the way of life is gone…I have no doubt about that at all. I think if you came back here or my grandchildren came back in 50 years we wouldn’t recognize what we are talking about today.”
Leakey’s Turkana Basin Institute is trying to understand how climate change is affecting the Turkana.
Sometimes the best thing to do is listen. The Turkana say the rains are less frequent and the droughts come more often. The unpredictable weather and vanishing pasture has decimated their herds.
Climate change does affect the Turkana people, says Ikal Angelei from the Turkana Basin Institute “With the increase of drought it has made the communities unable to adapt to the changes, because it happens so often,” Angelei said. Leakey says that anyone sceptical about climate change should visit the Turkana Basin.
“Coming to a place like this, I think you actually show people what happens. These are real issues that you can see and feel and almost touch that may make people understand that we are on the edge of a precipice and we are going over,” he said. “We have accelerated a process and it is based on the belief that somehow we can maintain control. I think our carbon dioxide emissions are out of control.” Even with the changes around Lake Turkana, fishermen like Lazaro Maraka still try to eke out a living the only way they know how.
He worries what will be left for his son Eroo if the lake continues to recede. “If there is no lake or no fish, then the people will not survive around this lake. This lake is the Turkana’s life,” Maraka says. This place has helped unlock humanity’s past. Today, it could also be providing a window on its future.
View the video below on the devastating impact of climate change in Turkana that has now forced villagers to consume dog and cat meat.
Climate change in Africa is fuelling poaching from locals at an unprecedented rate.
Travelling north in Uganda, the land flattens out and becomes drier, turning from tropical to semi-arid. Paved roads change to dirt and after a few hours you reach the most remote region of the country. Home to semi-nomadic cattle keeping people, the Karimojong, Karamoja is scarred by dry river beds and dotted with manyattas, small settlements made of sticks and ringed by fences of thorns.
About ten kilometres outside of Moroto, the largest town in the Karamoja, in one of these manyattas, lives Lowakabong Tapem. Crawling through a small opening in the fence, you’ll find him and his eight wives and 40 children. Tapem used to be a rich man. He carries a walking stick and wears a navy blue suit jacket over cargo shorts. Around his wrist is an ivory bracelet that he bought for ten cows. But then last year, warriors from a neighbouring clan came and stole all his animals in a series of raids. He lost 70 cows, 30 camels and 40 goats.
‘I don’t have anything to give my wives; they are the ones who take care of me now, by going and looking for herbs,’ Tapem says. The elder blames the drought that has plagued the region of Karamoja in recent years for the theft of his livestock. ‘The hunger has increased the raids,’ he says. ‘Someone sits under the tree for a whole day. He doesn’t have anything to do; he doesn’t have anything to eat. “So he thinks, let me just go for a raid”‘.
The hardships of climate change that environmentalists warn of have already arrived in the poorest and least developed region of Uganda. Three out of the past four years have seen poor or no harvests in Karamoja. But in addition to starving the region agriculturally, climate change is also exacerbating violence in the region. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in 2007, ‘changes in our environment and the resulting upheavals – from droughts to inundated coastal areas to loss of arable lands – are likely to become a major driver of war and conflict.’
The conflicts Moon spoke of might seem abstract and apocalyptic – too far in the future to worry about. But in Uganda, it seems climate change driven violence is already here. The cattle keepers of Karamoja have raided each other’s herds for generations: for prestige, to pay dowries and to increase their wealth. But today, many in the region say that warriors are increasingly driven by hunger.
Global warming reality
Sitting on a bench in the stark afternoon sunlight, the elders of Tapem’s manyatta agree the climate of Karamoja has undergone a transformation in recent years. ‘Previously during this season there was rain and it was green around. Now you look around . . . everything is different. It’s completely changed,’ says Apangamea Lobur.
Before, ‘we would expect that when you came around here you would find green grass and plants of medium size,’ Lokawa Pareo says. The government of Uganda estimates that the average temperature has increased between 0.2 and 1 degree C in the country since 1974. The semi-arid region of Karamoja, already susceptible to drought, has been particularly affected by this change.
Andrew Achila-Ododongo is the Production and Marketing Coordinator for the district of Moroto. In his office in Moroto town, he gets out a chart showing plunging rainfall patterns in the area. ‘If you look at our crop calendar, by now we should be recording maximum amount of rainfall. This year, we only got three days of rain,’ he says. ‘It used to be every five years you would get a serious drought, but now, almost every year you get drought.’
It adds up to an undeniable change in Karamoja’s climate, says the official. ‘Climate change is aggravating the situation and the impacts are being seriously felt. [Global warming] is becoming a reality.’ And as the environment has worsened, the people`s hunger pangs have sharpened. A 2010 report by the Danish NGO DanChurchAid concluded that in Karamoja ‘climate change is worsening food insecurity dramatically.’ According to the report, 85 per cent of people surveyed in two districts of Karamoja have only one meal a day.
The change in the environment has meant that families that used to look to agriculture, as an alternative to livestock, to feed themselves are no longer able to rely on that either. Achila-Ododongo says the drought has decimated harvests. ‘Production and productivity are going down every day. It’s been crop failure, crop failure, and crop failure for the last four years. There are no bumper harvests like we used to have. We have been relying on food aid for the past four years.’
Back inside the manyatta, one of Tapem’s wives shows off an empty garden. ‘If we plant anything, the sun will just come and burn up all the crops, so we don’t even think of planting”. If we last up until the following day, we thank God for that,’ says the patriarch.
These days, the people of the manyatta are largely dependent on NGO and government assistance for food. It’s a change from Tapem`s younger years, when the community was more self-reliant. ‘We were better off because we didn’t depend on the government so much. It’s just these recent years and especially this one where we don’t have anything at all,’ Tapem says.
Raiding for food
Cattle raids are a tradition in Karamoja going back to before colonisation. When guns proliferated in the region in following the overthrow of Idi Amin, however, they became increasingly destructive. A decade ago, the government of Uganda launched a massive disarmament program designed to stamp out raiding in the area. But despite the army’s collection of over 30,000 guns, the effort hasn’t put a stop to raiding in Karamoja.
Rather, cattle raids have changed nature. A number of factors, including increased demand for land and high youth unemployment and, of course drought, have resulted in raids of a different type. Instead of the massive ritual raids of the past, today warriors who steal tend to steal only a few animals at a time.
‘Cattle wrestling has been transformed into organized crime,’ says the DanChurchAid study. That’s partly a function of a changing climate. Instead of raiding for prestige or to pay dowries, warriors now steal to feed their families, explains Simon Kiru, food security officer of the community based organization Action for Poverty Reduction and Livestock Modernization in Karamoja. ‘If the children have slept for two or three days without food, then a man is forced to go and raid because there is no other alternative.’
Raiding has become a commercial activity and a coping strategy more than a cultural practice, Kiru explains. ‘Now the cows they raid are just for survival. They bring them and sell them straight away so that they can buy food.’ Father Charles Omenya, the chairperson of the Catholic church’s Justice and Peace committee for Moroto Diocese, has lived in Karamoja since the 1970’s. ‘These people who used to have guns, now they have resorted to arrows and pangas,’ he says. ‘Now they can’t launch major attacks, so what they do is to go to vulnerable people and [even] take away the food stuffs that they have at home, chickens and utensils.’
And in spite of the government’s efforts to eliminate the violence in the region, Karimojong continue to die at the hands of their neighbours. At least two or three people die each month in raids in Moroto district, admits resident district chairman Norman Ojwe. And that’s in just one region of Karamoja’s seven.
Outside of Tapem’s manyatta, several boys in their late teens are escaping the mid-afternoon sun under a lone tree. These boys used to be charged with keeping their families’ cattle. But there’s little for them to do since their fathers’ herds were raided. ‘I knew all the colours of the animals and when one got lost and was missing, I could find it,’ says Lokwango Nachiro, whose father lost his cows in a raid last year.
‘[Usually] at this time in the afternoon I would be returning from the grazing area and I would be sharpening my knives to draw the animal’s blood. I don’t have anything to do these days. When we had cows, I would drink their milk and blood but now I have nothing to do but sit under this tree.’
In a society where cattle raids have become a strategy for coping with the changing climate, the future threatens to bring more violence. His friend Lobur Angella recalls the night his family’s cattle were taken. ‘We were sleeping and suddenly we heard gunshots. We took off without our shirts or shoes and ran to the bushes and hid. Some people were killed and some animals were injured. It’s only because of the rescue of the soldiers that we were saved.’
The drought means that these boys have given up on agriculture as a means of producing food. ‘The weather is not favouring us now. The soil is not fertile; if it was we would try and grow sorghum,’ says Paul Louse. Though their community was devastated by raiding, they see the violent form of theft as the only way to obtain a good life for them and their families. ‘The only hope of getting rich would be to go and raid,’ Louse says.
Rhino and Elephant poaching we can rightfully state the major problem here is to fuel the Asian market with fake medicine and cultural gifts. However Asians are not poaching African wildlife. Africans are at the heart of all poaching within Africa.
Organised syndicate gangs prey on vulnerable African communities such as those situated in Kabok, Mozambique. Family head men and young boys risk their lives venturing over the border taking out our Rhino and Elephant. Ivory and Rhino horn is of no use to them. Money is though and if one Rhino horn can fetch a family a roof over their heads, farmland, food and security then poaching of this “level” will increase. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa is currently lobbying the government of Southern Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe to now help poor communities situated next to the Kruger National Park in the hope that hunger and poverty can be addressed.
The Department of International Development (DID) based in the United Kingdom are also being lobbied and hopes for a secure future for these poverty stricken individuals International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa is working towards. There is of course sadly though no promise of which should these areas continually be ignored then poaching of our vulnerable wildlife will continue leading to extinction on both levels caused by humans. Greed and over-usage of carbon fossil fuels has had more of a devastating effect on Mama Africa than most civil wars.
Climate change – Africans Elephant populations;
By making new use of historical records, scientists have shown that climate change could have a greater impact on Myanmar’s elephants’ dwindling numbers than previously thought.
Hannah Mumby from the University of Sheffield, who led the study, found that the already endangered species faces further struggle as even the slightest temperature change can lower their chances of survival dramatically.
Climate change leaves the animals at risk of drought, disease and death as the heat causes freshwater supplies to dwindle, infectious diseases to spread faster and brings with it one of the biggest killers of elephants in Myanmar – heat stroke. The study found that elephants thrive at an optimum temperature of 23oC, and deviations from this leave them more vulnerable. The Myanmar region is predicted to experience a rise of 0.1 to 3oC, over the next 30 to 40 years – a seemingly small change, but one that could wipe out the entire elephant population.
‘We think of elephants as very resilient animals, very robust, but then we see at the same time there is a very narrow range at which they are at their optimal survival. If the climate changes by even a few degrees it can substantially reduce survival,’ says Mumby. She continues: ‘We found that the youngest elephants, the calves, are quite susceptible to extremes. Once we move out of their optimal to their maximum temperature, it doubles their mortality risk’.
The discovery that calves are particularly threatened by rising temperatures is important, since these offspring are integral for the survival of the species. Elephants, like humans, reproduce later in life and if the calves die before they can mate then the species will be unable to survive.
The variations in temperature between seasons in Myanmar are already large, but the climate projections show that not only will temperatures rise but there will be fewer monsoon months. The higher the rainfall, the better the chance of survival is for the elephants; dryer hotter months could prove to be fatal.
There has been little previous research into how long-lived species will adapt to climate change, since the time required to study generations of these animals exceeds the lifespan of most scientists. Mumby was given access to a unique database which held information on the lives of around 800 Asian elephants from 1960 to 2000. ‘We have captured the whole lives of generations, their month to month survival, as well as the month to month climate, so we can look at small scale individual changes in a way we’d never be able to if we began collecting data now.’
Elephant life spans are similar to humans, but that is not the only similarity. Studying how climate change can affect elephant behaviour could provide an insight into how humans will react under changing environmental conditions. Mumby states that ‘any similarities or differences are enlightening for understanding both species and their responses, particularly since both are long-lived animals that have survived events that caused the extinction of several other species, such as the last ice age.’
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa takes on board all scientific climatic data of which we will unfortunately view climate change destruction as the number one killer of human and animal life within Africa by the year 2100. We will see most certainly a significantly large depletion of wildlife pushed into extinction due to climate change and destruction aggravated by the over usage of fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Secondly but most importantly families that are/have been affected by climate change will endeavour to poach more animals just to stay alive or are forced to consume domesticated mammals. The animal rights community and anti-hunter brigade must now take it on board that hunting is the least of our worries. Climate change can in under ten years wipe out an entire species of mammal which then has a significant knock on effect to other ecosystems and species of animals least affected by climate change. Governments internationally that fail to take this climate change in Africa seriously will be the death of Africa’s economy, tourism, agriculture and wildlife.
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This article has used up to date sources and to date reliable scientific data. We believe that climate change is more than real and those who disbelieve are only damaging our African wildlife and human population furthermore.
If we fail Mama Africa – We fail 1.033 billion people living within Africa (2011 stats) and billions of species of African wildlife.
Jon Williamson Chief European Environmental Registrar.
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