The vast expanse of West and Central Africa remains a tropical hotspot for global biodiversity, in turn, it hosts the second largest forest on Earth. According to the ICUN “African nations have created over 2 million sq km of protected areas. This massive size – four times the size of Spain – reflects both the vast size of Africa and a high level of commitment by African nations to the principles of conservation and sustainable development. African protected areas are the principal safeguard for Africa’s rich biodiversity.” The area remains a primary focus for T-CPI.
Our policy and research volunteer Amber Carter below explores some of the key critical species in West and Central Africa, highlighting the desperate need for a new consensus to advocate for their protection:
The okapi, is an artiodactyl mammal native to the central, northern and eastern parts of DR Congo. The Okapi habitat is limited to closed, high canopy forests between about 450m and 1,500m. Okapi can coexist with small-scale human occupation of the forest, but disappear in areas of active settlement or disturbance. The major threat to this species is habitat loss due to logging and human settlement including illegal occupation of protected areas (Hart 2013, Kümpel et al. 2015) Since 1995, Okapi have been undergoing a decline which is expected to continue in the face of intensifying threats and lack of effective conservation action which is hindered by the lack of security. The rate of decline is estimated to have exceeded 50% over three generations based on figures from surveys in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Réserve de Faune à Okapis; RFO).
Addax were formerly widespread in the Sahelo-Saharan region of Africa, west of the Nile Valley, and present in suitable habitats in all countries sharing the Sahara Desert (Newby 2013). Addax is listed as Critically Endangered because the total population is estimated to number under 100, well below the threshold of 250 mature individuals, and all or almost all (90-100%) are in one subpopulation in the Termit Tin Toumma region of Niger. Numbers continue to decline due to poaching and disturbance from oil exploration. Latest field surveys indicate that the species has probably already reached the threshold for Critically Endangered under criterion D (<50 mature individuals).
Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus Monkey
There have been no confirmed sightings of Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus in the wild since 1978 and surveys carried out from 1993 to the present have yet to confirm the survival of any living individuals (Oates et al. 2000, McGraw 2005). Since the announcement of the monkey’s probable extinction (Oates et al. 2000), new evidence from forests in extreme southeastern Côte d’Ivoire suggests that a handful of individuals may have remained undetected in the forest between Ehy forest and Tanoe river, Côte d’Ivoire
This species is known only from a few locations in the Lomela and Wamba regions of the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the current limits of distribution of this species are not well known, it is clear from survey work that numbers of this taxon are low, probably not exceeding a few hundred individuals. All currently known animals are present in a single reserve. The main threats to this species are hunting and habitat loss to agriculture.
This species is a priority for further survey work in the region, to clearly establish the population status of this species and whether it might survive elsewhere.
Mount Nimba Viviparous Toad
This species is known only from the Mount Nimba region in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. It is a montane species, occurring between 1,200 m to 1,680 m. It appears to be an abundant species within its small range, and a survey in 2003 succeeded in locating several individuals, even during the cold season when they are supposed to be inactive. The population is thought to be stable at the moment and over the past ten years; however, there was a decline in the past and it might not have fully recovered from this.
As the species is currently recognized it is distributed throughout western tropical Africa from Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru in the east/southeast to the Gambia River in the west. The two regions (West and Central Africa) are completely isolated from each other underpinning the impending species split in this taxon. Central African habitats and populations do not seem to be fragmented despite some evidence for genetic isolation between major basins (Shirley 2013). In contrast, West African populations are highly fragmented due to a combination of severely fragmented forest habitats and the geology of the region and species-specific habitat use. To date the only known conservation actions for this species are not targeted specifically at it but rather at communities and landscapes (e.g. national parks and national legislation). A recently renewed initiative in Côte d’Ivoire is looking at captive breeding and reintroduction.
Nubian Flapshell Turtle
Cyclanorbis elegans is known from localized disjunct occurrences in Ghana and northern Togo, in central Nigeria, the Niger river, southern Chad, northern Central African Republic, and the White Nile basin (including the Sobat) of South Sudan and Sudan (Iverson 1992, Gramentz 2008, Baker et al.) It appears that C. elegans has disappeared from several, if not most, of the major river systems that the species is historically known to have inhabited. The species has possibly disappeared completely from western Africa, with the greatest likelihood of a (likely depleted) population surviving in the middle Nile of Sudan and South Sudan. Overall, assuming a generation time of 25 years, the species has likely declined by over 80% over the past two generations, and the fishing and collecting pressures that depleted this large riverine species are likely to continue and possibly become more intensive.
The species is often associated with human settlements north of the Equator, but is also found in open grassland, forest edge, wooded savanna, desert and along coasts; and tends to occur at higher densities in areas where populations of larger. Major threats to this species include non-target poisoning, capture for traditional medicine and bushmeat (McKean et al. 2013), and direct persecution (Ogada and Buij 2011, Ogada et al. 2016). Recently published data shows that this species’ population is declining rapidly with an estimated 83% decline (range 64-93%) over three generations (53 years) (Ogada et al. 2016).
This species is the most widespread and common vulture in Africa, although it is now undergoing rapid declines. This species has declined severely in parts of its range and overall it is suspected to have undergone a very rapid decline owing to habitat loss and conversion to agro-pastoral systems, declines in wild ungulate populations, hunting for trade, persecution, collisions and poisoning. These declines are likely to continue into the future. Recently published data suggests these declines are even more serious than previously thought. For this reason it has been uplisted to Critically Endangered.