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 user 2005-05-14 at 10:52:00 am Views: 88
  • #9741
    Climate fear for African elephant

    Climate change is a bigger threat to elephants, tigers and the
    rhinoceroses than poaching, a wildlife expert says.

    Dr Richard Leakey told BBC News global warming, combined with decreasing
    ranges, could make the animals extinct.

    He has convened a seminar at Stony Brook University near New York, where he
    is calling for the establishment of a new global fund to protect wildlife.

    And the former director of Kenya’s wildlife service believes concerted action
    is needed within five years.

    Dry future

    Millions of dollars are spent each year to keep iconic species such as the
    elephant, the tiger and the rhinoceros safe from poachers, principally inside
    protected areas such as national parks.

    Dr Leakey believes this could be money wasted.

    “We can spend money trying to stop poaching, but there’s no point in doing
    that if the stuff in there is going anyway,” he told the BBC News website.

    I think we may well be looking at a mass
    extinction; and I think the question is, can we do anything to adapt to it?

    Dr Richard Leakey
    “If the concern is symbolic species, there may well be a bigger
    threat from climate change than from utilisation and poaching.”

    Predicting the regional impacts of global climate change is not an exact
    science; but in Africa, home to the “big five”‘ symbolic species – elephant,
    rhinoceros, lion, leopard and buffalo – computer models predict that overall,
    areas which are currently dry will become even dryer as well as warmer.

    In pre-industrial times, animals threatened by these changes could simply
    have migrated, but human development means that option has largely disappeared.

    “Protected areas are now islands,” said Dr Leakey. “The wildlife and fauna
    and flora are pretty well tied in by boundaries which aren’t oceans, in the
    sense of islands, but development.

    “And if there’s significant climate change, as is predicted, what’s going to
    happen to these areas?

    “Paleontologically, island faunas become extinct.”

    International effort

    In an attempt to find solutions, Dr Leakey has convened a high-level
    three-day seminar at Stony Brook University near New York, where he is a
    visiting professor.

    He will attempt to convince representatives of bodies such as the World Bank
    and the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) that they should set up a
    new fund of around $100m to research the issue, and find ways of protecting
    wildlife from climate change.

    “I’ve long been concerned that whilst people are talking about
    climate change, and talking about the implications for future society vis-à-vis
    health and agriculture, very little has been done to address what this could do
    to protected areas around the world,” he told BBC News.

    “I think we may well be looking at a mass extinction; and I think the
    question is, can we do anything to adapt to it?

    “Are there new land-use regimes that could be put in place which would extend
    the possibility of some of these ecosystems getting through a climate change

    “Are there things that could be done artificially that would make it less
    likely that we would see extinction? Should we visit the whole issue of ex-situ
    as opposed to in-situ conservation?

    “There are an awful lot of people around the world who have lots of ideas on
    this, but nobody seems to be addressing this in a co-ordinated way.”