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It is not a secret that multiple animal species on our planet face extinction. The African continent is not an exception. The numbers of representatives of certain species in Africa are low or even critical in some instances. Since people realize that all animal species have a right to exist and play important roles in a balance of local ecosystems, Africa implements some conservation tactics in order to preserve these animals. This paper discusses examples of conservational efforts Africa directs towards animals that are currently vulnerable or endangered on the continent, challenges that people encounter when attempting to implement those efforts, drawbacks of some conservational tactics, and the reasons why the animals listed in this paper are vulnerable or endangered in the first place. The animals of interest for this paper are the lion (Panthera leo), rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum), elephant (Loxodonta africana and  L.cyclotis), Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), and riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis).

Conservation of the African Lion

Lions, Panthera leo, is considered to be one of the symbols of Africa. There are about 35,000 lions spread throughout the continent (Bouche et al, 2016); this wild feline is extinct in some areas that used to be filled with lions, is vulnerable species in other parts of the continent such as South Africa (Bauera et al, 2015), and North and West Africa have the numbers of lions so low that they are officially listed as endangered in these areas (Bouche et al, 2016).

Captively bred hunting is one of the ways Africa implements lion conservation. It could be described as breeding lions in a controlled environment and then releasing them into the hunting areas 34 - 7 days before the hunters arrive. Typically, the lions are bigger in size than the wild ones because of controlled breeding (selection towards larger animals) and better care (more food is available to gain weight) (Lindsey et al, 2012). The funds generated by the captive bred hunting goes towards the management of captive bred lions (Lindsey et al, 2012). The money is spent on food and supporting water sources, managing the land where the animals are kept, and providing safety for the times when the animals are growing.  This practice is widespread in South Africa where the amount of lions is higher and the species is considered to be vulnerable but not endangered (Lindsey et al, 2012).

Hunting captive bred lions has its negative side. Firstly, the fact that the animals are genetically manipulated could become a problem if these lions were able to escape because it would endanger the wild lion population since the captive bred lions are larger and stronger (Lindsey et al, 2012). Secondly, the ethics of hunting animals who are created only for the sole purpose of being hunted is questionable. Some people consider that it is unethical and should be stopped. However, if captive bred hunting was banned, there would be an increase in poaching since there would be less financing and less control over the areas that lions inhabit, and wild lion hunting would increase since 20% of captive-bred hunters would switch to wild lion hunting (Lindsey et al, 2012).

Wild lion trophy hunting is another way the lion population could be conserved. Typically, the number of lions harvested per year is limited by the organization that manages the territory where hunting is permitted. For instance, in West Africa, the number of lions hunted per 1000 square kilometers is 1 to 2 lions seasonally (Bouche et al, 2016).  In addition, the generated money is spent towards maintaining the ecosystem which includes patrolling the area to avoid poaching of both lions and their prey, checking the numbers of lions present on the territory, and controlling the quality of water sources. Educating and supporting human communities that surround the hunting areas make the population informed and prevent it from expanding. Therefore, the size of the land that the lions can inhabit stays stable (Bouche et al, 2016). Recent research in West Africa confirmed that areas that do not have actively regulated and managed hunting areas have had a dramatic decline in the number of lions due to uncontrolled hunting, drought, and diseases that domestic animals spread to the carnivores (Bouche et al, 2016). The ethical concern of trophy hunting has its right to exist since this type of hunting is not crucial for humans’ survival, and, therefore, could be considered as unnecessary.

Another way of conservation that some African regions implement is translocation. This method is used in situations when the lion populations are founded by few individuals that do not have an opportunity to leave the area or to have new lions with new genetic material enter their domain (Tensen et al, 2018). The reason why the lions cannot expand is due to the human settlements that are in the way or fencing that was necessary in order to prevent poaching and unsustainable hunting.  As a result of isolation, the genetic variability and heterozygosity of these groups are poor. Inbreeding leads to hereditary health issues and higher susceptibility to infectious diseases (Tensen et al, 2018). A translocation is a great tool when the introduced lions do not have any close genetic relationship to the ones inhabiting the area, when they are healthy, and when the process is gradual (Tensen et al, 2018). Potential disadvantages of the translocation can be competition between native and translocated individuals, male infanticide, and in some cases, the translocated females can create a stable pride without letting other individuals join them or mate with them which could lead to a new line of inbreeding (Trinkel et al, 2008).

One more way to maintain or increase the number of lions is the reintroduction of lions to the areas they used to inhabit but either abandoned them or were killed off by humans (Hunter et al, 2007). The outcome of reintroduction depends on the amount of prey present, other carnivores inhabiting the area, the attitude of the local human population, and the ecosystem itself. For instance, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, was a successful project that reintroduced lions to that area of South Africa. After observing and following the lions for 13 years, the researchers found out that the population steadily increased and had no problem surviving and reproducing because of the abundance in prey, and low number of other carnivores that could compete for the territory and prey (Hunter et al, 2007).

 Another factor that contributes to the outcome of reintroduction is the management of that lion population. South Africa has more lions than any other part of the continent because of how well and diligent the management of the lions is (Bauera et al, 2015). The areas in South Africa are typically fenced, monitored to avoid hunting of both lions and their prey, and examined for the presence of adequate amount of water and plants (Bauera et al, 2015). All of this is possible due to private funding that some government managed reserves lack (Bauera et al, 2015).

Rhinoceros Conservation in Africa

The rhinoceros is a unique species that is found today in Africa. The two main rhino species in Africa are the black rhino and the white rhino. The majority of rhinoceroses are found in South Africa, which is home to 36% of the world’s black rhinoceros population, and 90% of the world’s white rhinoceros population (Ferreira et al., 2017). The rapid decline in the African rhinoceros population has been a primary concern among conservationists. This section will describe the threats that have contributed to the decline in African rhinoceros populations as well as the strategies for conserving these declining populations.

Humans are the biggest threat to the survival of the African rhinoceros. The practice of illegal game hunting became a widespread problem in Africa after World War II because widespread poverty and hunger increased the motivation for ordinary people to profit from the illegal trade of animal accessories (Adams, 2016). Rhinoceroses are among the many animals in Africa that are prized for specific body parts that are valuable to people around the world. Today, the rhinoceros has many characteristics that make them a target for hunters. According to the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service (2017), rhinoceroses are popular among hunters because their horns are valued in traditional Asian medicines and jewelry. Hunting has contributed to the decline in rhinoceros populations throughout Africa. According to figures, the rhinoceros population in Sumatra has decreased by 50% in the last 18 years while black rhino populations have declined by 96% between 1970 and 1992 in sub-Saharan Africa (U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2017

The first method of conserving the African rhinoceros population involves legal sanction. International legal agreements are used to prohibit the hunting of rhinoceroses and to punish those who illegally hunt this species. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes that all five species of rhinoceroses are listed as protected animals under the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2017). This international agreement creates a network of countries that can cooperate in providing legal protections for the species. Under CITES, 175 nations agree to place legal prohibitions against hunting and trade practices that would threaten the survival of the protected rhinoceros species (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2017). These prohibitions ensure that poachers from all national backgrounds will be punished for violating laws against hunting rhinoceroses.

Additionally, the United States has designated the rhinoceros as a protected species. These legal protections enable U. S. law enforcement to enact measures to prosecute those who illegal hunt rhinoceros species. Specifically, the Endangered Species Act and the Rhinoceros Conservation Act provide legal support in the United States to fund anti-poaching initiatives as well as research and education to protect rhinoceros populations (U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2017). Because illegal hunting serves as the main threat to rhinoceros populations, the legal approach to protecting rhinoceroses is the most direct method of addressing this issue.

The second method of conservation involves the operation of national parks and refuges to provide protected homes for rhinoceros populations. During the 1980s, sanctuaries for rhinoceroses were established in Kenyan national parks, and accompanying captive breeding populations were established to repopulate endangered rhinoceros species (Cohn, 1988). In South Africa, the majority of rhinoceroses are housed in protected parks. As of 2015, 49 percent of South Africa’s white rhinoceroses and 31 percent of South Africa’s black rhinoceroses lived in managed South African National Parks (Ferreira et al., 2017). Further, governments sought to create economic incentives for communities to conserve rhinoceroses and other endangered animals. During the late 20th century, conservation efforts around Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks distributed payments to the communities in which these areas operated (Adams, 2016). The intention of these efforts was to address the issue of poverty, which made it economically desirable for hunters to profit from selling animal parts or consuming endangered species.

The resilience of poachers remains a primary challenge to conservation efforts. As Ferreira et al. (2014) highlights, the risks presented by poachers outweigh the cost benefits to many private parties in Africa who operate conservation areas. Because of depressive economic conditions worldwide, declines in income from tourism and trophy hunting no longer offset the costs of providing security for rhinoceroses (Ferreira et al., 2014). The inability to make conservation beneficial to the private industry is a barrier to ensuring that secure areas for rhinoceroses will remain.

Connected to this issue, law enforcement is inadequate in preventing and deterring poaching. Haas and Ferreira (2016) noted that current enforcement includes marketing campaigns to reduce demand for rhino products, increased anti-poaching measures within protected areas, and transnational policing initiatives that are intended to stop criminals smuggling poaching products. However, their research noted that a weak network of policies is ineffective in preventing determined smugglers. Haas and Ferreira recommend that national policing efforts to actively stop trafficking combined with increased economic aid to those living near protected areas would be the most effective approach to reducing smuggling (Haas & Ferreira, 2016). Essentially, as long as criminals have the ability and desire to illegal hunt rhinoceroses, the issue of rhinoceros hunting will still remain serious.

As the home of a large percentage of the world’s rhinoceroses, communities in Africa are responsible for protecting this species. The hunting of rhinoceroses for their horns remains the greatest threat to this population. Conservation efforts today include law enforcement to prevent illegal hunting and the operation of protected areas to protect rhinoceroses from hunting. However, stronger law enforcement and the reduction of economic incentives for hunting rhinoceroses must be strengthened to prevent further threats the population.

African elephants

African elephants belong to genus Loxodonta and consist of two species: African bush elephant, L. africana, and the smaller African forest elephant, L. cyclotis. The bush elephant, is the largest living terrestrial animal, while the forest elephant is the third-largest (Macdonald, D. (2001).  They both have downward-pointed tusks and smaller rounded ears. The average elephants physical description is: Head and body length including the trunk: up to 8 m; Shoulder height: 250 - 400 cm; Weight: 3-7 tons (up to 12 tons); Tail size: 1 m; Skin: Can be 1 inch in certain places and usually hairless; Tusks: Present in both sexes (Larramendi, A. 2016)

   According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) report of 2016, the estimated population of African elephants now is 415,428 ± 20,211 living on the territory of 20,731,202 km2 (protected area takes 30% of this territory). (Thouless C. at al. 2016) 65 of the original 77 populations were defined as ‘savannah’ populations, while eight were classified as ‘forest’ populations. The remaining populations were either classified as ‘both’ or as ‘no data’. Even though the population of living elephants is enormous, the species is considered endangered because the number of the animals is declining. Over 100 years the population of elephants decreased approximately 10 times. A comparison of first and subsequent estimates suggests that populations in some areas may have fallen by half between 1981 and 1987.  Researchers speculate that the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) declined from 1.2 million to 600,000 in one decade. (Cornelis G. 2008)

There are two main reasons for the decrease of the elephant population in Africa. First is the ivory trade that implies illegal and legal killing of adult animals. Second is competition for territory and access to natural resources with people. Killing elephants for ivory is one of the ways to gain money in certain geographical areas. Most savanna ivory transited or seized (open diamonds) from East African countries: Tanzania; Kenya; Mozambique; Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda.

The legal trade of ivory from natural mortality and problem animal control can become a way to reduce illegal killing because it can provide a direct and regular source of funding to elephant conservationists in Africa. However, this method has some weaknesses. The biggest obstacle is corruption that cannot be reduced to an acceptable level within the next few decades. Many conservation organizations and initiatives are highly vulnerable to the effects of corruption, especially when dealing with valuable commodities. Also, some countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi and South Africa oppose the attempt to forbid elephant hunting because they have relatively large populations that became a problem in some parks.

It seems that hunting for ivory cannot have a high negative impact on elephant population reproduction. This is because hunter usually kills large old animals with biggest tusks. Most of them are males living a solitary life. However, killing old females and taking them out the groups can decrease the quality of life of other members of the group since old females often serve as leaders and experienced keepers. Losing them the young generation also loses valuable knowledge about survival strategies. Also culling animals with biggest tasks reduces the average size of tasks in African elephants and makes them less armored (Patrick C. at al. 2015).

Human-elephant conflict is another problem that leads to eliminating the animals from unprotected areas. Elephants damage crop that can impact local livelihoods and cause increased labor costs, heightened levels of stress and creates fear. They may destroy an entire field leaving long-lasting negative attitudes. Elephants also can compete with humans for natural resources such as water (Mmbaga N. at al. 2017). Even though people often suffer from elephants damaging agricultural lands, it is possible to create a positive attitude. People can get more benefits from conservation. Financial benefits from serving tourism, education, and participation in a conservation project can compensate the agricultural loss (Nsons F. at al. 2017). The government now try to establish growth of elephant population in Africa. There are many ways to protect the animals (Robert J. at all.): There was an attempt to decrease fragmentation of protected areas. Smaller isolated areas accumulating elephants can lead to some negative genetic consequences such as inbreeding. In order to allow some drift of genes and decrease bottleneck effect, the links between the areas must be established. (Alida F. at al. 2017)

Conservation of Ethiopian Wolves

The Ethiopian Wolf is one of the several extremely endangered species that exist on the African Continent. They were put on the endangered species list in 1990 and were moved to the critically endangered species list in 1994. They are currently protected by the 1974 Ethiopia’s Wildlife Conservation Regulation. Under this regulation, if someone is caught killing an Ethiopian Wolf, the punishment carries a 2-year prison sentence, (EWCP, 2018). Their scientific name is Canis simensis. The Ethiopian Wolf also goes by other common names—the Abyssinian Wolf, Simien Fox, and the Simien Jackal. The Ethiopian Wolf has long legs and a long narrow muzzle. Their coats are red in hue with black and white marks; their tails tend to be black. The female wolves tend to turn a yellowish color during the breeding season. Young, adolescent, wolves are a greyish color, (Arkive, 2018). These wolves prefer to eat small rodents which is why they prefer to live in the grasslands and heathlands.  The average weight of these wolves is about 16 kg, or about 35 lbs, (EWCP, 2018). They live in only couple places in Africa—the Afroalpine grasslands and heathlands that are above 3000 m in the country of Ethiopia. They live in packs, but the packs are very solitary and other Ethiopian wolf packs do not really interact with one another. They have a long lifespan but have been susceptible to canid diseases such as Rabies and Canine Distemper. Currently, their population size consists of about 500 adults and sub-adults with no captive populations, (EWCP, 2018).

Ethiopia a country in Africa has been experiencing a fast population increase over the past decade. With the increase in the human population, there has been an increase in human/wildlife interactions. With increasing stress on the highlands and grassland by humans, there has been a serious threat to the Ethiopian Wolf population. With rabies plaguing the Ethiopian Wolf, human interactions could be devastating to their already fragile existence, (WildNet, 2017).

Some of the major threats to the Ethiopian Wolf population has been the increase in agriculture by humans, also known as habitat loss. Habitat loss has been most devastating for those wolves that live in small/flat areas, (IUCNRedlist, 2011). In some area in the Afroalpine area the grazing land and proposed development of commercial farming have largely impacted the population as well, (IUCNRedlist, 2011). Along with the population increase by humans isolated areas of their habitat will likely show an increase in local extinction, (Arkive, 2018). In the Bale, region disease has devastated the wolf populations. The diseases that have been a problem for these wolves are rabies and canine distemper. Due to crossbreeding of local domestic dog and the Ethiopian wolves, the wolf has become more vulnerable to domestic dog diseases, (IUCNRedlist, 2011). In 2008 the EWCP organization vaccinated Ethiopian wolves out of fear from the recent rabies outbreak, in effects to conserving the species, (Arkive, 2018). Many conservation organizations have developed in effects to help bring back the Ethiopian wolf population. The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation.

Current conservation effects are located in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia. The main objective currently is protection. Some of the effects include “population monitoring, disease control, education to the public, habitat protection, capacity building, and research, (BornFree, 2018).” The goal is not just to protect the wolf population but also to conserve the Afroalpine ecosystem and the species that live within it. Due to the efforts of the EWCP and BornFree, they were able to secure the funding to make the Bale Mountains a national park.

Conservation of the Riverine Rabbits

The rarest mammal, Bunolagus moniticularis has had many names such as bushman hare/rabbit and Lepus monticularis, but it is now commonly known as the riverine rabbit. The riverine rabbit is indigenous to the river areas of Karoo, Africa, specifically, the rabbits need dense and incoherent vegetation on nutrient-rich soils in proximity to the Karoo rivers to inhabit.  The species was also native to Northern Cape Province and Western Cape in South Africa but are now extinct in those areas. Currently, there is less than 90% of mature individuals in one subpopulation. There are 12 subpopulations that inhabit less than 50 matured rabbits. The riverine rabbit has been critically endangered since 2003 but has been endangered since 1986, primarily from hunting and habitat loss.

    The rabbit population has declined more than 60% over the last 70 years from the threats mentioned previously and is continuing to decline. Habitat loss has been the main contributor to the rabbit’s population status. Since the species inhabits that nutrient-rich soil by the Karoo rivers, it is perfect for cultivating and farming which it has added to the habitat loss. In addition to the land getting cultivated, the rabbit also is losing habitat to overgrazing by domestic herbivores. In a study on environmental change on the riverine rabbit, they found that climate change has impacted the habitat loss of the riverine rabbit as well. An additional threat to the rabbit is hunting, the rabbits are being hunted by the farm workers for food and fun. It is predicted that within the next 10 years the riverine rabbits will be completely extinct.

    Not only is the species close to extinction, but it also is impacts other areas. The Karoo is mostly a desert area, the riverbanks that the species inhabits are the only place where there is fertile land. Although some of the soil has been plundered for cultivation, the rabbit supports the land. With the critically endangered rabbit possibly entering extinction the nutrient-rich soil that the species inhabits is depleting even more because the rabbit is not going to be able to help the vegetation regenerate. Riverine rabbits are a part of the black eagles (Ictinaetus malayensis) and other carnivores food chain, it can be predicted that their population has been slightly impacted by the decline of this food source. The riverine rabbits not only have an impact on the land, but they also influence the population of their predators.

    It seems that some conservation efforts taken for this species were not all successful. Conservation efforts have been focused on for on teaching the landowners and their employees on how to help preserve these rabbits. Other conservation efforts have been private and ex-situ captive breeding. A program that was implemented by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to conserve the riverine rabbits was the Dryland Conservation program (DCP). In 2007, the volunteers and workers involved in the program started to restore over 350 Ha of the riparian ecosystems that the rabbits inhabit. They also started an indigenous Karoo plant nursery in Loxton (Northern Cape, Africa) to restore the vegetation in the Karoo. In one study for environmental changes impact on the rabbits, they found that by conservation area should be located in western and northern Cape provinces of South Africa because climate change will cause the Karoo environment to no longer be suitable to house the riverine rabbits. The study also proposed a law that allowed the landowners in the Karoo to be compensated if they didn’t cultivate the land that the riverine rabbits inhabit as much and to make an effort to preserve the species.

In a study to determine if DNA fingerprinting would be a good tool to use for breeding programs for the riverine rabbits. The study captured 9 riverine rabbits from the Karoo and took them to a breeding facility near Pretoria, South Africa. Five of the rabbits died before any test could be run and the four remaining wild rabbits reproduced adding eight addition rabbits to the study. The results from the DNA fingerprinting study showed at most four of the surviving rabbits could contribute to the captive breeding program without causing an increase in inbreeding and that by capturing more rabbits then there could be a larger genetic variation in the program. The DNA fingerprinting allowed the possibility to use some of the surviving rabbits in a larger captive breeding program. This study also showed that when using captive rabbits with genetic similarities there needs to be a sensitivity when picking which rabbits will participate in the larger captive breeding program.

The riverine rabbit is one of the rarest mammals in the world because of its critically endangered status. There are some programs that have been established to preserve the species, but they can only be successful if the people of Karoo cooperate and contribute to the conservation of the riverine rabbit as well. A big part of the success of removing the riverine rabbit from the critically endangered list is educating the public and getting people more involved in saving this beautiful animal. To ensure that this rabbit does not go extinct, we need to continue to do research, managed the wildlife population and habitat better, and to implement more captive breeding programs.

Conclusion

The most common conservational efforts that African continent uses to increase or maintain the numbers of the affected animals are controlled hunting, strict legal sanctions against poaching, highly organized management of the natural habitats or wildlife preservation, education of local human populations, captive breeding, translocation, and reintroduction. Overall, humans are one of the main reasons why the animals mentioned in the paper are endangered or vulnerable. Unsustainable hunting, increasing sizes of human settlements and populations that restrict the migration of the animals and either destroy their natural habitat or make it impossible for the animals to use it, and contact with infected domestic animals contribute to the problem of decreasing numbers or the wild african animals.

Even though currently used methods of conservation allow to maintain the numbers of the endangered species, these methods are not perfect. More financial support is needed from the government and private sources in order to maintain current reservations and regulated hunting areas as well as to create new ones or increase the area of the existing ones. That would be necessary to allow the growing number of the animals to have ample room to thrive. Educating local populations about the animals, their role in the ecosystem and the ways people could prevent or stop damage to the habitat of the endangered species would help to increase awareness of humans towards these animals. Further research is needed to determine how related different isolated populations of a species are and the degree of inbreeding these groups have. Data like that would aid in creating a strategy on how to increase genetic diversity in isolated populations and, therefore, increase the survival rate of the future generations of the species. Finally, more money and efforts should be directed towards disease control and prevention in endangered species since some of them either contract the disease from domestic animals or become susceptible to diseases due to a low immune system or genetic mutations because of inbreeding.

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