‘Protection and conservation of biodiversity’ : the 3rd Roundtable of ‘Resilience to climate in East Africa’
The third and last roundtable of the conference cycle dedicated to climate resilience in East Africa was held on Friday 7th November at Makerere University. These three roundtables have been organized by the Embassy of France in Uganda and Alliance Française, with the support of Institut Français (Fonds d’Alembert) and IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), the French research organization on Development.
These roundtables embedded within the preparation for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) have aimed at raising awareness about climate change issues and challenges in East Africa.
After tackling the effects of climate change in rural and urban areas in the previous discussions, the third roundtable provided an opportunity for researchers, representatives of civil society and local authorities to brainstorm on how best protect and preserve biodiversity.
The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Maria Mutagamba, guest of honour at the closing cycle, emphasized the need for a collective responsibility in the strategies for adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Uganda currently chairs the 69th UN General Assembly and has put environment issues at the fore of its mandate.
Her Excellency Sophie Makame, Ambassador of France to Uganda reminded the commitment of France in organizing COP21 as well as the recent decisions made at EU level to limit greenhouse gas emission to below 40% by 2013. .
M. Thomas Grenon, director of the National History Museum, and Sabrina Krief, primatologist working in Uganda for more than 15 years, have honored this meeting with their presence. Focused on research and biodiversity awareness, the Museum maintains a privileged relationship with Uganda, country of great interest in this respect. Both have drawn the attention not only on the impact of climate change on populations and wildlife habitat in matters of biodiversity, but also on the alteration of interactions between humans and animals in the biodiversity reserves.
William Olupot, Director of the NGO “Nature and Livelihoods”, presented his research on the disappearance of some plant and bird species in the East of the country, near Mount Elgon. In the last few years, this region has been particularly affected by floods, drought, and landslides.
Andy Plumptre, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Uganda, has carried out a remarkable cartography work of identifying threatened species in the Albertine Rift, listing the species and anticipating changes and losses in biodiversity. The impact of climate change on the inhabitants of this region is also considerable.
Richard Atugonza, a researcher at the Makerere Mountain Resource Centre, made a presentation on the melting of glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains whose surface cover has reduced from 7.5 KM² in 1906 to less than 1 KM² nowadays. The supply in water for some two million people dependent on water from these mountains is threatened, observed Richard Mwesigwa of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Uganda. The latter is working on developing sustainable economic and financial solutions, especially within a project funded by the European Union and the Fond Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM), involving more particularly local communities and companies operating in the Rwenzori region to implement payments for environmental services.
In order to preserve biodiversity, it is also essential to enhance the relationships between local communities and wildlife in the natural reserves, and to adapt to the effects of climate change. For example, the NGO “Conservation Through Public Health” represented by its President and Founder, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikukosa, is fighting against the transmission of diseases between wildlife, livestock and the inhabitants of Pian Upe reserve in Karamoja. CTPH informs the population not only on the hygiene conditions and the behaviours to adopt, but also on the respect of ecosystem.
Information and sensitization of populations represent the first issue on protection and conservation of biodiversity. But the confrontations and “conflicts of interests” between humans and wildlife is also worrying. For example, the elephants whose population remains considerable in East Africa destroy infrastructures and regularly wreak havoc on plantations. As a response, Sébastien Le Bel, researcher at CIRAD in Montpellier, has developed an unusual solution to get the elephants used to keep away from certain areas, a pepper gun, which fire big bullets filled with pepper that release an intense repulsing heat to the elephants. The pepper gun can help create a virtual separation between the plantations and the habitat of the elephants, as the latter memorize the sensation produced by the pepper bullets.
Sabrina Krief studies chimpanzees that show the same characteristics. Veterinarian and researcher at the National Museum of Natural History, the French primatologist has for a long time observed the primates behaviors, the closest related to man, whose mental faculties are not left behind in terms of adaptation .Indeed who thought that the chimpanzees would first look right and left before crossing the road ? With the help of hidden cameras, Sabrina Krief and her team based in Sebitoli, at the heart of Kibale forest, observed the chimpanzees’ raids of the harvests, and noted that the raids last longer at night, preferring moon light. These nocturnal observations are a considerable development for better understanding the adaptation phenomenon of primates.
In this way, the research is not only serving development purposes but has also given a chance to the participants at this roundtable to learn more about the richness of biodiversity in East Africa which needs to be preserved at all cost.
Presentations of the panelists :