The Constant Guardians
African parks and preserves face complex challenges
Conservationists struggling to protect Africa’s nature preserves face challenges ranging from pirate trawlers to locals hunting monkeys for food. At Conkouati National Park, a joint project of the Republic of Congo and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, oil company reps recently showed up accompanied by government officials and announced their intention to prospect for oil near the park’s borders. International trawlers, many from China, use huge nets to fish just offshore, catching and killing many of the endangered loggerhead turtles near Conkouati’s protected shores. Park managers must contend with the bushmeat-hunting habits of the 20,000-odd villagers who live within the park, and many wild areas once inaccessible have been opened up by logging roads, bringing in new hunters. With population in Africa expected to rise by almost a billion to 1.7 billion by 2050, even as African countries establish more nature reserves to protect wildlife and biodiversity, the pressures will only increase.