About two thousand participants are taking part in the first African Protected Areas Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), APAC, in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. The work, which started on Monday 18 July, will pave the way for resilience in nature conservation.
In response to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, governments, NGOs and conservationists have initiated the Protected Areas Congress. This first-ever continent-wide gathering focuses on the role of protected areas in conserving nature, safeguarding Africa’s iconic wildlife, providing vital ecosystem services, promoting sustainable development while preserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions.
These protected areas range from mangroves to deserts, from Mediterranean forests to rainforests, from savannahs to ice-capped mountains. According to the IUCN, there are five categories: strict nature reserves, parks, national monuments, special purpose reserves and protected landscape areas. In addition to these categories, there are animal reserves and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. They are home to the world’s largest mammals such as hippos, chimpanzees and giraffes.
However, according to experts, the African continent is at risk of losing a significant amount of its biodiversity value in the immediate future. The reason for this is population growth, which is accompanied by an increased demand for land and continued exploitation of natural resources.
“It is high time that African legislators put in place strong measures and strategies to ensure that the destruction of our rich biodiversity is halted,” said Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente at the opening of the congress.
It should be noted that this first African congress on protected areas will end on 23 July.