Over 200 species threatened by armed conflict

Civil unrest and military exercises pose increased risks to more than 200 endangered species, including elephant populations and the critically endangered eastern gorilla, conservationists warned on Wednesday.

A report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature examined the close interaction between the environment and armed conflict, warning that human violence and unrest were having a devastating impact on nature.

The report stressed that the sustainable management of natural resources should be seen as a tool to help preserve peace.

“Nature degradation increases the likelihood of conflict, while wars devastate not only lives, but the natural environment as well,” IUCN Director General Bruno Oberle said in a statement.

The report found that armed conflict was particularly prevalent in some of the most biodiverse regions of the world.

IUCN said 219 endangered species were threatened by “war, civil unrest and military exercises,” including the direct killing of wildlife, degradation of ecosystems and disruption of conservation efforts.

Although this is only a fraction of the more than 30,000 animal and plant species listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List, the report emphasizes that they are “iconic species”.

Among them is the critically endangered eastern gorilla found in conflict-prone Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

One of the threats to the world’s largest living primate, according to IUCN Chief Scientist Thomas Brooks, is “direct slaughter, sometimes for shooting practice, sometimes for food.” But the greatest threat from the conflicts posed to the species, he told AFP, was “the undermining of conservation efforts.”

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In this May 1994 file photo, refugees who fled ethnic bloodshed in neighboring Rwanda bring water cans back to their huts in Benaco refugee camp in Tanzania, near the border with Rwanda.
(PA)


Increased risk of conflict

The report highlighted the dramatic impact on a range of conflict species.

During the 1994 war in Rwanda, for example, 90 percent of the large mammals in Akagara National Park were killed for food or trade, he said, as the genocide sent thousands to flee to through protected areas, killing animals for food and clearing trees along the way.

He also highlighted a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicating that militias in Sudan were responsible for the deaths of some 2,000 elephants in the Central African Republic in 2007 alone.

The report also states that the Vietnam War “almost certainly accelerated the slide to extinction” of the Java rhinos, as the Viet Cong slaughtered them to supplement a meager diet.

“There is no doubt that conflicts have increased the risk of species extinction,” said Brooks.

At the same time, the report found that degradation of nature was associated with an increased risk of conflict.

Examining more than 85,000 events of armed conflict over the past 30 years, which have been responsible for the deaths of more than two million people, the report determined that they were more likely to erupt where there is. less productive agricultural land available and when droughts are frequent. .

“These findings suggest that the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of natural resources can help reduce conflict-causing pressures by improving the condition and productivity of the landscape,” said the chief economist of the ‘IUCN Juha Siikamaki in the press release.

The report highlighted research showing that events of armed conflict, defined as organized actors using armed force resulting in death, have increased dramatically in recent decades.

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This 2019 archive photo shows forest elephants at Langoue Bai in Ivindo National Park, near Makokou.  The IUCN report found that conflicts were less frequent within the boundaries of nature reserves and other protected areas.

This 2019 archive photo shows forest elephants at Langoue Bai in Ivindo National Park, near Makokou. The IUCN report found that conflicts were less frequent within the boundaries of nature reserves and other protected areas.
(AFP)


“Environmental war crimes”

Today, there are over 7,000 such events each year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and in West and South Asia.

“As environmental degradation and climate change intensify, it becomes increasingly important to take into account the links between conflict and nature when formulating security, development and human rights policies. environment, ”Siikamaki said.

The report found that conflicts were less frequent within the boundaries of nature reserves and other protected areas.

These areas cover about 15 percent of the land, but overlap with only three percent of armed conflict events analyzed by the report.

“Conservation, sustainable and equitable management of nature play an important role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding,” said Kristen Walker, who chairs the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy .

“It supports the livelihoods and well-being of indigenous and local communities in peacetime and helps reduce the risk of conflict outbreaks,” she added.

The report listed policy recommendations to mitigate and prevent armed conflict, including establishing safeguards for protected area personnel, conservationists and other conservationists.

He also called for “sanctions against those who commit war crimes against the environment”.

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