Conservation Today

Threats to Biodiversity

Outamba Kilimi National Park (OKNP) and it’s biodiversity are facing threats from several different factors at this time. When members of the Pan Verus Project first visited OKNP in early 2017 they found many parts of the park were extensively burned, evidence of illegal hunting activities, and were told by park rangers that plants and animals used in traditional medicine were often collected from the park.

While it is true that savanna habitats easily cope with yearly fires, it is also notable that most of these fires are started by illegal slash and burn agriculture which takes place in the park. These fires sweep through the national park during the dry season, burning everything except the swampy, seasonal riverbeds that run like veins through the park.

Smoke seen on the horizon from fires within the Outamba Kilimi National Park

The poaching of large mammals is also a major problem in OKNP. In 2009 there was a major poaching event that was on such a large scale, local conservationists in the area believed that all of the forest elephants in the park had been wiped out. However, researchers with the Pan Verus Project noted that there were still many signs of elephants left in the park and plan to more fully document their existence in the park in upcoming research.

The remnants of an impromptu smoking station made by hunters in the park for smoking bushmeat

Local stories about international pet traders coming to the park include one notable example about poachers coming into the park and capturing a baby leopard several years ago. However this story has a happy ending for the leopard who it is said escaped from the poachers in the night. But this highlights a real threat to the iconic wildlife here, and is far from the only example of foreigners coming into the park to take advantage of its wildlife for the pet trade.

Famed chimpanzee trader Frans Sitter operated the largest chimpanzee exporting scheme in history and most of the chimpanzees he captured came from what would later become OKNP. These chimpanzees mainly went to fill American government research laboratories and zoos.

On a smaller scale local people still continue to hunt for food and medicine in the park. Although little is known about the hunting and gathering practices of people in this area. The Pan Verus Project plans to conduct research that will identify what species of plant and animal are most commonly used by the people in the area and what they are used for. This will help researchers with PVP to identify key issues facing people i.e. food insecurity, lack of access to medicine, and how those issues can be resolved so that they no longer have a negative impact on the environment.

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