Biodiversity conservation and environmental education, Djibouti
© Th. Künzel (1) and J.O. Heckel (2-5)
To conserve and increase awareness of biodiversity in Djibouti
Djibouti is a small arid country, which belongs to the biogeographic region of the Horn of Africa. Various habitat types including coastal grass plains, acacia bush land, barren mountain areas, seasonal rivers and last patches of unique juniper forest are home to a great diversity of fauna and flora. These include the endemic Djibouti francolin (Francolinus ochropectus), the Beira antelope (Dorcatragus megalotis) and the Pelzeln's and Soemmering's gazelles (Gazella dorcas pelzelni and Gazella soemmerringii). Until recently, knowledge about the distribution and the status of most species in Djibouti, which could be used for conservation measures, was lacking.
Habitats of the Beira antelope as well as of the endemic Djibouti francolin are under threat. There are no conservation areas within Djibouti for these species, and no curriculum exists in Djiboutian schools for environmental education.
The occurrence of the Beira antelope in Djibouti was confirmed by sightings, photographs and video in Southern Djibouti in an area of 150 - 250 km², which does not include any protected areas. The estimation of the current total population remains difficult and varies from about 50 to 150 animals. The regularity and circumstances of the sightings suggest that the species is rare but not endangered in Djibouti, at least at present. However, intensive livestock herding may result in grazing competition and increase the risk of disease transmission and permanent stress. These may even be intensified by local natural disasters such as long lasting droughts as well as deforestation and desertification. Even though hunting by local nomads and herdsmen does not seem a major threat, the settlement of refugees and political unrest might increase the risk of hunting. Further threats could arise through uncontrolled tourism or regional development. Also genetic isolation of metapopulations may result in a decline of a viable populations.
An extremely rapid population decline has been observed in the Djibouti francolin, exceeding 90% over the last 20 years. Consequently the species was classified "Critically Endangered" by the IUCN. It is endemic to only an area of about 15 km² in the mountains of Djibouti. Recently it was estimated to number 500-1000 individuals. The francolin is thought to inhabit woodland dominated by juniper trees. This woodland is in poor condition with a high proportion of trees dead or dying. The reasons for this are unclear, but the high level of grazing by cattle, camels and goats is certainly a cause, possibly exacerbated by acid rain, climate change and fungal disease. Other concerns include collection of firewood on lower slopes, hunting and human disturbance.
A project has been set up in Djibouti with a view of protecting habitat and native wildlife species, with a special focus on the endemic Djibouti francolin and antelope species such as the Beira antelope.
The project has the following goals:
Field work is conducted to evaluate the current status and distribution of the Beira and Djibouti francolin as well as threats to these and sympatric species.
In order to promote environmental education programmes for Djiboutian children, education material was/is being developed and personnel training conducted. A pilot study is undertaken to evaluate the material for its use in primary schools.
WAZA Conservation Project 06004 is jointly implemented by the Landau Zoo and Djibouti Nature, and is supported by the Saint Louis Zoo, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschutz e.V. (ZGAP), Conservation des Especes et des Populations Animales (CEPA), and Freundeskreis des Landauer Tiergartens e.V.
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© Th. Künzel (1) and J.O. Heckel (2-5)