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How Dinder National Park highlights Africa’s conservation struggles

Humans and local wildlife continue to battle for land in Sudan’s Dinder National Park, contributing to a complex and widespread issue with African conservation.

In most African nations, wildlife makes up a huge percentage of the economy and brings in substantial amounts of tourism.

Over the last few decades, Africa as a continent has stepped up its protection of wildlife and is now at the forefront of conservation. This increased emphasis on animal support, however, has led to more conflict over land between humans and wildlife in a number of African countries.

According to Conservation Alliance, ‘human wildlife conflict’ refers to problematic situations between wild animals and people. Disputes emerge when wildlife requirements overlap with our own, leading to hefty costs both monetarily and environmentally.

We’ve broken down a few examples of how this overlap can cause problems on both sides – and what countries are doing to try and tackle the problem.

Dinder National Park and the ongoing crisis

A major example of this wildlife and human tension is at Dinder National Park in Sudan.

The Park is connected to Ethiopia’s Alatash National Park and is home to large cats such as leopards and cheetahs, with sightings of hyenas and lions often recorded late at night.

The park was declared a protected reserve under Anglo-Egyptian rule in 1935 and had a very small population at the time.

Over the years this population has grown massively. More land is now required for growing crops to feed local inhabitants, which has caused the park to become encroached and overcrowded. Villages in the surrounding area also need land to practice cattle herding and have begun to move into protected areas of the park in search of pasture for their cattle.

As a result of all this growth it’s now becoming harder for the local authorities to protect the area’s wildlife while also helping citizens who desperately need space to grow food and feed themselves.

Efforts to relocate villagers has proved largely ineffective as they insist it’s their ancestral land and refuse to uproot.

The animal cost of Dinder National Park’s growth

Many wildlife species have seen their numbers drastically reduced as the park’s population increases. Among the hardest-hit species has been the famous giraffe.

Almost all have disappeared from the park as a result of environmental disturbance caused by communities living around the outskirts. If things continue at their current rate we could see the area lose nearly all of its natural wildlife, effectively making it a ghost town.

Villagers often light fires to create smoke, warding off bees and harvesting wild honey from the park’s woods. This causes obvious disruption and reduces the ability to wander around the park for most wild animals.

Efforts by the government to implement stricter measures aren’t deterring local communities either, who argue that they need to grow crops and herd their cattle for survival. Rangers try to patrol the rugged terrain in search of violators but their efforts are mostly in vain.

Coping with animal destruction within rural communities

Of course, local wildlife can cause similar headaches for humans as we do them.

Elephants in particular elicit great fear in African farmers. Rural communities living near reserves that house elephants normally suffer huge crop damages, property destruction, and even human deaths.

Though there have been tremendous efforts by both governments and international wildlife bodies to combat the problems caused by elephants, communities still live in fear.

This understandable fear leads to killings of these animals by locals for survival and to protect their food. Elephant populations have dropped drastically in Africa in a span of a decade for this reason.

Working together to keep African wildlife safe

Multiple charities and organizations have campaigned to protect African wildlife from these types of problems for years. Co-operation amongst locals and governments is vital to protect these ecosystems, though state efforts could undoubtably be better.

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has a number of mitigation strategies to help in ending human-wildlife conflict around the world, not just in Africa. This body calls for improving community education and reshaping local perceptions of nearby wildlife.

It’s hoped that this will give villagers more incentive to protect nearby ecosystems rather than damage them for self-gain. Additionally, better land planning by governments could remove the risk of overcrowded spaces with finite resources.

Barriers around protected areas could also help in reducing encroachment in these delicate areas, keeping animals safe while establishing land borders for humans.

However, the UNEP warns against other suggested approaches, such as translocating wildlife from their natural habitats. This could decrease survival rates severely and ultimately lead to extreme dispersal movements for a singular species.

This, in turn, could lead to animal and human conflict continuing in new locations, making all the previously mentioned efforts redundant.

The conversation around African wildlife conservation is unlikely to stop any time soon and will remain a complex issue that varies dramatically between countries. Our ecosystem should be the focus, however, as we all need a healthy climate to continue living as we do.

It seems unlikely that Dinder National Park will find an absolute resolution in the near future, mind.