Published: Friday 31 March 2000

When Mozambique fought a war of independence in 1975, its elephant population was over 60,000. When the war ended in 1992, there were only 15,000 left. The story is the same in many African nations -- Angola, Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. War has taken its toll on Africa's magnificent wildlife.

The task of conserving wildlife is in any case difficult, the war has only made matters worse, says Sarah Scarth, country director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "All this has made it difficult to carry on conservation projects," she says.

"War often puts hungry troops in areas where there isn't much food. In that case, they eat wild flesh and render the area devastated," says Jane Goodall, renowned naturalist and author of several studies on wild chimpanzees. Then there are refugees of the war, who have little choice but to kill animals for food.

Habitats have been destroyed by battles and landmines continue to kill animals. In addition, in many countries there is no dearth of poachers who hunt elephants and rhinos for their ivory and horns.

In Uganda and Rwanda, civil strife has put the few hundred mountain gorillas on the brink of extinction. The gorillas are sometimes direct casualties of the war, slain by the rebel groups that operate in the region's dense forests. Future war-related threats to the continent's wildlife are many.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.