I’d like to thank you all for your comments about Mt Kenya and the fence. Fencing the Virungas – well, one of the terrible consequences of putting up fences in similar places is that the wire is stolen and converted into snares. Last year however, we did build a dry stone wall around some parts of the park. These are holding. The electric fence around Mt Kenya is a great idea, it’s the location of the new alignment that is worrying me and many many others. We’re still waiting to hear the official outcome of investigations.
Today I want to talk of war.
Whenever people think of war, they usually reflect on the tragic loss of human life, they rarely consider the loss and damage done to nature.
It is all over the news today that Oxfam had calculated the cost of wars in Africa on development. They estimate that the cost of the long lasting wars in Africa equal the sum of all the developmental aid over the same period.
They estimate that in 23 nations alone, the total cost of Africa’s 20 or more wars in recent decades have robbed the continent of 300 billion dollars a year! I can’t get my head around it, the figure is not digestible. What is most stomach churning about this is that the weapons used in these wars have almost all come from outside.
Although the authors admit that the cost of these wars is almost certainly an underestimate, they didn’t mean because they hadn’t worked out the cost of these wars on the environment. Nobody is really measuring that when the human toll is so great.
Take Sudan for example, the war lasted for over 30 years. During this time they lost much of their forests, large mammals like elephants, hippos and giraffe, as well as their great apes. Much of Sudan is still uninhabitable due to land mines. The same is true for Angola, Mozambique and other countries.
Most of the long term damage comes as a result of the very long duration of these wars. The devastation is caused in part by the war its self, in part because the human population is displaced, hungry, afraid and desperate – they cannot care for the land due to the immediacy of their problems.
My thoughts today are with the DR Congo where the resurgence of conflict by the renegade Laurent Nkunda has forced the rangers out of the forests preventing any monitoring since the end of August. We do not know how these gorillas are faring, we can hardly express our concern for gorillas when we know that the human population is in dire straits as a result of attacks and unbelievable acts of human atrocities. Hundreds of thousands of people are again on the move, many hundreds have been killed, more still have been injured, children conscripted into the armies and women raped and brutalized. It makes me feel helpless.
But I still can’t help wondering what the cost will be if the gorillas have been exterminated. These gorillas represent real economic value to the Congo. Tourism could generate 500$ per person per day – these animals could potentially generate 21 million dollars per year for the wildlife Authority from visitation to 15 groups of mountain gorillas alone. Of course the hotels, transport and agricultural sectors would also benefit tremendously as well, not to mention the communities who supply the hotels and trade their crafts along popular routes.
The war in eastern Congo has virtually prevented any tourism from taking place. Meanwhile, only a few kilometers across the border, Rwanda is still doing brisk gorilla tourism business. I wonder if the Oxfam report will have any effect on our African governments, on those trading weapons, on those fueling the conflicts….
I hope you’ll forgive me, I can’t post a photograph today, it’s not a good day for Africa.