Forestry plays a decisive role in the conservation of wildlife and in ensuring socio-economic benefit of a society. Wild plant and animal species are conserved if and only if their habitat is protected, and the presence of wild life promotes eco- tourism.
So, the availability of dense vegetation cover balances environmental equilibrium and provides stability to nature. Environmental conservation has become an increasingly important practice to mitigate deforestation and the negative effects of human activity on wildlife. Protecting endangered wildlife and indigenous vegetation has been a concern of the Eritrean Government and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Hence, the Forestry and wildlife Authority in the Ministry of Agriculture has been shouldering the responsibility for the conservation of wildlife and the promotion of forestry activities all over the country.
Like in other parts of the world, clearing forested land for agriculture, biofuel and other purposes has been a problem in Eritrea that resulted in the invasion of wildlife habitat. But, what are the activities carried out so far to address this issue at a national level?
Extensive research on the current state of wildlife in various parts of the country, and particularly in the areas designated as national parks, was conducted in 2017. The findings of the research indicate a promising increase in the number of wildlife, particularly in Buri- Ayrori National park. Efforts made to protect enclosures has now born promising outcome thanks to the measures taken in a bid to boost biodiversity.
Wild Ass is one of the endangered species in Eritrea. A research conducted as regards the current situation of wild Ass shows that the only viable population at a global level exists in Eritrea. The ever falling population of wild Ass due to human activities and environmental threat has heightened the efforts of wild Ass conservation
The promising population of wild Ass in Eritrea will have a positive impact on the attempts being made to protect such endangered species at a global level. Studies conducted in collaboration with expatriate experts of wild Ass conservation was of great help in sharing experiences in general conservation procedures.
Lack of Wild Ass sanctuary was identified as a bottleneck. The wild Ass and domestic animals in the area share a common habitat, making the conservation activity more difficult. Identifying wildlife protected areas and administering them with caution is what was recommended during the annual assessment meeting of Forestry and Wildlife Authority that was held on 17 May in the presence of Minister Arefayne Berhe, Minister of Agriculture, ministers, agricultural experts, stakeholders and invited guests.
Agricultural areas in the wildlife protected areas and particularly in the park designated for elephants were relocated to another area. Research done using camera trap was also conducted in Zara and Kerkebet Mining sites to asses the environmental impact of mining activities. The death of some bird species was seen and measures were taken to solve a problem caused due to polluted water sources.
Although, the current state of Nubian ibex and Nubian Wild Ass is promising much needs to be done. At the national parks in the Northern and Southern Red Sea regions, Gash-Setit Elephants protected area, Buri, Ayrori and Hawakil national parks, National park in Dahlak Island various conservation activities as well extensive researches aimed at identifying bird species, reptiles as well as pollution of amphibians have been conducted.
Forestry activities were also carried out in line with wildlife conservation activities. Forestry and wildlife conservation are in fact inseparable. Awareness raising programs on forestry and wildlife conservation that are intended to foster closer collaboration with communities were also part of the overall activities carried out to create a viable environment.
According to a report by the Forestry and wildlife Authority, major achievements have so far been registered through promoting public awareness and education on wildlife management issues and forestry activities.
Greening campaign that is aimed at redressing the natural environment was a multi-purpose activity. Besides its positive impact on ensuring soil and water conservation, greening campaign has been effective in ensuring the availability of secure wildlife habitat. A number of green clubs have been established throughout the nation. The Ministry of Agriculture continues to give awards to exemplary individuals and institutions at the commemoration of the National Greening Day held on 15 May.
According to a report from the Wildlife department a total of 800 kg of seeds of 54 trees that include 22 indigenous ones were planted in different ecological zones as part of the forestry activities.
The development of enclosure areas to augment the coverage of indigenous vegetation and the planting of tree seedlings was a major activity carried out in different parts the country. The existence of enclosures guarantees the existence of wildlife. Wildlife protected areas in turn guarantee the existence of forested land.
In 2017, a total of 4,343,418 tree seedlings were grown in 29 of the 37 seedling nurturing sites that are available throughout the country. Seventy- two percent of the seedlings were nurtured in the central and Southern regions.
Habitat loss due to deforestation is a primary threat to the survival of wildlife and negatively impacts eco-tourism. The clearing of forested lands creates imbalance in the ecosystem and thus plants and animals that have specific habitat will be affected by climate change. Death of ostriches and gazelle in Buri-Ayrori was mainly due to dry season while the death of some wild animals in Dahlak was cold weather. Human activities have been the primary cause of climate change and a slight drop or rise in average rainfall will translate into large seasonal changes.
Over exploitation of trees by people for the construction of houses, fencing, bio-fuel and many other purposes has been worsening the dangers of deforestation.
In an effort to address the problem, the Fostery Department has made an action plan to train closure experts and Forestry and Wildlife inspectors and organize exchange visits.
Apart from various public awareness promoting programs inside the country, the Forestry and Wildlife Authority presented a research paper that highlights the current state of Eritrea’s Wild ass at a conference held in Germany. Similarly it presented a research paper on the conservation of biodiversity activities at an event held in South Africa.
As a result of the efforts being exerted in forestry and wildlife conservation the number of Nubian Ibex, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Klipspringer, Greater Kudu, Elephant, Wild ass, Warthog, Dorcas Gazelle has been steadily increasing.