BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
|A male kob |
Credit: Ludwig Siege
The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), have launched the ‘Ecological Networks in Africa’ project, which aims to shed light on one of the largest known migration corridors worldwide.
It is also aimed at investigating the spectacular mammal migration corridor between Ethiopia and the new independent state, South Sudan.
Speaking at the launch Thursday, June 28, 2012, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Acting Executive Secretary of the CMS which at present has 116 countries as parties, welcomed the project saying: “Migration is all about connectivity, not only of animals between countries, but also people between countries. It is my hope that this milestone project will bring both animals and people closer together.”
It is estimated that currently one million white-eared kobs, elephants and other large mammals migrate in the transboundary region between Gambella and Boma of Ethiopia and South Sudan respectively, making this mass movements of animals one of Africa’s largest and most spectacular.
As part of the new project, which is funded by the Norwegian Government through its Ministry of Environment, two White-eared kobs have just been fitted with satellite collars to track their migration, with more animals expected to be collared in the coming year.
UNEP says data from satellite collars and ground surveys will help identify patterns of movement and critical sites for this species, while such data will also be used to elaborate the Management Plan of Gambella National Park, which covers much of the Ethiopian part of the unique large mammal corridor.
For its part, EWCA has already redesigned the boundaries of the National Park to encompass the migration and new zoning areas, suited to the kob’s home range and movements, will be established to grant protection in space and time.
In parallel, the project will contribute to maintain the ecological value and socio-economic importance of mass animal migrations in the area and will involve the training of law enforcement personnel.
Further, in view of intensive agricultural development in the Gambella Region, the CMS project will help to gather very valuable information to ensure that the significant ecological services of the area will be preserved, UNEP, which believes that safeguarding ecological networks opens the door for the creation of a transboundary protected area.
To make sure the project is successful, UNEP says local communities will be sensitised for the unique migration corridor in the region and the immense value of an intact and highly dynamic ecosystem.
Local communities also stand to gain economically from the project. According to UNEP, “They are expected to benefit through sustainable use and ecotourism. The potential for tourism, especially surrounding the spectacular kob migration, is considered to be significant. The potential economic benefits associated with wildlife watching within the migration corridor provide an important argument for the area’s protection. Generating alternative livelihoods is an important means of contributing to poverty alleviation in the future.”
Meanwhile it is envisaged the effort of UNEP/CMS will ensure sustainability of the endeavours of the Omo Gambella Conservation Initiative Taskforce (OGCITF), which has been working since 2009 in establishing an integrated conservation system in the Gambella Region.