Protecting more than gorillas in Africa
We are often so focused on The Aspinall Foundation gorilla reintroduction projects that we sometimes forget to mention some of the other species that we help protect in Congo and Gabon. We consider gorillas to be a ‘flagship species’ that act as a focal point for preserving the wider habitat in which they live. This means that in protecting gorillas we also protect many of the other threatened species that are also found in the reserves where we work in Congo and Gabon.
For example in Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park, where the gorilla project is located, there is a large population of forest elephants - a distinct species from the taller bush elephant, with straight, downward pointing tusks and rounded ears. The forest elephant is being decimated throughout the Congo Basin by ivory poaching. This illegal trade is being fuelled by rising demand in Asia and the threat is increasing at such a rate that the very existence of the species is now threatened. The Aspinall Foundation is involved in a number of different projects aimed at halting this awful trade including camera trap monitoring, a project with Cornell University and wildlife law enforcement project called PALF.
Cameras capture rare animal activity
Hidden cameras are not only the domain of espionage and TV reality shows, they are also becoming an increasingly used and valuable tool in modern day biodiversity monitoring. Following on from a successful camera trap program in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park, The Aspinall Foundation recently started a similar monitoring program in the Batéké Plateau region of Central Africa.
Amos Courage, Director for Overseas Projects said: ‘The Batéké Plateau is an area of incredible biodiversity where many forest and savanna species can be found. Part of our commitment to conservation is taking concrete steps towards preserving areas along with protecting individual species. A large part of this project is building good working partnerships, for example, with the governments of both Congo and Gabon to ensure that this area is safeguarded for future generations.'
Camera traps are an effective and unobtrusive method for conservationists to measure wild animal populations and track the frequency and distribution of their movements. After a relatively short trial period these devices have already yielded a bounty of biodiversity data, including images of leopards, bushbuck, forest elephants, chimpanzees, blue duiker, serval and even the prehistoric aardvark.
Amos commented: ‘Footage like this reinforces the importance of protecting habitats and finding ways to extend this protection beyond the limits of national reserves. The camera traps have proved very successful in providing us with an idea of the amount of species in this area, their numbers and their movements.'
With this new monitoring program up and running, The Aspinall Foundation is anticipating a host of diverse and exciting images which will help to showcase the vital conservation work that the charity is doing in this region as well as providing data for planning conservation management strategies
With this new monitoring program up and running, The Aspinall Foundation is anticipating a host of diverse and exciting images which will help to showcase the vital conservation work that the charity is doing in this region as well as providing data for planning conservation management strategies.