Africa is the second largest continent in the world after Asia and the only one centered on the equator. It has many wildlife and nature reserves. About 70 of the world’s top 100 parks for observing large numbers of mammals and birds are located in the continent making it a premier wildlife oriented eco tourism destination. In the world, the greatest number and diversity of large mammals survive in Africa mostly in the savannas and swamplands of the east and south. Creations of wildlife reserves by both colonial and current African governments have aided in the survival of these large mammals over the years. Tsetse flies have also played a major role in the protection of wildlife as they keep human and domestic animals from wildlife areas due to the diseases they spread. Wildlife are immune to the diseases.
Many of the wildlife that are found south of Sahara are endemic (restricted) to Africa). Because of lack of land connection to Asia or South America which have similar habitats, the type of wildlife found in Africa cannot be found in these regions. In paradox, the wildlife of North Africa (the Sahara and Mediterranean region) is very much like that of Southern Europe and South western Asia which has similar habitats due to recent land connections between the continents.
The uniqueness of the African Flora and Fauna is of universal value and all efforts are made to protect them. A number of reserves have been recognized as World Heritage Sites or Biosphere Reserves by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO). World Heritage sites are natural sites with cultural characteristics of outstanding value. They may have extraordinary features, large areas of intact ecosystems or consist of the last habitats of endangered species. Biosphere reserves protect wildlife and their habitats and help in research, monitoring and educational purposes.
WILDLIFE MIGRATION PATTERNS IN AFRICA
Mammal migration in Africa
Since time immemorial, there have been annual migrations of large numbers of mammals. The migrations consist of herds of herbivores and some of the carnivores that feed on them. The herds move to grazing areas with greener pastures in one part and back when where they started is green. Some of Africa’s herd migrations have been eliminated due to excessive hunting, fencing, grain field production and competition with domestic animals. Significant migration of large grazing mammals still occurs in Africa with the present day wildebeest and zebra migration of Kenya’s Masai mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti providing a unique circular pattern. The migrating mammals move in a clockwise direction. This is one migration involving millions of animals that has not been interrupted by human activity.
Bird migration in Africa
This migration takes place all over Africa and its islands. Many birds that breed in Europe and Asia fly to Africa to spend winter and spring. The Sahara desert is a big barrier and many birds are able to store fat in their bodies and cross it twice per year. Birds that soar ride thermal air currents over land and avoid large expanses of water. Large birds enter and leave Africa at four sites which are Tangier area of Morocco, cap bon Tunisia, the Sinai area in Egypt and the Ras Siyan Peninsula Djibouti. Birds that frequent shorelines can be found widely around Africa, while ducks from Eurasia are found north of the equator. Parts of Easter Africa are home to great numbers of Caspian plovers, wheatears and yellow wag tails. Common buzzards and various falcons and eagles follow the rains southern of Africa returning northwards with the rains in the spring. Several inter-African migrants breed during the rains north of the equator and then winter south of the equator during the southern summer rains.
WILDLIFE RESERVES IN AFRICA
These are sanctuaries created to offer legal protection to wildlife and habitats. Parks and reserves are designated by national governments and level of staffing and funding vary from country to country. A national park offers a high level of protection, with patrolled borders and anti poaching teams. Logging, hunting, mining, farming and grazing are some of the activities banned in these areas. Tourism is usually the only activity permitted and encouraged.
Found below the national parks are the reserves with varying degrees of protection for habitats and wildlife. Some of these reserves like the Masai mara national reserve in Kenya have a large population of wildlife. Some reserves can be set up to protect special ecosystems or rare species of wildlife. Depending on the laws and rules guiding the reserves some activities such as grazing, logging and farming can be allowed. Reserves can be classified as total faunal reserve which protects all wildlife within its confines, and partial faunal reserves which protect certain species. Some countries like Uganda and Rwanda have strict nature reserves which are set up for protection of highly endangered species. Access is usually restricted with only a few allowed. There are also private reserves on private lands set up and managed by corporations or individuals with rich habitat for wildlife. Known in Kenya as wildlife conservancies, they often have lodges and offer game viewing safaris.