Maiden African Protected Areas Congress opens in Kigali today

Femela Mountain Gorilla at the famous Mgahinga, one of World’s best destinations.

Femela Mountain Gorilla at the famous Mgahinga, one of World’s best destinations (PHOTO /File)

KIGALI — The first edition of the African Congress on Protected Areas (Apac) is opening today Sunday, July 17 2022 in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

The congress ends on July 23, 2022.

This meeting assembles to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving nature, safeguarding Africa’s wildlife, delivering vital life-supporting ecosystem services, promoting sustainable development and conserving the region’s cultural heritage and traditions, according to IUCN, the event organizers.

Neeting on the theme, ‘Protected Areas: Delivering Benefits for Nature and People,’ the Congress will also address three focal areas: protected areas; people; and biodiversity.

APAC is organized with support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas and international and local partners.

Reports indicate that Africa, which is home to a quarter of the planet’s biodiversity, has lost more than 50% of its ecosystems over the past 50 years.

Experts argue that this loss of biodiversity is caused by climate change, unsustainable consumption patterns, land use conversion, increased human population, and environmental degradation and destruction.

Luther Anukur, the IUCN Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said, “We all know that natural ecosystems are in decline. Major habitats are disappearing at a rate never seen before. The current rate of species’ extinction is much higher than experienced before. APAC aims to underscore the fact that protected areas represent an efficient means for protecting our planet’s rich biodiversity in line with our common global pursuits in the Convention of Biodiversity and ambition in the decade for the restoration.”

To deliver on the objectives of the Congress, organisers have identified three thematic streams, namely promoting effective and well-managed networks of protected and conserved areas in Africa; people, protected and conserved areas towards mutual well-being; and Africa’s biodiversity as the basis for life on the continent as the main pillars of discussion.

Leaders and speakers expected at the congress include Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, more than a dozen environment ministers from Africa and European countries, senior representatives of conservation organisations, including IUCN Director General Dr Bruno Oberle and African Wildlife Foundation CEO, Mr Kaddu Sebunya, Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF and Fred Launay, CEO, Panthera.

Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, the Founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), an award wining NGO that protects endangered gorillas and other wildlife through one Health approaches coauthored the much sought-after Policy Brief with the lead author Alyce Mbayahi from International Gorilla Conservation Programme, that will be launched on July 19, at 4:00pm CAT.

Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is a Ugandan vet and scientist working to protect East Africa’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is a Ugandan vet and scientist working to protect East Africa’s critically endangered mountain gorillas (PHOTO /Courtesy)

The panel will be moderated by Frank Turyatunga, Director and Regional Representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Africa Office.

The event will have a keynote address by Dr. Andrew Seguya, Executive Secretary, Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration and a panel discussion with Ms Clare Kamanzi, Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Development Board; Mr Sam Mwandha, Executive Director, Uganda Wildlife Authority; Dr. Emmanuelle Normand, Country Director, Wild Chimpanzee Foundation; Mr Praveen Moman, Founder and CEO, Volcanoes Safaris and Mr. Manzi Kayihura, Managing Director, Thousand Hills Africa.

The Policy Brief authored by International Gorilla Conservation Programme and Conservation Through Public Health highlights the key challenges and threats facing Africa’s great apes in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic and beyond and offers actionable recommendations for a One Health approach that can improve great ape conservation, responsible tourism, and community benefits.

Kalema-Zikusoka also says that the brief seeks to achieve African leadership commitment towards creating a unified African voice in conservation that will value African people and nature through effective protected areas.

“This is an opportunity for all countries in Africa to adopt responsible tourism to the great apes and achieve the same gains in gorilla conservation as Uganda and Rwanda have over the past three decades” Kalema Zikusooka said.

According to IUCN, 81 per cent of key biodiversity areas are not completely covered by protected areas which calls for joint concerted efforts to conserve these areas.


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