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Newsbits from Around the World

Bushmeat Harvest Threatens Africa's Wildlife
Middle East United States Collaborative Watershed Project
Helping Sustain the World's Largest Wetland: the Pantanal
News Bits from Around the World.
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Bushmeat Harvest Threatens Africa's Wildlife

Forests in West and Central Africa are being rapidly logged, and the associated commercial hunting of wildlife, bushmeat, is causing great concern among conservationists worldwide. For over 40,000 years, local indigenous people have been harvesting wildlife on a sustainable level for subsistence purposes. Now, however, the harvest in Central Africa alone may exceed 1 million metric tons each year due to the uncontrolled commercial harvesting.

Commercial harvest of bushmeat has already caused widespread local extinctions of some wildlife species in West Africa and now poses an immediate threat to some species in Central Africa. Wildlife are hunted primarily for sale in rapidly growing cities and traded across international boundaries.Hardest hit are the large bodied, slow reproducing forest animals like gorillas, chimpanzees, and elephants. It is estimated that over one-half of the world's population of Eastern Lowland Gorilla, which live in the Congo's Kahuzi Biega National Park, have been killed in the past 2-3 years.
Ghanaian hunters display bushmeat for sale along the roadside.

The loss of wildlife threatens local people's health, well-being, and their cultural integrity, as well as threatening the sustainability of tropical forests. Many heavily hunted wildlife species play key roles in regenerating the forest through tree pollination and seed dispersal. Most timber harvest companies make no provisions for regeneration other than by natural processes, which are now dysfunctional with the loss of wildlife.

In December 1999, the Forest Service International Programs and Conservation International cosponsored a bushmeat workshop in Ghana. Over 35 people attended from West and Central African countries, international conservation organizations, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A strategy was developed to confront the bushmeat crisis including increased collaboration between people and their local, regional, and national governments; increased international awareness of the bushmeat issue highlighting the important connection between logging and international lending with unsustainable wildlife harvest; a need for increased law enforcement; and re-establishment of tropical forests.

A Bushmeat Crisis Task Force has been established in the United States and is acting on recommendations made during the Ghana workshop. Melissa Othman, International Programs Africa Program Coordinator, and Jack Capp, Special Assistant to the Director of International Programs, are working with the task force to help resolve the crisis. There is little time to spare if certain wildlife species are to be kept from extinction in these African tropical rain forests.


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Middle East United States Collaborative Watershed Project

The USDA Forest Service is initiating a five-country collaborative watershed program in the Middle East. The program represents the latest addition to a 10-year partnership between the USDA FS and the Jewish National Fund. The $3.4 million program involves the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and the United States and will be funded by grants from the U.S. Agency for international Development and the U.S. Department of State, as well as in-kind contributions from participating countries. The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service's Research and Scientific Exchange Division also collaborate on the project. "This effort puts the USDA and one of its major partners in the Middle East, the JNF, at the forefront of the Middle East peace process with respect to technical cooperation among countries on watershed management, a high priority issue," states Val Mezainis, Director, Forest Service International Programs.

The program is being implemented in the United States by the Forest Service Inventory and Monitoring Institute in Fort Collins, Colorado, and involves the Buffalo Creek Watershed in the Rocky Mountain Region. This project is designed to develop effective monitoring protocols for watersheds in the participating countries. "The project will document our ability and confidence in effectiveness monitoring of watershed management practices in the United States," said Tom Hoekstra, Director of the Inventory and Monitoring Institute. "Water is a major priority for the USDA Forest Service in the United States. Eighty percent of the water in the West originates on national forest land," said Lyle Laverty, Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region. "We hope to use the information from the project to make an effective assessment of progress in restoring the Buffalo Creek Watershed, that burned 3 years ago." The watershed covers 1,200 acres and lies outside of Denver.


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Helping Sustain the World's Largest Wetland: the Pantanal

The Pantanal is a World Heritage Site and designated wetland of international importance covering over 1.3 million square kilometers in west-central Brazil and extending into Bolivia and Paraguay. Encompassing numerous landscapes--rivers, gallery forests, perennial and seasonal wetlands, lakes, seasonally flooded grasslands and forests, the Pantanal has over 110 bird species that migrate annually between the Pantanal and North America. These migratory birds include the blue wing teal, purple martin, and huge concentrations of shorebirds, such as the greater yellowlegs. Some of these shared species are now declining or losing habitats in part or all of their migratory ranges.

Concerns have been raised over the future of the Pantanal, which is privately owned except for the small Pantanal National Park. Large dredging and channelization projects have been proposed. Road-building, mining, livestock grazing, oil and gas pipelines, and other developments are changing the Pantanal.Recent agricultural development in the Pantanal and surrounding watersheds has altered some water flows and added sediment to the Pantanal and Paraguay River.
Aerial view of the Pantanal in Brazil shows the seasonally flooded grasslands.

At Brazil's request, representatives of the Forest Service International Programs and Ducks Unlimited visited the Pantanal last fall to help Brazil determine conservation priorities. This was followed by a workshop in April 2000 sponsored by Forest Service International Programs, Ducks Unlimited, and the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment. Over 50 persons attended the workshop including representatives from the governments of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia; local and international conservation organizations; and universities from all three nations. As a result of the workshop, Ducks Unlimited and the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment will take the lead in establishing a common database, and designing a systematic, hierarchical, and mutually exclusive GIS classification system for the Pantanal. GIS mapping of the Pantanal will enable Brazil to classify ecosystems, detect ecosystem changes and describe comprehensive land management options. A followup session will occur in Brazil in the fall of 2000.


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