Coastal East Africa threatened spaces and disappearing species cause for worry | WWF

Coastal East Africa threatened spaces and disappearing species cause for worry

Posted on
07 November 2011
WWF’s Coastal East Africa Initiative has launched a report that seeks to draw attention to the global importance of East African coastal forests as centres of biodiversity and home to species specifically found only in this region.

Coastal East Africa which runs from the border between Kenya and Somalia, through to Tanzania and onwards to Mozambique contains various threatened spaces and disappearing species that have continually been a cause of great concern for scientists and biologists the world over.

The report which was launched today by Tanzania’s Minister for Environment, Dr. Terezya Huvisa, details shocking statistics indicating that a mere 10% of the original coastal forests of Eastern Africa remain, fragmented into 400 patches that cover over 6000 square kilometres in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.

One of the world's most biologically diverse regions

Coastal forests and landscapes in Eastern Africa are home to thousands of species of plants and animals. In the last 10 years alone, more than 400 new species, including 261 invertebrates, 28 fish, 25 amphibians, 19 reptiles, 10 birds, 7 mammals and 93 plants have been discovered in the region making it one of the most biologically diverse and endemic regions of the world.

Currently, over 20 million people live in and along coastal forests and landscapes in Eastern Africa. The survival of these people is highly dependent on the availability of basic natural resources such as timber, woodfuel and charcoal, which are extracted from forests, causing a serious dilemma; their dependency and consequent exploitation of these resources destroying the very basis of their existence. The pressures are rapidly rising as the population is expected to double by 2030 putting a serious and already present strain on the meagre natural resources present in Coastal East Africa.

According to WWF Coastal East Africa Initiative Leader Peter Scheren, the situation in the region is worrying: “Up to 90% of all timber extracted from forests in the region is illegally logged. A large part of this timber is exported, primarily to China, for prices well below the actual value of the wood. This adds to the local demands for firewood and timber from the growing local population, and large-scale clearing of forests for agriculture and other purposes. The poor communities from the region, those that are depending on these resources for their livelihoods, are the ones suffering most”.

Safeguarding the beauty and splendour of Coastal East Africa

Dr. Terezya Huvisa states that “Tanzania is dedicated to preserve its remaining rich forests, which are not only crucial for the day-to-day survival of our growing population, but also as our contribution to the global climate change mitigation strategy. We are actively exploring REDD and other carbon credit mechanisms to support our communities in conserving these forests”, said the Minister.

Peter further noted that WWF was serious in its initiative to help safeguard the beauty and splendour of Coastal East Africa and has invested heavily in both people and nature to help secure the future livelihood of a growing population within the region.

“WWF’s mission is to ensure that East Africa’s valuable natural resources are being effectively conserved and these continue to provide goods and services to more than 20 million people dependent upon them,” he said.

By John Kabubu, WWF Coastal East Africa

The Forests and Woodlands of the Coastal East Africa Region
© Cover image: John Salehe
African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana africana); Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania
© John E. Newby / WWF
Millions of rural people rely on resources extracted from the woodlands, including fuelwood, charcoal, timber, thatching grass, medicines, fruits and honey.