During a meeting of the Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group (SSIG) in Agadir, Morocco, 2-4 May 2013, the role of CMS in catalyzing action for the conservation of the region’s antelopes was highlighted. This group of species includes taxa severely threatened such as the Addax or the Dama Gazelle, while other species such as the Scimitar-Horned Oryx are already extinct in the wild and reintroduction from captive stock is the only way to restore them to their original habitat.
Since 1994 CMS has been leading a major concerted action for Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes. The aim of this concerted action is to rehabilitate this group of large mammals in order to foster conservation and sustainable development in the region. The program was initially proposed by the Scientific Council of the Convention and then adopted by the Conference of the Parties in Nairobi in 1994. In 1998 an Action Plan was adopted by all the range states at a special meeting in Djerba, Tunisia.
In order to implement this Action Plan, two large projects have been developed over the last years, the first one co-financed by the Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM) over the period 2003-2010, and the second one co-financed by the European Union (EU) during the period 2006-2012. Funding for a phase III of the programme has been granted by the Agence Française pour le Développement (AFD).
One of the main milestones achieved by this sustained conservation effort was the designation by the Government of Niger of the Nature Reserve of Termit tin Toumma, a huge protected area of 97,000 sq. km., which is one of the last strongholds of desert biodiversity in the region, including a remnant population of Saharan Cheetah.
During the meeting the widespread poaching of gazelles in the region was highlighted, an activity that before was done on camels and it is now done by organized gangs that use motorbikes and 4x4 vehicles. There is also a tradition of capturing baby gazelles for trade.
An interesting case study on elephant conservation in Mali was presented showing how the Mali Elephant Project of the Wild Foundation had responded to the seizure of the north of the country by armed groups. Clan leaders and elders had committed themselves to do all they could to prevent poaching while young men were recruited to form vigilance networks that gathered information on the elephant killings. Six elephants were killed, but this was only a small fraction of what could have been a massive slaughter. More....