A former fashion executive with no formal conservation experience has begun a captive breeding program for the critically endangered South China Tiger...in South Africa...with the notion of eventually re-releasing them to their endemic range in China. The BBC has an interesting audio slideshow about the program. There are a number of components to this article that intrigue me, not the least of which is a rather sexy image of a tiger hunting hartebeest in the South African veld. I'm not saying that there aren't some serious potential critiques for the program, but these images certainly got my attention!
Selous GR (Paul Shaffner - 10/2006)
You can mine high value natural resources in a game reserve in Tanzania, but you can't do so in a world heritage site. Ezekiel Maigi, the Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources, is therefore lobbying to de-gazette part of the Selous Game Reserve so that uranium can legally be mined. He is seeking approval for the boundary change from the UN, but told the BBC "the uranium project will go ahead." Only 0.68% of the reserve is slated for de-gazetting, but in such a huge reserve, this still amounts to over 300 km2.
The southwest corner of the Selous is one of the most rural and inaccessible areas of Tanzania, which makes accountability more of a challenge. Have local communities had a say in this decision? Who will hold Mantra Resources and the Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources accountable for their promises to remit five million USD a year toward the management of the Selous (which is still only 2.5% of the expected annual profit of the mine). Even if this money does materialize, I wonder: How much money will actually end up in the southwest where the mining is occurring, since most tourists visit the more accessible north? How much will be invested in projects that directly benefit tourism (like roads) versus projects that directly benefit local communities (like addressing human-wildlife conflicts)?
I guess most of my questions center on rural empowerment, who has a say in decisions, and accountability for promises/environmental responsibility. I'd love to make a visit to the area if I make it out to Tanzania to do fieldwork next summer.
Here's a recommendation--check out the Sudan Tribune. I've not read the site exhaustively, but what I have seen is refreshingly complex and often doesn't distill news to 'good guys' and 'bad guys.' The site is based in France and thus at least avoids Sudanese governmental censorship. Anyway, check it out and let me know what you think.
I have a number of friends who have lived in Sudan over the years and I am often frustrated by the media's short attention span for African news in general and Sudan in particular (don't even get me started on its indifference to the DRC). While the BBC or Al Jazeera will periodically run a story, I've found that the Sudan Tribune has some articles and analyses that have been really helpful as I try to better understand a country with no shortage of complexity.
The BBC reports that Tanzania has recently granted citizenship to 162,000 Burundian refugees who have been living in Tanzania for years. Many are Hutus who fled Tutsi violence in Burundi during the 1990's and have since integrated into villages and the fabric of Tanzanian society. This is a precedent for its scale as far as I can tell and seems to be a much better outcome then deporting them en masse, as was discussed in 2008.
After garnering 30 signatories, the UN will ratify this legislation that will ban production and use of cluster bombs, as well as pressuring nations to compensate victims of bombings. This seems to be a step in the right direction, however none of the largest stockpilers - USA, China, Russia, and Israel - have signed (or are likely to), so the strength of the treaty is very obviously limited.
Researchers from the Royal Botanical Gardens have described nearly 300 new species, a 46% increase over 2008, including seventeen new trees and seven new types of wild coffee! Unfortunately, the realm of the unknown (species that have yet to be described) is being destroyed at an equally rapid pace.