Our Resources

<< Back to all articles

The ecological impact of war in Africa

Today’s declining number of large mammals around the world has been explained by many factors, including low reproductive rates, habitat destruction, and overhunting. However, uncertainties about the effects of armed conflict has complicated conservation planning and priority-setting efforts.

In the past 70 years, humans have waged war continuously in the world’s most biodiverse regions. Between 1950 and 2000, more than 80 percent of wars were fought in biodiversity hotspots.

Individual case studies have revealed that conflicts can have either positive or negative impacts on local wildlife. An example for a positive impact will be the ‘bush war’ in Zimbabwe, the war made savanna habitats too dangerous even for poachers, allowing a decade-long increase in wildlife abundance, while a bad impact will be elephants killed by soldiers who trade ivory for weapons.However, the direction and magnitude of the net effect of conflict over large spatiotemporal scales have not previously been quantified.

Josh Daskin and Robert Pringle, researchers from Princeton University, recently argued that conflict frequency predicts the occurrence and severity of population decline among large wild herbivores in protected areas in Africa. From 1946 to 2010, conflicts occurred in 71 percent of Africa’s protected areas, and conflict frequency was the single most important predictor of wildlife population trends among those variables analyzed.

Moreover, Daskin and Pringle found that the frequency of declining populations increased sharply with the frequency of conflict. In other words, large wild herbivore populations declined more often when conflict was recurrent. And, while the average population trajectory in peaceful parks remained almost exactly at the level of replacement, as little as one conflict every 2–5 decades pushed the average population trajectory in these war zones below replacement.

The good news: although all large wild herbivore populations declined in protected areas beset by frequent conflict, there were relatively few absolute extinction.

Jaguar · This is My Earth TiME

Gorongosa, the park in Mozambique that originally inspired the study, exemplifies the thrust of the findings. From 1977 to 1992, government soldiers, anti-government militias, and refugees alternately fought in or fled through the park. For years after the war residents kept on hunting wildlife. By the early 2000s, the elephant population had crashed by more than 75 percent, while successive aerial counts found that buffalo, hippo, wildebeest and zebra numbers were hovering in the single or double digits.

Yet none of these animal populations disappeared completely. Since 2004, wildlife in Gorongosa have rebounded to 80 percent of their total pre-war abundance. Park staff, the Mozambican government and the nonprofit Gorongosa Restoration Project have worked with neighboring communities to nurture the remnant animal populations by suppressing illegal hunting and creating educational and employment opportunities for villagers within the park.

Thus, there is potential to restore wildlife populations in post-conflict biodiversity hotspots.

Inspired Lion - This is My Earth

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

TiME ∙ Feb 10

3 min read

Scientists map 80% of unknown species

New map shows where the 80% of species we don’t know about may be hiding in the very interesting study "Shortfalls and opportunities in terrestrial vertebrate species".

TiME ∙ Dec 30

9 min read

TiME’s Newsletters

Here you will find links to the 50+ newsletters we have published in recent years. Don’t miss the opportunity, if you haven’t already, to register and receive our emails with our latest updates, news and campaigns in our action of nature protection, education and solidarity. 2021 December 2021 – Let’s go viral September 2021 – Nature based…

TiME ∙ May 22

7 min read

𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗙𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲: This is our TiME List of protected animals

Since This is My Earth started saving lands in danger in 2016, the list of species and animals that have since been protected has not stopped growing. The international motto chosen for Biodiversity Day 2022 is𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲, and its objective is to promote the idea that we are all part of…

TiME ∙ Apr 18

7 min read

Join EARTH DAY global campaign to #InvestInOurPlanet – Download our Action Toolkit!

This is My Earth joins #InvestInOurPlanet campaign on the occasion of the Earth Day 2022 with a video and materials created by our network of volunteers.

TiME ∙ Mar 16

4 min read

Some highlights from the IPCC Climate Report

The Working Group from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from the United Nations invited TiME · This Is My Earth as a guest organization at the press conference where the 6TH ASSESSMENT REPORT – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was presented. On 27 February 2022, this international Working Group from the United Nations finalized…

Keep up with our news and events

Get news and updates in your inbox

Subscribe to  and get our latest conservation news, project
updates, articles and more in your inbox once a month.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.