Reversing the red

Reversing the red

South Africa has done much to halt species extinction, but way more still needs to be done.   

South Africa is one of only 17 megadiverse countries on earth, meaning it’s home to a large number of species and harbours a high number of endemic species, too.

Yet a significant number of South African species face dire threats from a variety of sources putting their survival at risk and jeopardising South Africa’s rich and priceless natural heritage.

The was a key take-away at this week’s South African satellite event of the Reverse the Red World Species Congress that saw speakers from a broad range of national conservation and biodiversity organisations, Non-profit organisations, public-sector and special interest groups come together to take stock of the status of species conservation in South Africa.

The South African satellite event took place in the context of the White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use. This Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) document gives four goals for conservation in South Africa: sustainable use, access, benefit sharing and transformation.

Reimagine conservation in South Africa (Reversing the red)

According to DFFE environmental consultant, Mukondi Matshusa these goals demand that we think creatively and do things differently.

“We need to reimagine conservation in South Africa to ensure that conservation efforts serve communities. For our most noble and urgent conservation work needs community support if it is to succeed.”

Domitilla Raimondo of the SA National Biodiversity Institute, says that South Africa has committed to a biodiversity convention to prevent species extinction.

“This commitment includes applying action for recovery and conserving species that are near to extinction; maintaining and restoring genetic diversity within populations and effectively managing interaction between people and wildlife to minimise conflict and maximise co-existence.

“It amounts to a commitment to restore what we have lost, and conserve what we have,” says Raimondo.

“South Africa has made great strides in species conservation. We have the expertise, the track record and the scientific and biodiversity proficiency to effectively halt rapid decline of species toward extinction. We have done well and, in many respects, set best practice standards that other regions and nations follow. However, much remains to be done,” she says.

Investing in species conservation (Reversing the red)

“South Africans cannot be complacent. Guarding against extinction is a time-consuming process that demands much. It demands collaboration and partnerships. It demands intimate understanding of the relationship between species and human beings so that interactions are respectful of people, their communities and respectful of species and of biodiversity, too. South Africa is well equipped in these areas. However, we need to significantly scale up the national material investment in species conservation if we are to meet our biodiversity convention commitments,” says Raimondo.

South Africa has conducted red list assessments for 12 taxonomic groups. These assessments are aligned to International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List guidelines for regional assessment of species. Findings give a clear indication of just how threatened South Africa’s biodiversity is.

About 35 of South Africa’s freshwater fish species are either endangered or critically endangered. This amounts to little under a third of fish species in South Africa’s fresh waters.

To reverse this South Africa must significantly scale up its investment. In the last five years R18.6-million has been invested in conserving freshwater fish species. It’s estimated that this investment must grow ninefold to effectively remove each endangered or critically endangered species from those lists.

Furthermore, eleven amphibian species are in desperate need of protection. To give them that protection, investment assigned to conservation measures will need to be scaled up fourfold from R22.3-million invested since 2019 to an investment of R92.5- million over the next five years.

It will require more than R965-million to save the 16 South African bird species in urgent need of recovery intervention, and more than R2-billion to ensure survival of the black rhino, wild dog and riverine rabbit.

More than 100 plant species are in urgent need of recovery action. Work is underway now to save only 14% of those (15 different plant species).

Reversing the red
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