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Sunday
May222011

International Day of Biodiversity Confronts Global Deforestation Trends

Today is International Day of Biodiversity, a UN program committed to better management of the human relationship with nature on Planet Earth. 

Protecting the diversity of species is a commitment of many global organizations.

In a disturbing piece of good news the journal Nature recently published two new studies shows flaws in current methods of calculating extinction rates.

The good news is that species aren’t disappearing at the rate predicted — but they are disappearing at a fast pace. The bad news is that major research studies will have to be redone.

Conservation of Forests

2011 is dedicated as the year in which the protection of forests becomes a priority. Stripping away forests to make room for expanded production of beef, soy and palm oil is a major factor in global warming.

Edward Norton deplores the reality that forests are being cleared to support commercial activities in developed countries at the expense of the majority of people, mostly the poor. Current estimates are that cutting down forests is responsible for about one-third of greehouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

“Forest ecosystems represent an enormous uncalculated GDP [Gross Domestic Product], especially for poor people around the world, so when we clear a forest to create ‘economic gain’ of a certain kind of industry, you actually wipe out an enormous GDP that poor people are extracting in sustainable way from the forests. In pursuit of short-term economic gains, we can see more and more clearly we are creating a certain kind of impoverishment when we clear forests.”

Edward Norton, Forests 2011

Rwanda’s Conservation Programs

Norton shares his insights about Rwanda’s ‘pioneering’ conservation efforts.

“Rwanda, a very small and densely-populated country - from studies, they concluded that it was economically long-term much better for the country to protect watersheds, lakeshores and they instituted a policy of 50- to 150-metre buffer zones of no development on any watersheds, on any wetlands, rivers, lakeshores and they implemented that policy within a year,” he said.

World Bank executives recently singled out Rwanda as doing an exception job in bringing local communities on board to support conservation initiatives, create jobs, percolating benefits to rural communities adjoining national parks and giving locals a stake in industry.

A source from Cape Town repeated this correspondent’s own sentiments when saying: “Rwanda has risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of the genocide. No one thought it possible but good governance and a vision for the country’s future have made it possible. I admire the discipline Rwanda shows in conservation and how it has banned plastic bags, for instance, to promote a cleaner environment. Their re-forestation ratio must be the best on the continent from what was said here in Cape Town and many other countries should emulate Rwanda’s example.”

Rwanda’s Tourism Industry Growing Rapidly

Rwanda’s tourism business is impacted very favorably by these changes. In the first quarter 2011, revenue from tourism is estimated at US$56 million compared with US$43 in 2010. Visitor arrivals also climbed by an astonishing 32 percent compared to the same period in 2010, fueled by efforts to portray Rwanda as THE best destination in Eastern Africa.

One of its most exciting projects is the Nyungwe National Park canopy walk. New ‘birding routes’ are also set to be launched later this year, allowing visitors to see the wide variety of birdlife resident in ‘the land of a thousand hills.’

The theme of this year’s ‘Kwita Izina’ gorilla naming festival was revealed, which is “Community Development for Sustained Conservation.”

Twenty-two baby gorillas born since the festival last year will be formally named on June 18, and hundreds of extra visitors will be coming to Rwanda to participate in this event, which will be accompanied by a series of guest lectures, workshops on conservation and community relations, and sporting events designed towards the annual celebration.

Rwanda and Wales

These two countries have developed a special relationship. In what can be called an international ‘role reversal’, three teachers from Rwanda have flown thousands of miles to help kids in Wales not only recycle plastic bags but make some money doing it.

The effort is part of an exchange programme between the Cardiff school and Kigali Academy, in the Rwandan capital, which started three years ago. More details at WalesOnline.

The BBC reports on the ‘Size of Wales’ rainforest campaign, a project that donates grants to organisations in the UK and worldwide, and runs a forests program targeted at avoiding deforestation in tropical areas of the world’s poorest countries.

More Global Headlines on Deforestation and Biodiversity:

Brazil Can’t Explain a Four-fold Increase in Deforestation in the Amazon BrazzilMag

Brazil forms ‘crisis cabinet’ following unexpected deforestation surge Guardian UK

Indonesia imposes forest cutting ban for 2 years BusinessWeek

Elephants ravage human habitation Gulf Times

Indonesia’s moratorium disappoints environmentalists Mongabay.com

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