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Semiliki valley – a biodiversity haven

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Congratulations to Semiliki supporter, Andy Plumptre, on the seminal article he, with colleagues from various institutions, published last week on ecological intactness across the world. Their study came to the worrying conclusion that less than 3% of the world’s land surface is ecologically intact. They defined this as being areas of the world where the human footprint is low and where key species have not been lost and numbers have not radically declined over the past five hundred years.  This time period was selected because 1500 AD is the date from which the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species counts extinction of species.

Andy with Joel Ziwa putting a radio collar on a lion in Queen Elizabeth Park

Andy has spent much of his professional life in working to conserve some of the most stunning parks that run down the western rift valley in the Great Lakes region. This includes the Virunga National Park that the Semiliki River flows through and others in eastern DRC close to communities with health centres supported by Semiliki Trust. His surveys have discovered three new species of mammal, several amphibians and also new plant species.

Andy and colleagues approaching a darted elephant to put a radio tracking collar on

Andy is now Head of the Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) Secretariat at the David Attenborough Building in Cambridge University. He has published many articles on his work in the rift valley and developed a website that summarised the biodiversity and conservation needs of this region which can be seen here.

Photo: A Plumptre

The Semiliki river valley lies within the Virunga National Park, the most biodiverse site for vertebrates in Africa. The park is diverse because it has so many habitats ranging from the high altitude moorland, rock and ice at the top of the Rwenzori Mountains, down through bamboo and montane forest, to the wetlands around the lakes, the savanna woodlands and lowland forest in the Semiliki valley. The Semiliki valley contains several rare species including the world population of Golden-naped weaver, a species that is only found in the lowland forest of Virunga Park, the Semuliki Park in Uganda, just over the border, and some of the forest north of Virunga Park up to Mt Hoyo Reserve. Okapis still occur here as well as a few forest elephant but hunting has reduced their numbers greatly.

Okapi infant. Photo: A Plumptre

Semiiki Trust hasn’t yet directly supported conservation, but there is the potential to do so in the future if our partners in Congo develop viable projects. The potential to restore tourism is huge if insecurity could be controlled and this could help establish many jobs for people. By supporting the work of our partners running health centres and hospitals, and welfare projects we are helping the peoples of eastern DRC to a better future, one in which they can contribute to conservation of their stunning natural resources.

Kob. Photo: A Plumptre

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