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In the News

Hopeful Geographies 2: ‘Joined Up’ Conservation Works in Southern Africa

Alice Griffiths

10th January 2024

Last week The Guardian reported that African elephant populations in southern Africa have stabilised after many decades of decline. Further, the science shows elephant populations able to migrate in response to, for example, an increase in poaching or drought do better than those in isolated parks. Young people studying Ecosystems under stress, an AQA A-Level option topic (Paper 1), will benefit from this hopeful update. (See the handy teaching activity to download at the bottom of the page.)

African elephant populations have stabilised in southern Africa but 'we cannot be complacent' (WWF)

Nature corridors and migration

Nature corridors between highly protected reserves and less protected buffer zones are crucial to the conservation effort, it turns out; with a few caveats about the need for ‘careful planning’ to minimise conflict between people and animals in less protected zones to which animals may disperse. No doubt the phrase careful planning covers a multitude of issues for those living in southern Africa’s savanna regions and is all too easy to 'parrot' (without considering the implications) when based in the UK, as I am. Here, the biggest nature threat my family and I face is a red kite landing on the barbeque (though not in January!).

Geography matters

The African elephant study conducted by an international team of scientists along with the WWF recognises that the stabilisation of this population in southern Africa is a win for ‘joined up’ thinking. It has been crucial to take an approach to conservation that considers spatial patterns (of migration); and consider processes and phenomena in nature at different scales.

'With increasing threats from the climate crisis, habitat connectivity is more important than ever,' noted Katherine Elliott, a WWF senior programme adviser.

‘We have fragmented the world and we need to stitch it back together again,’ said Professor Stuart Pimm from Duke University in the USA, also part of the research team.

To my eye, it’s a study that puts the geography back into biogeography!

Another good news story: whales in UK waters

The humpback whale is now a regular visitor in UK waters, after a 40 year moratorium on culling (The Wildlife Trusts)

I spotted the African elephant story, just after listening to a radio report that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) such as the humpback whale are returning to UK waters. This second environmental success story is thought to be an indication of the long term impact of the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on whaling from 1986 onwards. So, a success for global governance.

Both news stories offer hope for nature conservation, in particular for ‘keystone species’ in early 2024. Both of these stories might be useful to share with students, especially those interested in a career in conservation. There may also be an 'EPQ' or two in there.

Grab the free In the News worksheet (and answer sheet) below and pass on the two 'citizen science' links for those wanting to get involved.

Citizen science links:

Elephant ID by Snapshot Safari / Zooinverse;

OceanWatchers app by ORCA

Download this free tutor2u resource

Alice Griffiths

Alice has taught Geography over a period of twenty years. She is a published author and editor of a wide range of A level resources and has also created award-winning, online content for younger students. An occasional presenter at the GA’s annual conference, she was head of department at an 11-18 school until 2020.

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