The protection of Africa’s wildlife is set to get a boost thanks to a new online tool developed by the European Commission, called ‘The assessment of African protected areas’, the new
instrument draws on the very latest in satellite technology to monitor trends in fire, vegetation and rainfall, enabling park managers to compare the current situation against seasonal norms.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the new tool will help African countries to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

Africa is home to a diverse range of ecosystems and species, and across the continent some 741 protected areas covering over two million square kilometres have been established to ensure their
conservation. However, growing populations and poverty mean that human activities are increasingly impacting on these protected areas and threatening the wildlife that lives there.

The assessment system, developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), measures the impacts of human activities on Africa’s protected areas and provides information on unseasonal environmental
trends. It also evaluates each park’s value in terms of habitat and species.

Updated every ten days, the assessment tool covers 741 protected areas in 50 countries and provides information of 280 mammals, 381 bird species and 930 species of amphibian. For each protected
area, the website contains an explanation of why that area has been given protected status, the size of the area, its elevation above sea level and basic information such as average rainfall.

Graphs and tables permit users to see at a glance the pressures affecting the area and the irreplaceability of the species that live there and the habitats found in the park compared to other
parks in the same country and ecosystem. The site also lists the threatened and endangered species living in each park, as well as the long term climate trends of the region.

Armed with this information, policy makers, conservation organisations and park rangers are able to see at a glance which parks are at greatest risk and allocate resources accordingly. The EU
is also active in promoting conservation work in Africa, and the new online tool will also help the EU identify priority areas for action.

In 2001, EU leaders agreed to halt the loss of biodiversity in the EU by 2010. The following year the goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2010 was adopted on the global scale with the signing
of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD recognises protected areas as the most important ‘units’ for conservation, and defines them as ‘a geographically defined area which is
designated or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives’.

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