Can North Africa take lessons from Indian conservation?

Mountain, forest, steppe, coastal regions, dense populations, agro-ecosystems, pastoral pressures on natural landscapes, diverse range of native species. These words could describe both the mediterranean biome of North Africa and major biomes in India. Most strikingly, several of the major species associated with North Africa are represented in some regions in India. The lion, leopard and striped hyena are most notably present, so perhaps the practical experience of working with lions and leopards in Gujarat in north-western India offers clues to how the recovery of Maghreb ecosystems in future decades could be modelled.

Gujarat is a region of high population density with a landscape that has experienced considerable human modification for agriculture. Additionally there is a local pastoral popuation, the Maldhari, who live inside the national park, home to the Asiatic lion. The lions themselves are also not confined to the national park and have been known to range far across the agricultural regions of Gujarat, increasingly so in the past few decades. Lions have set up home on the scrublands on the southern coastal region of the state, suprisingly close to population centres and human infrastructure.

North Africa's historical biodiversity is compatible with India temperate regions - even elephant existed in the Maghreb until historical times. Modern India is justifiably proud of its biodiversity heritage [Map adapted with North African additions from concept by Karanth (2014) photos: K. Varma, N. Mehta, S. Mahanta, H.S. Singh, H. Malik].

North Africa’s historical biodiversity (left) is comparable with India’s temperate regions – elephant existed in the Maghreb in historic times [Adapted from Karanth (2014)¬† photos: K. Varma, N. Mehta, S. Mahanta, H.S. Singh, H. Malik; S Black].

Further reading:

Anon (2012) Lions make coastal belt their home. Times of India

Jain A. (2014) Why dozens of India’s Asiatic lions are Dying. BBC News¬†

Karanth, K.U. (2014) Fifty Years of Conservation. National Geographic Voices, Posted by Wildlife Conservation Society on November 9, 2014


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