Article Index

Assessment of Wildlife Species, Natural Habitat Monitoring, Eco-tourism, Socio-economics and Conservation Policies in Sidama and Western Arsi Highlands of Ethiopia: Implications for Sustainable Wildlife Conservation

Zerihun Girma (PhD) and et al., 2020

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Executive summary

  1. I) Study Area

The study was carried out in the Afro-alpine ecosystems and fragmented Afro-montane forests located in Arebgona Woreda of the Sidama Zone of the South Nations and Nationalities People Regional State and three Woredas  (Dodola, Kokosa and Nensebo) of West Arsi Zone of the Oromiya Regional State (Figure 1). The study area is situated between 6° 18' to 7° 12 'N and 38° 34' to 39° 30′ (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Location map of the study area

The study populations were vascular plants (both woody and herbaceous plant species), mammals, birds, livestock abundance, tree stump counts, and percent vegetation. Eco-tourism attraction sites such as mountains, rocks, caves, wildlife, vegetation, people culture etc were subjected to study. In addition, local communities, district forest and wildlife enterprise staffs, district natural resource conservation, tourism and agriculture departments officials, and members of the community forest dwellers were the subjects of the study.

The study was carried out from 2017 to 2019 for three years, covering both wet and dry seasons.

The general objective of the project is to investigate species diversity and distribution of mammals and birds and their habitat conditions and human-wildlife interactions, assess the potential of the area for community-based eco-tourism as a proxy for income diversification schemes and evaluate the effectiveness of wildlife conservation institutions, policies, legislations and law enforcement procedures in Sidama and adjacent western Arsi highlands so as to develop a holistic, sustainable wildlife conservation plan and monitoring schemes.

  1. II) The sub-components of the thematic research and methods in each sub-component

1)  Large mammals and bird monitoring and habitat quality evaluation (Sub-component 1)

To effectively survey the species diversity of large mammals, two standardized survey techniques direct (line transect direct sighting) and indirect (scat/footprint) census, were followed. For birds, the only direct census was employed. Intensive-Modified Whitaker (I-MW) nested plot design was used to sample vegetation and livestock dung across the study area. The I-MW plot is framed within an outer 100-m2 plot (20 x 5m) with four 1-m2 subplots (0.5 x 2 m2) positioned at fixed locations inside its perimeter and one 10-m2 (2 x 5 m2) subplot in the center

2) Eco-tourism potential assessment as income diversification for the local community as a proxy for sustainable wildlife conservation (Sub-component 2)

Based on the preliminary survey 2 kebeles in Arebegona (Fodo folesho and Cherecho) woreda and 2 kebeles in Nenesebo (Rerepa, and Nensebo chebi) woreda were selected purposively. On the other hand, ecotourism physical assessment was made throughout Kokosa woreda. Structured and semi-structured interviews, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and field observations were used for data collection.

3) Livelihood, attitude, knowledge and practice of local community and human-wildlife interactions nexus for sustainable wildlife conservation (Sub-component 3)

Three study woredas (Arbegona, nensebo and Kokosa) in 8 kebeles were selected purposively due to the presence of the forest resource, existence of wild animals, human-wildlife interactions and research gap. Structured and semi-structured interviews, key informant interviews, focus group discussion and field observation were used for data collection.

4) Wildlife conservation institutions, policies, law, and law enforcement (Sub-component4)

Three study woredas (Arbegona, nensebo and Dodola) were selected purposively due to the presence of the forest resource, existence of wild animals, human-wildlife interactions and document analysis.

III) Summary of Results

1)  Large mammals and birds and habitat component evaluations (Sub-component 1)

The vegetation analysis in three-four study woredas revealed various domain habitat types, namely Dry evergreen Afromontane forest (modified and relatively intact) (occur in higher altitudes of Arbegona, Dodola, Kokosa, Nensebo; among the dominant tree species are Juniperus procera, Hagenia abyssinica, Hypericum revolutum, threats such as livestock encroachment, expansion of agriculture, etc. are prominent in this vegetation type), moist Afromontane forest (modified and relatively intact; occur in the middle attitude of Nensebo woreda; among the dominant tree species are Convolvolus klimandischari,  Euphorbia abyssinica, threats such as livestock encroachment, expansion of agriculture etc. are prominent in this vegetation type), Alpine bamboo forest (occur in higher altitudes of Arbegona, Nenseob, and Kokosa; relatively less distributed), Erica scrubland (occur at higher altitudes of Arbegona, Nenseob, Dodola, and Kokosa woredas; seasonal livestock and human settlements predominant). In Geremba mountain (Arebegona), a total of 76 plant species were recorded, while in Nensebo a total of 104 plant species were recorded. The land use land cover change analysis (1995 to 2019) revealed dominant forest cover (wildlife habitat quality) change, particularly a) expansion of non-forest land cover types at the expansion of the natural forests beginning from the center, b) appearance of non-forest cover types within the forest, c) defragmentation of the forest cover (appearance of patches of forests) due to the expansion of non-forest land, d) shrinking of the forest cover types due to the expansion of the non-forest cover types, and appearance of woodlots in the non-forest landscape area.

A total of 10, 16, and 24 species of large mammals, including endemic and endangered mammals, were recorded at Arbegona (Germeba Mountain) and Nensebo and Dodola remnant forests, respectively. In Geremba mountain alpine bamboo (H=2.052) has the highest diversity of large mammals, whereas in Nensebo intact moist Afro-montane forest has the largest mammals diversity (H=2.188). On the other hand, dry evergreen Afro-montane forest harbor the largest diversity of large mammals (H= 2.19).  A total of 74, 105, and 78 species of birds, including endemic and threatened species, were recorded from Garemba Mountain, Nensebo, and Dodola remnant forests. In Garemba Mountain, 71 residents and 3 were Palearctic migrants; In Nansebo forest, 96 residents, 9 Palearctic migrants’ and in Dodola remnant forest, 70 residents 8 Palearctic migrants’ were recorded. In Dodola, Arbegona and Nensebo modified Dry evergreen Afromontane forest harbored the largest bird diversity, 2.91, 3.71, and 4.17, respectively.   

2) Eco-tourism potential assessment as income diversification for the local community as a proxy for sustainable wildlife conservation (Sub-component 2)

The identified potential ecotourism resources of Nensebo, Arbegona, Kokosa and Dodola woredas can be categorized into natural attractions such as wildlife, vegetation composition, beautiful landscape, waterfalls, caves; and cultural attractions such as communal events and festivals, traditional lifestyles and cuisines. The available resources indeed make the destinations potentially rich and conducive to develop ecotourism as an alternative means of livelihood for the local communities.

3) Livelihood, attitude, knowledge, and practice of local community and human-wildlife interactions nexus for sustainable wildlife conservation (Sub-component 3)

In Arbegona, Nensebo, and Kokosa, local communities predominantly (on average> 90%) believed those wildlife resources and their habitats should be sustainably conserved for their ecological, economic, cultural, and scientific values. However, most (on average> 80%) mentioned that livestock predators (such as hyena, common jackal) and crop raiders (such as warthog, bush pig, baboons, and monkeys) cases considerable loss to livestock and crop that needs attention to sustainable promote human-wildlife coexistence. The local communities demonstrated indigenous knowledge towards wildlife resources and their conservation and in the meantime, agreed that considerable loss of populations of wildlife species and their habitat have occurred over the last six decades.

4) Wildlife conservation institutions, policies, laws, and law enforcement (Sub-component 4)

Wildlife and forest conservation institutions such as the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), Commission for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (CEFCC), Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resource Department are responsible for managing wildlife resource and their habitat at the federal level. However, at the regional and local level, Arbegona (SNNP) is managed under the SNNPR Bureau of Tourism and Woredas CEFCC and Woreda agricultural bureaus. On the other hand, at Kokosa, Dodola and Nensebo (Oromia region), the wildlife resources and their habitat are managed under Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise, Community Forest Dwellers Associations and Woreads CEFFC and agricultural offices. However, local communities unanimously agreed that conservation institutions have not been effective and wildlife resources and their habitat continues to deteriorate. Furthermore, document analysis revealed that there are policy and legislation gaps that hindered effective wildlife and their habitat conservation. Local communities reported that law enforcement is not transparent; weak and not integrated well. Local communities unanimously agreed that poaching, livestock and human encroachments, expansion of agriculture, deforestation, and anthropogenic fire are common illegal activities overall study areas that threaten the survival of the wildlife resources and their habitat.    

  1. IV) Holistic outcomes/outputs of the project

The project clearly demonstrated that the Sidama and adjacent West Arsi Zone highlands harbor diverse and unique large mammals, birds and vegetation closely associated with the wildlife species. The wildlife resource and their habitat and physical attractions such as waterfalls, mountains and local communities' culture present extraordinary tourist attraction potential that are important for sustainable conservation of wildlife resources and their habitat, contributing for livelihood improvement of the local community through income diversification schemes. Furthermore, the project has met its management objectives through sharing scientific knowledge among research staff and scientific communities (three articles already published and one 4 in preparation to submit). Furthermore, 9 M.Sc. students attached to this project were trained and graduated with these rated very good and excellent.

  1. V) Recommendations

Participative conservation with the goodwill of people towards wildlife would certainly improve the situation at the ground level and protect the wildlife which has strayed out of their habitats.

The development and creation of alternative livelihood options, through promoting the development of ecotourism, encouraging benefit-sharing, and conservation of natural resources of the areas are very important for the development and sustainable use of ecotourism resources of the study sites.  Developing tourism-related infrastructure, facilities, and services, including quality accommodation (eco-lodges), tourist information centers, adequate medical facilities, shopping centers, internet networks & centers for exchanging foreign currencies, are pertinent for the development and expansion of ecotourism at the destinations. 

Conservation authorities need to make local community beneficiaries from conservation activity and enhance their involvement in management decisions of wildlife resources. Although the majority of respondents had a positive attitude and knowledge about wildlife conservation, there is illegal use of resources from the forests, they kill animals for food, medical purpose, and problem causing wild animals are killed by using poisons and trap as a control method. So the concerned body should create awareness and train other methods of controlling problem-causing animals.

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