Climate change is not only influencing extreme weather (flooding, drought, heatwaves, storms, etc.) in Africa but is also a key driver of species extinction on the continent.
According to the Threat Classification Scheme of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), climate change and severe weather are among the 12 categories of threats to species. This calls for immediate animal rescue and emergency conservation efforts and one sure way of ensuring that is wildlife rehabilitation.
Wildlife rehabilitation is one of the critically important components of Africa’s response to the climate crisis as it provides people with close contact with wildlife, potentially increasing knowledge of wild species and factors contributing to their declines, which can have positive impacts on local biodiversity conservation — biodiversity is important because each species plays a role in nature. When many different species make up an ecosystem, a higher number of roles or functions are developed and thus the ecosystem is healthier.
Wildlife rehabilitation is the act of caring for sick, injured, orphaned, and displaced wild animals with the primary goal of returning them to their natural habitat.
In many regions, wildlife rehabilitation is a publicly accepted practice with dedicated private citizens or small non-profit centers investing significant time and personal resources.
The rehabilitator plays a primary role in the ultimate disposition of the animal in question, from selecting an appropriate release location to consulting on the euthanasia of individuals that cannot be rehabilitated. Additional multi-disciplinary roles include public outreach, education, advocacy, and collaboration with veterinary professionals.
As a public service, wildlife rehabilitation may be beneficial to wildlife agencies in Africa in a world of climate disruption, habitat loss, and other dangerous threats to biodiversity. However, it will need to be scaled up alongside efforts to reform agricultural practices, phase-out fossil fuels, and redefine human settlements and technologies to better accommodate nature and address the root causes of biodiversity loss.
Wildlife rehabilitation won’t be an easy feat to achieve on a large scale in a continent like Africa since it is typically minimally funded by governmental institutions and relies on personal donations of time and finances. However, little pockets of action from individuals as well as calling for governmental intervention will go a great mile in the long run.