Conservation overstretch and long-term decline of wildlife and tourism in the Central African savannas

Paul Scholte*, Olivier Pays, Saleh Adam, Bertrand Chardonnet, Hervé Fritz, Jean Baptiste Mamang, Herbert H.T. Prins, Pierre Cyril Renaud, Patrick Tadjo, Mark Moritz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


When in 2010 the world's governments pledged to increase protected area coverage to 17% of the world's land surface, several Central African countries had already set aside 25% of their northern savannas for conservation. To evaluate the effectiveness of this commitment, we analyzed the results of 68 multispecies surveys conducted in the seven main savanna national parks in Central Africa (1960–2017). We also assembled information on potential drivers of large herbivore population trends (rainfall and number of rangers) and on tourist numbers and revenues. In six out of the seven parks, wild large herbivore populations declined dramatically over time, livestock numbers increased severalfold, and tourism, the pillar under a once thriving local wildlife industry, collapsed. Zakouma National Park (Chad) stood out because its large herbivore populations increased, an increase that was positively correlated with rainfall and number of rangers (a proxy for management inputs). With increasing insecurity and declining revenues, governments find themselves confronted with too few resources to protect vast areas. To deal with this conversation overstretch, we propose to extend the repeatedly promoted solutions––scaled up funding, enhanced management––with a strategic retreat, focusing scarce resources on smaller areas to save wildlife in the Central African savannas.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13860
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
Early online date12 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


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