Africa's natural habitats are suffering from human interference. One of the most serious problems occurs in areas such as the Sahel where scrub and forest clearance, often for cooking, combined with overgrazing, is causing deforestation and desertification. Game reserves help to preserve many endangered animals, although the needs of growing populations lead to land overuse and poaching.

Conservationists look at Africa’s wildlife as a last remnant of past biological wealth. In most of the world, large mammals like elephants died around 10,000 years ago. In Africa, where animals and people lived together for more then 2 million years, large mammals roaming forests and savannas survived. Sparse human population enabled large animals and many rain forest species including rare plants to survive.

During the last hundred years, the people in sub-Saharan Africa increased in numbers six fold. Industrial countries have made it profitable for Africans to kill elephants for ivory, cut down trees for timber, and plant forests and fertile lands in cash crops like cacao.

Wildlife and wildlands have been lost. The continent’s human population is projected to double in 24 years. Two thirds of people are rural, and survive on raising crops and livestock on any available land. Competition for land is intense around Lake Victoria and along the coast of West Africa.

Hungry people seldom rally around the cause of the wildlife preservation. Therefore, many programs promote conservation by giving rural people an economic stake in the survival of ecosystems and habitat.

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