Rebuilding Kissama: war-torn Angola’s only national park affected by deforestation, but refaunation gives hope
In the lead-up to the World Parks Congress in Sydney, we are telling (or channeling) stories of African protected areas. Angola has a lot of sad protected area stories to tell, about war, deforestation, defaunation – both human well-being and ecological health have had their fair share of punishment. However, there are also some signs of hope too. Like in so many parks in Africa, the story of Kissama National park – some (but not all) would argue Angola’s only functioning national park – is a pretty complex one.
This article, by Fidelis Zvomuya, was published on Mongabay.com in July. You can read the full article here.
The story of Kissama National Park is one of perseverance, vision and disaster in waiting. The only functional national park in Angola, a country wracked by war for decades, Kissama (also called Quiçama) lost much of its wildlife, with that which is left still impacted by poaching and deforestation. However, a project is attempting to bring the park back to life.
Most of the lush forested areas of Kissama National Park occurs in its eastern portion, comprising about 200,000 hectares. Of this forest cover, nearly seven percent disappeared from 2001-2013, according to data from Global Forest Watch.
A 2010 report written by Roland Goetz, Director of the Kissama National Park at Kissama Foundation, raised concern about poaching and illegal harvesting of trees for building material and charcoal production. It underlines the urgent need for mitigation.
. It underlines the urgent need for mitigation.
Kissama National Park has lost nearly seven percent of its forest cover since 2001. Map courtesy of Global Forest Watch. Click to enlarge.
In the report, Goetz said Quiçama National Park is at a crossroads.
“Continuing as we have been is certain death for the park,” he said. “With decisive action to save the park in the next year, the Ministry of Environment can show the international conservation community that Angola in a leader in protecting the biodiversity of the planet.”
Illegal development is also a major threat to the park, including a housing development called Cabo Ledo and several roads.
Angola is one of Africa’s most biologically diverse countries, boasting a long Atlantic coastline, dense equatorial forests, rivers thick with mangroves, vast desert expanses, rolling savannah grasslands and high-altitude rocky outcrops.
Forests still cover 35 percent of Angola, but clearing along coastal regions is massive and has led to desertification as trees no longer exist to hold moisture in the soil. One of the primary drivers behind Angola’s deforestation is the wide use of wood as fuel as 80 percent of Angolans cook food over fire. In addition, timber is often sold and exported illegally.
For more on Angola and other African protected areas, visit our interactive map.