Setting sights on South African animals: climate change and wildlife
BY: Tasneem Johnson-Dollie
Africa is home to around a quarter of the world’s biodiversity. But, it’s also bearing the brunt of the effects of the climate crisis.
How has climate change affected African wildlife, and how are animals adapting to changes in their environment? Let’s find out.
What is the climate crisis? The African context
The climate crisis refers to the global rise in temperatures and change in weather patterns since the start of the industrial revolution.
These climatic changes are driven by unsustainable human activities that have been rampant in the last few decades. But, despite the fact that humans have contributed to the climate crisis in a big way, the effects of it are not felt proportionally across the world.
Africa has experienced drastic effects of climate change so far, like the depletion of its natural resources. This is worsened by the continent’s economic and social challenges, as well as its geographical location.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that Africa will experience “above average” climate change over the remainder of the twenty-first century. It also predicts that the Cape Province of South Africa is one of the areas on the continent that is expected to be most affected by the climate crisis the most in the future.
Due to its location, South Africa is exposed to both the land and sea impacts that come with the climate crisis. But, efforts aimed at conserving populations of South African wildlife are pushing on – full steam ahead!
Here’s a closer look at the specific impacts that the climate crisis is having on South African animals, and what’s being done to address it.
South African wildlife and the climate crisis
In South Africa, the savannah biome makes up almost half of the country’s land surface area. And, because of its major role in the environment, South African animals depend on savannah biomes for survival.
The impacts of climate change in South Africa place savannah biomes at high risk of desertification – because they’re already so dry to begin with!
Here are some ways South African animals are coping with the climate crisis.
South African animal facts to do with climate change
- Desertification has affected the natural habitats of an array of South African animals, forcing them to move to other areas. In some cases, these areas are also migratory destinations for large mammals. The depletion of resources and shelter that comes with overpopulated areas means that migratory animals must change course.
- African wild dogs tend to hunt in cooler temperatures. Increasing temperatures caused by the climate crisis affects their ability to hunt by reducing the duration of their hunts, and thus, the amounts of food they can secure. Less food can also mean lower pup survival.
- Wild dogs aren’t the only predators affected by rising temperatures; the hunting abilities of cheetahs and lions may also be impacted.
How to alleviate the effects of the climate crisis and add to the well-being of South African animals
Stopping the climate crisis is clearly a top priority for the well-being of South African animals, but knowing how to stop the climate crisis is key.
From the law experts bringing down the hammer on environmental offenders, to the conservationists scouring every inch of the savannah to safeguard South African animals – the country is making progress on addressing the effects of the climate crisis.
But, its conservational clout could be much bigger with a greater workforce of passionate individuals and communities. And, generating better public awareness around the extent to which the climate crisis is affecting South African animals could also motivate millions more to join the cause.
You can add to the impact by studying South African animals online or in the savannah, and becoming a field guide. As a professional field guide, you’ll be at the forefront of addressing the climate crisis and adding to the well-being of South African animals every day.