Helping African partners protect wildlife [infographic]

African countries are making great strides in preserving wildlife, and the United States is committed to supporting them. U.S. agencies fund African programs that protect sea turtle habitat, combat wildlife trafficking and foster community involvement in conservation.

Kenya has seen an 11% growth in rhino populations. Protected areas for critically endangered gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have increased more than 60%. And in 2020, loggerhead turtle nests in Cabo Verde surged to nearly 200,000, up from 10,725 in 2015.

“This is a critically important time for our planet,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said November 17, announcing a U.S. partnership that will help inspire further conservation efforts in Africa. “Our goal is to equip a rising generation of leaders to lead this fight, because we’ve seen what they can achieve.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) invested nearly $117 million in biodiversity programs in Africa from mid-2018 to mid-2019. It spent nearly $40 million to combat wildlife trafficking in the same period.

Protecting endangered species

In Cabo Verde, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners with the Associaçao Projeto Biodiversidade to strengthen protections for endangered loggerhead sea turtles, funding night patrols on nesting beaches, relocation of vulnerable nests and other efforts.

With U.S. support, Kenya’s Wildlife Service (KWS) has significantly reduced wildlife trafficking. The country’s rhino populations increased 11%, from 1,441 in 2019 to 1,605 in 2020. Not a single rhino was lost to poaching that year.

With U.S. Support, African Partners Protect Wildlife SEA TURTLES In Cape Verde, sea turtle nests surged to nearly 200,000 in 2020, 
up from 10,725 in 2015. RHINOS Kenya set a record for rhino births 
in 2020 as the species increased 
by 164. GORILLAS The Democratic Republic of the Congo protected more than 60% of the world’s rare Grauer’s gorillas and their habitat. ELEPHANTS Kenya witnessed zero elephant poaching deaths across 4.9 million hectares of its northern range in 2020, down from a high of 103. (State Dept./M. Gregory; Photos: Sea turtle © Natursports, rhinoceros © Volodymyr Burdiak, elephant © Darren Foard, gorilla © LMIMAGES, all from; Data: USFWS, USAID, NRT and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.)
(State Dept./M. Gregory)

Kenyan officials credit a forensics and genetics lab that USAID helped found in 2015 with aiding in the success. “Every other day our work is used in a court case somewhere in Kenya,” Dr. Francis Gakuya, KWS’ head of veterinary services, said of the lab that helps track endangered species and catch poachers.

Other U.S.-backed programs encourage Kenyan communities to lead conservation efforts and reap the benefits of tourism. One such program, the Northern Rangelands Trust, has seen increases in populations of elephants, giraffes, cheetahs and buffalo across 4.9 million hectares, an area roughly twice the size of New Jersey.

Supporting law enforcement

U.S. partnerships with the DRC and the neighboring Republic of Congo have protected 32 million hectares in the Congo basin for more than 20 years.

The U.S. government trains park rangers, strengthens wildlife monitoring and anti-trafficking efforts, protecting habitats of numerous species, including the world’s largest stronghold of the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla.

Pangolin looking for food (© Themba Hadebe/AP Images)
U.S. and DRC authorities partnered in an investigation that seized trafficked wildlife parts, including pangolin scales. (© Themba Hadebe/AP Images)

In November, U.S. and DRC authorities arrested two poachers and seized more than $3.5 million in ivory, rhino horn and pangolin scales following a two-year investigation.

“This successful operation exemplifies the United States government’s concrete commitment to collaborate with Congolese law enforcement to combat illicit wildlife trafficking that robs the DRC of its natural treasures,” U.S. Ambassador to the DRC Mike Hammer said.