Oh my Africa – November 2014

I’m bound to read any news article that has the word ‘bizarre’ in the title, but unfortunately, this one ended in ‘puts newly discovered species in jeopardy’.

Yes, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the new plant species, along with 900 other plant varieties and 1,400 chimpanzees, are unprotected against roaming people, their cattle, and other destructive activities.  Some folks misread some maps, or perhaps didn’t read the maps at all, and put the reserve’s borders more than 50 kilometers west of where they should’ve been.

To add salt to the wound, this newly discovered flowering plant, Dorstenia luamensis, found only on a few cliff faces inside this once protected area, was named after the park, the Luama Katanga Reserve, which no longer exists.  Established in 1947 near Lake Tanganyika, and a globally important biodiversity hotspot called Kabobo, the actual borders were confused during the DRC’s civil wars, and now the government has reserved a chunk of not-so-globally-important land.

“The moral of this story is that keeping track of parks – and especially getting maps and boundaries correct – matters hugely for biodiversity. The call to action here is to fix the records and re-protect the reserve before this unique plant and all the biodiversity it contains…are destroyed,” said James Deutsch, Vice President of Conservation Strategy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), whose scientists discovered the plant and the mapping error.

Although the WCS has lobbied the DRC government to fix the mistake, they have taken no action.

The new plant. Credit: Miguel Leal/WCS



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