Keith Barnes/Tropical Birding
The globally threatened Shoebill is one of Africa's most charismatic and unusual species
Africa is the world's second largest continent covering 30,221,532 km² (including its adjacent islands); 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20 % of the total land area. It is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to the southern temperate zones. The climate of Africa ranges from tropical to sub-arctic on its highest peaks. Its northern half is primarily desert or arid, while its central and southern areas contain both savannah plains and very dense forest regions. In between, there is a convergence where vegetation patterns such as sahel, and steppe dominate.
Africa boasts perhaps the world's largest combination of density and diversity of free-range wild animals, many of which are prone to anthropogenic pressures. There are about 60 species of African primates, and over 50% of these are generally considered to be vulnerable to extinction (Oates, 2005). The continent is endowed with over 2,310 bird species of which almost 1,400 are endemic to the continent. This includes two endemic bird orders and 10 endemic families. Some 232 bird species in Africa are globally threatened and hence of global conservation interest.
A network of over 1,232 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) covering 2 million sq km² (7% of the region's land area) have been identified across the continent’s 58 countries and territories. Sixty seven Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) and secondary areas* have also been identified within Africa. These sites provide a practical focus for the conservation efforts by governments, civil society organisations, as well as other stakeholders.
The major threats to biodiversity in Africa stem from agricultural expansion and intensification, logging, unsustainable exploitation, urban expansion and habitat alteration, industrialization and the resultant pollution. The underlying factors driving these threats include run-away population growth rates, ineffective governance systems, ineffective policies and conflicts.
* A secondary area is an area which supports one or more restricted-range bird species, but does not qualify as an Endemic Bird Area because fewer than two species are entirely confined to it.
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