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Brian Huntley standing beside a Welwitschia in the Angolan province of Namibe which is probably over 2000 years old - making it the oldest plant in Africa.

Wildlife, wild places and wild times in Angola! – 1970 to 2011. The Angola Field Group invites you to a presentation Thursday, December 15, at 8:00 PM at the Viking Club with renowned conservation scientist Dr. Brian Huntley, one of the fathers of Angolan ecology. He will present an illustrated talk on the rise, fall, and hopefully, resurrection of wildlife conservation in Angola.

Brian Huntley first visited Angola in 1970 and returned with his young wife to spend four years (1971-1975) surveying the entire country as wildlife ecologist for the then Reparticao tecnica da Fauna. After leaving the country in a column of 10,000 refugees in August 1975, he has made repeated visits to Angola from 1992 to the present. Before retirement in 2009, Professor Huntley was, for 20 years, Chief Executive of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, based at Kirstenbosch, Cape Town. He is currently a consultant to various international organisations such as UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO, etc. (Scroll down to previous posting for more details.)

Everybody is welcome to attend the presentation which will be in English. In close cooperation with the Viking Club, this event is offered free of charge. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks are sold at the bar, coupons must be purchased. The Viking Bar opens at 7:30 PM.  If you would like to have a map showing the location of the Club, click here. The Viking Club is on the main floor of Predio Maianaga, Rua Marien N”Guabi, No 118, across the street from the new Panela de Barra restaurant.

A backgrounder to our speaker on Thursday, December 15, ecologist Brian Huntley, as excerpted from the Sonangol magazine, Universo, March 2011

New Nature Conservation Areas

 One of the fathers of Angolan ecology and conservation is Brian Huntley, a renowned conservation scientist who has worked across Africa and until recently headed the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Huntley has played a major role in shaping environmental sensibility and research in Angola.  His work includes the development plans for existing and new protected areas, as well as closely examining wildlife populations in the southern Namibe Desert right up to lush Cabinda rainforests in the north.

Huntley’s research has resulted in 28 separate reports on the conservation and management of biodiversity in Angola, many of which serve as the basis for mapping and current scientific research. 

Although officially retired, for the past year Huntley, Emeritus Professor at the University of Cape Town, has been working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), developing an environmental programme for Angola in partnership with the Angolan Government.

A large part of this is about creating the Angolan Protected Area Expansion Strategy (APAES) to preserve critical areas of natural interest. There are 11 target areas, mainly moist lowland, escarpment and montane forest systems, covering a total of 11800 square kilometers.

Huntley told Universo: “There’s a very narrow window of opportunity left in Angola to identify and protect important areas, as in those which haven’t yet been developed or inhabited, because once development starts, it’s much more difficult to protect an area.”

As part of his APAES work, this year Huntley will be travelling to a remote part of Lunda Norte, one of the target areas, for a mapping exercise.

“It’s a very important area, he explained. “It has the largest lake in Angola, white-water rivers, gallery forests, extensive woodlands, and the landscapes are stunning, and almost completely devoid of human occupation. It is in pristine condition, barely visited by humans and will be perfect for a national park.”

The Lunda Norte team will be made up of mostly Angolan students, hand-picked by Huntley who is passionate about furthering home-grown scientific research.

“For many years, perhaps as many as 30, there have been very few Angolan scientists and very few who have studied their own environment, which has led to some serious gaps in local knowledge” he said.

“But I am quite encouraged by a new generation of Angolan graduates who are showing new enthusiasm to finding out more about their own country.

“Many have been lucky enough to have been educated abroad or have had the chance to travel – but they are certainly more willing to go into the bush to discover their own country.”

Huntley said it was important that Angolans became interested in their own environment because it would foster a great sensibility in the future.

“There are several generations who for various reasons are not familiar with environmental sensibility and until now, there has been a lack of political will to confront the issues,” he explained.

He said much work was required to help Angola protect its valuable natural resources – but he said the outlook was increasingly positive.

 


Hot off the press, a new book published about wild Angola, now available from Protea Publishing and Amazon.

Angola was once one of Africa’s last great wildernesses. Gorillas and chimpanzees shared the pristine rainforests of Cabinda, giant sable antelope roamed the miombo woodlands of Luando, and the enigmatic Welwitschia mirabilis crowded the plains of the Namib. But war, intrigues and arrogance have resulted in the loss and near extinction of most of Angola’s formerly abundant wildlife and the decay and erosion of a once endless Eden.

From 1971 to 1975, author Brian J. Huntley was ecologist for Angola’s five major national parks, surveying the entire country and developing the country’s conservation strategy. Integrating the historical, political, economic and environmental threads that account for Angola’s post-colonial tragedy, Huntley describes in detail the wildlife, wild places and wild personalities that have occupied Angola’s conservation landscape through four decades of war and a decade and a half of peace. Despite the loss of its innocence, Huntley believes that Angola can rebuild its national parks and save much of its wildlife and wilderness.

                         Brian Huntley

Author Brian J. Huntley gave a presentation to the Angola Field Group on December 2011. Following retirement in 2009 as CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, he is currently an independent consultant on conservation research and implementation projects in many African countries for various United Nations agencies. He is also a Research Associate at the Centre for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Cape Town.