Zimbabwe joins GBIF

Southern African nation becomes the eighteenth participating country from Africa

Aepyceros melampus
Impala (Aepyceros melampus) observed by Rémi Cardinael near Chiredzi, Zimbabwe. Photo via iNaturalist licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

The Republic of Zimbabwe has joined GBIF as an Associate Participant, becoming the 56th country to join the global network. The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate designated Bindura University Of Science Education to sign the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of Zimbabwe, and to represent the country on the Governing Board.

Bindura University is leading a national project under the Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) programme. The university’s project, which aims to catalogue, digitize and publish species records for non-timber forest products (NTFP) to GBIF.org, is one of five led by institutions in Zimbabwe in part by BID, a programme funded by the European Union.

In the first of these projects, the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe focused on digitizing specimen records from its mammal collection. The resulting dataset contains nearly 11,000 occurrences, including 3,219 bat records—the first published by any Zimbabwean institution through GBIF.

“As Zimbabwe, we are excited to join the GBIF family,” said Abraham Matiza, head of Zimbabwe’s National Biodiversity Office in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate. “Partnering with GBIF will enable us to achieve the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and our National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan. This is of particular importance for ensuring a nation with resilient ecosystems and biodiversity values for social, political and economic development aiming to address the threats to biodiversity. Furthermore, as a ministry, we appreciate the role played by the European Union through GBIF to fund biodiversity mobilization projects even before the country became a participant, and it is our hope that our relationship continues to grow.”

“Zimbabwe’s entry into GBIF is a great example of the opportunity provided by the BID programme to engage a broader community in Africa in the mobilization and use of biodiversity data,” said Tim Hirsch, Deputy Director of GBIF. “Already through the funded projects in Zimbabwe, we have seen development of expertise in biodiversity informatics within key institutions, and this bodes well for the establishment of an effective GBIF node in the country to coordinate the flow of data and information needed to manage and conserve the country’s rich biological heritage.”

IUCN Red List experts have identified 109 species in Zimbabwe as being threatened or near-threatened, including 17 endangered and seven critically endangered species. Zimbabwe is home to the world’s fourth-largest black rhino (Diceros bicornis) population. While poaching is probably responsible for the demise of nearly a quarter of the country’s black rhinos between 2007 and 2009, conservation efforts like the Lowveld Rhino Program have reversed this trend, such that black rhino births greatly outpaced poaching deaths in Zimbabwe in 2014.

Users of GBIF.org are currently able to download more than 320,000 species occurrences in Zimbabwe from 412 different datasets contributed by 31 countries. About half of the occurrences are published by institutions in South Africa with the SAFRING dataset containing historical bird ringing records published by the South African National Biodiversity Institute contributing more than 85,000 records. The species with the most occurrences recorded in Zimbabwe—more than 14,000—is the red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea).

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