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About douglaswise

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  1. @Tom Kellie: You raise an intriguing academic question. However, the previous point I was attempting to make was that a search for its answer would require financial investment, but is unlikely to have practical management implications. This seems to apply to a lot of ongoing wildlife research in Africa and may represent competition for funding which could better be used to provide protection for threatened habitats which are currently woefully short of funding. By the same token, I would suggest that elephant orphanages are also an unnecessary distraction from conservation as I understand it.
  2. @Lyss: I'm interested in your comments on leopard research, noting that you class yourself as a wildlife photographer, artist and researcher. I was wondering, therefore, what sort of research you'd like to see undertaken that would assist management better to conserve the species of interest. Single species research appears mainly to involve collaring, tracking and monitoring, but I'm not sure that this is very useful. I suppose that you may be concerned about lack of prey species (unlkely in the Mara), deaths by predators higher up the guild (lions and man) or by disease (which may be impractical to control). I was wondering where your priorities would lie.
  3. @Lyss: I wish you were right. However, we live in the Anthropocene era and the concept of nature unaffected by humans certainly doesn't exist today and probably hasn't for centuries. All the proximate threats to wildlife are currently anthropogenic and it has become incumbent upon man to manage rather than preserve wildlife range (think range compression and climate change, quite apart from other more obvious threats).
  4. @jeremie: I agree with @Tom Kellie that your link to the Lindsey et al paper is very useful. Having just spent an hour or so reading it, I feel that the survey undertaken was a useful way of ranking the obvious threats to both lions and their prey. I was a little disappointed that the authors didn't include elephants because there are excellent grounds for believing that surplus populations in some parts of Africa are having negative impacts on habitats, predators and prey. The main lessons that I drew (probably without time for adequate reflection) were that most protected areas suffered from considerable lack of funding and were under increasing threat from human population increase. However, complete or partial fencing and absolute exclusion of human settlement within protected areas would allow positive outcomes even with high human densities in contiguous areas. While it is reasonable to call for more international aid, funding could be increased internally by adopting sustainable use (both consumptive and non-consumptive) policies The creation of conservancies adjacent to formally protected areas has the potential to create more usable wildlife range. However, the downside is that such areas might compete for already inadequate funding.
  5. @Tom Kellie: Your cited artcles on forest elephants were very informative. A population doubling time of 41 years (in the absence of any poaching) is very worrying and three times longer than that of savanna elephant populations. It is a pity that the title you used to start this thread caused @Cosmic Rhino to grab the wrong end of the stick.
  6. @@COSMIC RHINO: I would like to correct several of your typically strident claims: The illegal ivory trade is, indeed, a remarkable destroyer of elephants. There is no unequivocal evidence that attempts to have a regulated trade have created nothing but disaster - not that it was sensible to try one-off sales. Your third point may be valid, but there are potential ways of overcoming the corruption issue. Your final point may well be correct. In fact, it is. It is your implication that is incorrect. Though elephants are known to cross boundaries, combined population numbers in north western Matabeleland and northern Botswana are regarded by most ecologists to be excessive. It is true that the separate population of elephants in the Sebungwe region of Zimbabwe is declining very fast in consequence of what many consider to be a state sponsored poaching campaign. There is also growing evidence that, in consequence of the trophy hunting ban in Botswana, elephant poaching in the northern region has dramatically increased.
  7. To be honest, I had not appreciated that this thread was intended to be about yet another elephant orphanage. I had not read @@optig's link - only the text that he addressed to me which made no mention of a sanctuary and appeared to be a response to a comment I had made on the "Zimbabwe Presidential Elephant Herd" thread. I shall desist from further comment on the current thread despite my frustration with the constant repetition of @@optig's constantly repeated, non-evidence-based opinions.
  8. @optig: How many savanna elephants would you like Africa to possess? There are currently approximately 400000. How would 800000 suit you? Since you don't accept that elephant density can be excessive, perhaps a doubling of current numbers wouldn't be enough for you. However, supposing it were and that your protectionist approach to conservation actually worked (for which there is scant evidence), you would need to cull 40000 a year to stabilise at this level - more than the number being currently poached. Thus, trade in ivory could be sustainable as it could make a very substantial contribution to the $350/sq km that I have read are necessary to protect wildlife areas from poaching. Certainly, in no other way are equivalent funds likely to be found for other than small areas of potential elephant habitat. The real conservation tragedy is that some 60% of the extant elephant population is confined to territory that is being rapidly desertified while the residual percentage is scattered in suitable but insufficiently protected areas such that populations there are dwindling.
  9. Which trees? Different species respond differently to elephant damage (eg. acacia and mopane). Elephants are mixed feeders. Overgrazing tends to destroy perennial grasses, leaving less nutritious annuals. When the nutritional potential of grazing drops, elephants make greater use of browse and damage even the more tolerant species of trees. An overpopulation of elephants has adverse impacts not only on vegetation, but on other species of mammalian wildlife. Elephant populations will self-regulate, but only at levels that are unsustainable. Please read the scientific literature rather than relying on out-of-context quotes by the likes of Prince Mupazviriho. The original aim of CITES - the establishment of sustainable trade in wildlife products - has been subverted by protectionist NGOs in the developed world (they can't vote, but they do have massive influence on decisions). The Botswana ban on hunting was, I believe, a decision made by the president in response to threats of potential boycotts by photo-tourists. The decision has apparently appalled most wildlife professionals and has directly led to an upsurge in poaching. IMO, sustainable trade in ivory offers the best hope for African elephants, but only if (a big if) the proceeds go back into conservation efforts.
  10. @madaboutcheetah: I think that @@offshorebirder was addressing the hypothetical question I posed in the post above his response - namely that, if demand destruction succeeded in eliminating poaching, how would one cope with escalating elephant numbers and consequent worsening ecosystem damage? His potential solutions included translocation, immunocontraception and culling. Somewhat over 10% of the African continent's total elephant population resides in the 14000 sq km of Hwange NP. Assuming that anyone wanted to receive translocated elephants (and very few do), it would cost not less than $40 million to carry out a sufficient population reduction. Immunocontraception is good for stabilising a small population, but is an unwieldly and slow method of effecting population reduction. However, if attempted, it would cost not less than $2.5 million in year one with subsequent annual expenditure being one third of this. A cull at the rate of 10% of the population/annum would effect the needed reduction in approximately 12 years (still a long period). This would have the potential to provide a net income of around $3 million/annum were legal trading to be allowed. Thereafter, there would need to be an annual stabilisation cull of, perhaps, 5%. Whether this extra money would find its way back to front line conservation is a moot point. There are 4 fairly discrete elephant populations in Zimbabwe. Two are severely overpopulated. One is apparently crashing in consequence of over-hunting.
  11. @@RichB It is true that our species has greater impacts (often negative) on ecosystems than any other. However, in conservation terms, the effects of elephants in Hwange are not dissimilar to those of pastoralists in Laikipia. One needs to be concerned about both. I'm not sure what you were hoping to convey with your post. Are you advocating pest control? If so, whom would you like to start on? Perhaps you were merely indulging in totally unproductive virtue signalling.
  12. @optig: Sorry I'm so stupid. Clearly, you know best. An excess of elephants can never damage habitat and it is only blood lust that makes me claim they can. All relevant scientific evidence can clearly be dismissed now that you have spoken on the subject. It is surprising that your new-found wisdom comes from a newspaper article, particularly as you have currently been rubbishing another in a different Safaritalk post. Do they have to conform to your emotional prejudices before they can be deemed correct?
  13. It is my understanding that "The Presidential Herd" largely occupies a protected area close to, but outwith, Hwange NP itself. If, as reported, numbers increased from 200 to 600 in 21 years, this is entirely what one would expect for a population growing at 5%/annum - the typical increase that obtains with a protected population that is not subject to any culling by man. Clearly, this rate of growth is not sustainable in the long term. It would, therefore, be helpful if "protectionists" explained their end game - how many elephants do they want and how much habitat would they wish to set aside for elephants? They appear to believe that it will be possible to eliminate poaching by total demand destruction. If they are correct, they will, presumably, need to have an end game. As protected territory expands to meet the needs of expanding elephant numbers there will be ever increasing opposition from affected humans, themselves rapidly expanding in number. Sooner rather than later, a limit will be reached. What then?
  14. Premature press. I had intended to add pix and continue with rest of post. Will attempt to rectify: Finally, a few date factoids: The average annual per capita consumption of dates in the USA is 0.5 and, in the UK, 0.8. Consumption is vastly higher in the Arab world, peaking during Ramadan. A large date palm in full production requires 1200 litres of water/day. After this visit, we returned for lunch at Tutwa. Thereafter, Craig collected us and drove us to Augrabies. We spent about 90 minutes in the Park and saw the falls and the endemic Augrabies flat lizards. Dassies in the fall's area were highly habituated and their behaviour was in marked contrast to those we had seen in the Southern Cross GR, which were very skittish. Having left the Park, we went on to the nearby Dundi Lodge,an extremely comfortable small hotel at which we spent two nights. The manager, Berto van Zyl, was very friendly and informative. He is a partner in the Southern Cross GR, his family having originally farmed sheep on a considerable chunk of it. We were, therefore, able to glean useful information on the economics of farming domesticated stock in the region. Farmers had been very hard hit by the seven years of drought that had preceded our arrival. Some farmers in the worst hit areas had had to divest themselves of all stock. I had intended, at this stage, to conclude with a quite detailed report of a visit we made to a game breeding ranch, owned by Doppies Nel. However, I will abbreviate it because of an ongoing Safaritalk debate on the subject started by @:Janzin ("Interesting Article on Game Ranching in South Africa and its consequences"). Furthermore, @@Bugs posted a very good link to the more intensive type of game breeding ( Apparently, quite a few people, often without a lot of land, were sucked into game breeding because of the very high and escalating values of sales of individual animals. This represented a sort of pyramid selling venture. It now seems that the market is saturated and prices of animals, particularly from the more intensive farms, have plummeted. The ranch we visited was definitely an extensive operation. In fact, having driven around the ranch with Doppies for the best part of three hours, he said he was mortified by the fact that he was unable to find many animals and assumed that he was wasting our time. Given that I was able to question him continuously, this was far from the case. Furthermore, it was an important illustration that the ranch could, in no way, be classed as overstocked. In fact, Doppies explained that there were regulations in place which governed both the species and numbers of animals he was able to keep. Apparently, it was incumbent on him to obtain two independent reports from specialists before he could get permission to stock anything. This was reassuring, but seemed at odds with information contained in @@janzin's link. I would guess that the breeding ranch was stocked at similar density to the Southern Cross GR, but with different, more highly valued species. All we saw were sable, roan and tsessebe, but there were apparently.ten species represented in total. Having passed through the perimeter fence, we saw only one further fence. This was a double fence designed to prevent damage between aggressive males. The best progeny are sold for restocking and the remainder are sent to one of two hunting ranches some 150km away, both also in the ownership of Doppies as is an export farm producing grapes, citrus and nuts, which is adjacent to the breeding ranch. I gained the impression that most profits came from the export farm and that there was a hobby element to the other operations. At a guess, I would guess that the breeding farm made money and the hunting farms lost. Apparently, if hunting is confined to meat or biltong hunting, one is likely to make significantly less money than from sheep farming on an equivalent area of land. Given that sheep farming has, itself, recently been unprofitable, it would seem that a hunting ranch will only pay if patronised by foreign trophy hunters. Doppies said that if he could attract trophy hunters to shoot 20% of his surplus stock, he would do well. However, this would be difficult in the area of his hunting farms because they are remote and there is no nearby high quality accommodation. He was unwilling to make the substantial investment needed for such accommodation because he thought the risks would be too high and the payback too slow to justify. I asked bout styles of hunting. Meat hunters typically shoot from bakkies, eviscerate the animals and take the carcases home with them still in the skin. Very few trophy hunters "walk, stalk and shoot" in a manner typical of red deer stalking in the UK. The traditional method ("voorsit") involves static shooters with beaters, either on on foot or mounted on horses, moving game past them. This seems equivalent to some types of wild boar shooting in Europe. Bow hunting typically takes place from blinds, often in the vicinity of water points. It was Doppies' opinion that bow hunters tended to rank highly with respect to conservation values and that modern bows very rarely left any wounded animals that needed any follow up. In summary, I was somewhat disappointed to learn that game ranching is uncompetitive with farming domesticated stock without the high added value obtainable from foreign hunters. However, I am left wondering whether subsistence farmers on community land might not prosper more by sustainably hunting their wildlife than by continuing to keep what are generally very unproductive domesticated stock. On the final afternoon of our last full day, Craig took us on a productive fishing trip above the Falls. We then returned to Dundi Lodge. Next morning, we had a leisurely, sight seeing trip with Craig back to Upington airport for the afternoon flight.
  15. After breakfast on our final day at Tutwa Lodge, Norman drove us to Southern Farms for a visit with Louis Hanekom, now the Chief Operating Officer of Southern Cross Marketing and Management. We toured the grape and date growing and packing operations (on a site of several hundred hectares). It provided a huge educational experience for us and clearly demonstrated how, with entrepreneurial thinking, capital, commitment and water extraction rights,.a desert can be made to prosper. The owners had had the foresight to anticipate that grapes grown here, some 60-70km from the established areas and infrastructure, would ripen two weeks sooner and thus could better supply the lucrative pre-Christmas European market. Louis was the manager in charge of creating the team to make this happen, starting with road building and provision of power before even getting on to plant growing and irrigation. The farm has 1300 employees and these are accommodated in two villages. It also has a health clinic, shop, creche, sports and other facilities, all necessary because the enterprise is in the middle of nowhere. A new activity, alongside the grapes, is that of date production, which will extend and dovetail with the grape season, providing a much longer employment period for the workforce and enabling the very sophisticated and expensive packing facilities to be used more efficiently. We were fascinated by the technical details - building up soil carbon to minimise water usage, experiments with different irrigation techniques, trials to see whether date palms could be drone-pollinated compared to the normal method of hand pollination etc etc. On the way from Upington, we saw several grape farms that produce raisins -sun-dried grapes. We were told that this type of operation, though requiring much less capital, was now barely profitable. Perhaps, this characterises what is holding back development in much of Africa - lack of innovation and investment, in turn attributable in part to political insecurity. It is difficult to overstate how impressed I was with this, for me, total novel operation. I suppose its existence entirely depended upon the fact that the Orange River was tamed in the 1960s and its flow controlled such that water can be extracted all year. It is easy to suggest that exporting grapes (90+% water) from a desert region of Africa to a wet Europe seems to be an odd exercise in tipping water balance in the wrong direction. However, after much reflection, I see it as a laudable exercise which provides high levels of employment in a relatively small, concentrated area and one that does relatively little environmental damage.

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