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About douglaswise

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  1. @Towlersonsafari: I haven't read the book to which you refer. I am prepared to accept that zebra and wildebeest (long and short grass grazers respectively) will initially increase in consequence of acquiring more grazing close to surface water. It is less certain that there is a causal correlation between their increased numbers and the declining numbers of roan and sable. I have, for example, read that anthrax might be a more important cause of the latter. The species that benefits most from the provision of artificial water holes is undoubtedly the elephant, the numbers and biomass of which increase to the long term detriment of most other herbivores. Absenting this rise in elephant numbers, one might hope that other herbivores would remain in balance with the food available to them, given that any increases above that might be checked by corresponding increases in predator numbers. However, as I previously stated, I lack sufficient knowledge to have great confidence in this hope. I can say, however, that there is good evidence that the Kruger elephant culls, even before they were terminated, were never sufficient to reduce them to a sustainable carrying capacity - in fact, they continued to increase in number. One cannot say that a policy has failed if it hasn't been properly implemented. If, indeed, water holes, as you suggest, increase lion density to levels that won't allow rarer antelope to survive, I'd be more likely to advocate lion culling in parts of the Park where one wishes to support them than to close water holes.
  2. @Csaba: While I appreciate that the post you were referencing was made 5 years ago, I think you have raised one of the most important subjects that bear on the future of African wildlife conservation, namely the provision of artificial water holes. It tends to divide those who believe that "nature" should be protected from man and those who think that conservation of wildlife is best served by active management. There is undoubtedly some truth in your assertion of habitat homogenisation. This, undoubtedly has some downsides of which you cited one (lions v wild dogs). Another might be elephants v baobabs (and many other trees). However, there are also upsides provided by the provision of artificial water holes. They allow a greater diversity and biomass of mammalian wildlife than would otherwise occur. This might be regarded as a good thing because human population growth is inevitably pushing wildlife into smaller areas and those that are unsuitable for farming, often because of lack of surface water. However, it is only a good thing while the vegetation in the area remains sustainable and is not totally or partially destroyed by excessive consumption. In the natural course of things, this will, without intervention, naturally happen. I think there is good evidence to suggest that some increase in grazing biomass, occasioned by water hole provision, may increase plant productivity. However, the initial increase can be followed by catastrophic decline if biomass keeps growing. Thus, I would argue that artificial water hole provision is generally desirable, but ONLY if mammalian biomass is kept to sustainable levels by predators or by culling. Clearly, elephants pose the biggest challenge because lions won't have much effect on their numbers, leaving culling as the only option. I accept that the "guild of predator" effect will disadvantage wild dogs and agree with your cited article in its suggestion of how this situation can be ameliorated. The whole subject of the effects of artificial water hole provision, be they beneficial or adverse, is immensely complex and requires a detailed understanding of primary plant productivity. I do not have such understanding and would love to learn more. However, I am certain that buying uncontrolled growth of elephants with water holes is akin to humans buying economic growth by unsustainable borrowing - it can't go on for long.
  3. @Sangeeta: Thank you for your gracious response in post #46 and the subsequent link to the academic paper relating to the GEC. In fact, I had already read it in some detail and have discussed it with others. You are, of course, correct to highlight the main lesson of the GEC, namely that elephants are severely under-represented in the so-called "protected" areas of many range states. This was already well known to most interested people before the publication of the GEC, but the latter provided a very useful summary of the entire continental situation. I might add that there has been some questioning by other authorities as to the validity of the GEC figures for Botswana and Zimbabwe (combined). There has apparently been a huge reduction in the numbers of elephants relative to those of the previous and relatively recent census which cannot readily be explained entirely by poaching. This raises methodology questions. Dr Chase has been asked for an explanation, but, apparently, has failed to respond. I am very happy to agree with you that, in most range states and over the great majority of elephant -suitable protected area, the principal aims of conservationists must be to protect wildlife from poaching by policing and by enabling local communities to benefit more from its presence. It is only in some 15% of the total protected area that elephant numbers may be deemed excessive. Unfortunately, 60% of all elephants reside in this 15% (all in Botswana and Zimbabwe). Table 2 of the GEC Report highlights this by showing densities/sq km of protected area on a country by country basis. Even this, however, fails to give the full picture. For example, there would appear to be four separate populations of elephants in Zimbabwe. Three are stable or increasing in number. One (Sebungwe) is being progressively wiped out by poaching. Local overpopulation can thus be even worse than implied by the GEC data. It is, of course, my contention that conservation managers should be just as (or more) concerned over problems of under-population as by those of local over-population. However, on this site, I have tended to emphasise the latter because they are often ignored. I have written a document (unpublished) that sets out my detailed views on the subject, but it is about 8 pages long - which would be excessive to post here. However, should you (or anyone else) care to read it, please contact me on the Personal Messaging Service and I will send it. It is a work in progress and my views are subject to alteration in the light of new or alternative evidence. I would thus be grateful for constructive and unemotional criticism. It is my personal view that, perhaps, the person who made the greatest contribution to an an understanding of elephant population dynamics and conservation was Dick Laws, who died in 2014. Part of his autobiography is freely available on line ( ) I won't pretend that it is well written. Nevertheless, Chapters 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13 are, in my opinion, essential reading for those who have a serious interest in elephant conservation. The author's elephant studies took place in Murchison Falls NP (Uganda) and Tsavo NP (Kenya). These were contrasting Parks (high fertility/high rainfall in the former and the opposite in the latter). Another major contributor to an understanding of elephant ecology is John Hanks. His very readable and well-illustrated book, "The Struggle for Survival - The Elephant Problem" describes his research on elephants in Zambia. I think it is now out of print, but still obtainable through Amazon. I would also like to mention the work of Graham Child in Zimbabwe.
  4. @Sangeeta: I have read the article you cited which concerns Dr Chase and Elephants without Borders. In it, Chase acknowledges that current elephant numbers in Botswana are "causing lots of damage to the environment and worsening human-wildlife conflicts" and goes on to state that "Chobe's current population is unsustainable..." To this extent, his views are consistent with those I have previously been expressing on Safaritalk and to which you appear to take exception. I think the key issue relates to the reasons for this overpopulation. Dr Chase appears to believe it to be due to the fact that elephants are using Botswana as a sanctuary from persecution in neighbouring countries. In other words, were the persecution to be prevented, the elephant metapopulation would spread itself more evenly such that no ecosystem damage would occur. It is correct to state that Dr Chase has, by dint of satellite tracking, added a great deal of fine detail relating to elephant movements in and adjacent to Botswana. However, elephant movement patterns in the region were already well understood before his work began (eg Four Corners Elephant Study). Thus, the fact that elephants move is well understood. One should be more concerned as a conservationist with why they move. One reason is obviously the dry season movement towards surface water. This could legitimately be described as an annual migration and it is clearly important not to block access between wet and dry season ranges. It is also true that fencing or harassment can prevent access to some otherwise suitable habitat and thus may cause overcrowding in "sanctuary" areas. What is often not acknowledged is that, given adequate feed and water, elephants will generally stay put until one or other resource becomes limiting, generally water. More importantly, elephant numbers can double every 14 years in the absence of human persecution and this potential to multiply will eventually lead to loss of other wildlife species and habitat damage before population self limitation (slower breeding, higher mortality and emigration) and hence stability are established. It could be that there is currently sufficient elephant-suitable habitat in the region to allow the current numbers to exist without ecosystem damage by opening up corridors and providing greater protection. There may even be scope for expansion in numbers (eg in Angola and Zambia). However, sooner or later, one will be faced with dealing with the damaging consequences of overpopulation (when all elephant-suitable habitat is occupied at sustainable density and before it is "full up"). Arguably, as far as Botswana and Eastern Zimbabwe are concerned, this time has already been reached. @Sangeeta is correct to find me gloomy in consequence of her ecstacy over the Botswana hunting ban. I believe it will reduce the area of elephant-suitable habitat that will be tolerated by the local population. She believes that this can be avoided by upping ecotourist numbers. I hope, but very much doubt, that she is right.
  5. I entirely agree with @Tallybalt's comments relating to Porini's main camps. I have no experience of their adventure camps. Luxury over and above that provided in the main camps is, to me, incompatible with and detracts from a proper safari experience, quite apart from costing more. I was totally happy with the guides and trackers I experienced at Porini Mara and Porini Lion Camps in February 2016.
  6. @inyathi: I concur with your above comments generally, but am confused by the first sentence. It is self- evident that trophy hunting per se has minimal impact upon elephant population numbers. However, the banning of legal hunting creates a void (quite apart from depriving local communities of income) into which poachers can move. Poachers obviously do impact adversely upon elephant numbers. Thus, hunting does, indeed, seem to have an effect, albeit an indirect one. The effect will, of course, be in a direction opposite to that which @optig supposes. I accept that the question of how best to deal with surplus elephant populations is a separate one and the final sentence in my previous post was, perhaps, somewhat mischievous.
  7. Enjoy your ecstasy. It is not universally shared and there is reasonably good evidence from some conservationists on the ground (and I'm not referring exclusively to trophy hunters) that the hunting ban is already having the effect of increasing levels of poaching. That having been said, one might argue that a population of 130000 is excessive from the viewpoint of habitat sustainability and that poachers are providing a service that wildlife managers are precluded from undertaking by protectionists such as yourself.
  8. I have learned a lot from this report and enjoyed reading it. In the hope of obtaining a bit more detail, I have sent you a personal message.
  9. @inyathi: Once again, you are making assumptions about my motives which cannot be justified by what I wrote. As a matter of fact, I did not assume that WildCRU had been lying. In fact, I suggested that the question was somewhat beside the point in terms of lion conservation and also that it was possible that neither side necessarily lied. My criticism of WildCRU relates to its exploitation of the situation for fund raising purposes - something you accept, but consider legitimate. I recently enlarged on this on another thread under the research/scientific paper banner ("What does trophy hunting contribute to wild lion conservation?") and will therefore not do so here. If one is more concerned about expanding lion numbers than about shrinking hunter numbers, I made the suggestion that lessons might be learnt from studying the situation in the Bubye Valley Conservancy. It is my understanding that its density of wild lions is higher than anywhere else in Africa, that its funding is principally derived from hunting, that it doesn't cater to ecotourists and that its survival is now threatened by airline bans on the transport of trophies. Lion density in Hwange is less than half, quite probably due to lower prey numbers occasioned by elephant excess. I don't argue with the facts you present. Instead, I am more concerned with those which you ignore. I have asked questions in my various posts that you haven't addressed. As it happens, I, too, find the idea of shooting baited lions to be somewhat distasteful - I would be happier with tracking and stalking on foot. However, we might both agree that such personal feelings are not relevant in terms of wild lion conservation. I would, however, like to learn why hunting and conservation appear to be such a good match at Bubye, but not elsewhere. I'm sure it probably comes down to good regulation and absence of corruption. How can this be achieved elsewhere? Do land ownership rights need reform? Positive ideas and comments, please
  10. @cosmic rhino; I have read the Mammal Review paper by Macdonald et al to which you link. It discusses all the obvious factors that may impact badly on lions and it is generally anodyne. However, as is reasonable and to be expected, the authors make great play of the fact that there remain many unknowns. A cynical wildlife manager might well take the view that this is a typical plea by researchers for more funding so that they can continue doing the things they enjoy doing rather than getting on with practical solutions - an investigative rather than problem solving approach. (Patients would suffer much more if their doctors awaited complete knowledge of a particular syndrome before attempting treatment. Nevertheless, acquisition of further knowledge is likely to be beneficial in the long run. If funding is likely to be inadequate or limited, one must ask how it should be divided between research and treatment.) That said, their discussion is well referenced and comprehensive. I became uneasy when I read the authors' comments in the final "Ethics and Hindsight" Section. By this stage, rather than considering the total picture, they appeared to focus entirely upon the pros and cons of "trophy hunting", giving the impression, belied in their earlier sections, that this was possibly the main factor determining lion conservation. They went on to state that not all conservationists agreed that a utilitarian perspective on "trophy hunting" is the right one and even questioned whether sustainability was a criterion of good management, stating it to be ethically questionable when "applied to lion hunting (or to any killing of animals for "sport"). I began to wonder, at this stage, how they were defining the term, "conservationist". Were they including the full range of those who might describe themselves as such from full-blown bunny-hugging animal rightists through to wildlife professionals? It is apparent that WildCRU has benefited greatly from mining funds from the former and it is reasonable, therefore, to question their objectivity. When the authors make the statement that "it is clear, though, that, if lion hunters aspire to be tolerated, they must demonstrate radical reform (and that may not be enough)", they are hardly demonstrating impartiality. Clearly, lion hunting should be sustainable and all causes of lion deaths are likely to be additive. Nevertheless, by focusing on possibly the least important factor in the declining population, one is showing evidence of cognitive bias. In my experience, reform with the intention of pacifying the animal rights lobby will never satisfy it and will inevitably lead to total defeat. Nevertherless, not all "protectionists" have strong animal rights beliefs and many have reached their positions because they believe that their views are compatible with or even necessary for good conservation. It is incumbent upon those who believe that sustainable use offers the best hope for African wildlife to attempt to convert reasonable "protectionists" to their point of view while accepting that they will always be damned by genuine animal rightists.
  11. @inyathi: I don't disagree with that much in your last post. However, I don't believe that WildCru's primary purpose is "conservation specifically of wild predators" ( why not ask David McDonald?). I will accept that, in partnership with Panthera, it has become an important part. I also resent being misquoted followed by the dogmatic statement that I'm incorrect. In answering someone else's post in which it was claimed that trophy hunting could harm the lion gene pool, I replied, stating that it MAY benefit it by reducing numbers of father daughter matings. You took the trouble to look into this and cited research that suggested that ,when young females reached puberty they were LIKELY to disperse if the original pride male was still dominating (comparative rates of dispersal in the case of a changing pride male were not cited). You actually misquoted me by saying definitively that I had claimed that removing old males benefits the gene pool, missing out a subjunctive. Perhaps, as a layman, you don't appreciate that this is other than semantics. As a retired research scientist, I find it unacceptable. You go on to suggest that killing a pride male allows the opportunity for a weaker male to take its place and imply that weaker males will have poorer genes. On balance, there may be some truth in this. However, relative weakness, as I pointed out, is not necessarily genetically determined. Furthermore, as you acknowledge later, males form coalitions. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that a pair of weaker males can displace a single, stronger animal. This will be constantly happening in a healthy lion population. The biggest predator of lions is lions. If they weren't always killing each other, there'd be far too many - provided an adequate prey population existed . There is absolutely no doubt that lion numbers are in serious decline and the causes are well known (though that doesn't necessarily mean that researchers will move on to more useful studies). We can agree that poorly regulated hunting is one cause, but probably not of huge significance relative to habitat fragmentation, degradation and poaching. However, when any population is in decline, even minor causes add to major ones to exacerbate the fall (something you seem to ignore in the case of raptors and songbirds). In the case of well-regulated hunting, do you think that shooting the occasional male, even if he is a pride male, will reduce the overall lion population? Are more dependant cubs killed than would have been the case had the ousting of pride males been left to other males? I'm aware that cessation of lion hunting in Zimbabwe was followed by an increase in numbers in monitored (researched) areas, but I don't know if numbers increased across, for example, Hwange, as a whole. However, part of the reason for a buffer zone is to allow population reduction here rather than elsewhere in a park. By sucking males out of the centre into the periphery in consequence of trophy hunting, it is entirely possible that levels of intra-lion conflict and hence cub mortality in core areas may be reduced. As far as I'm aware, researchers tend to concentrate their attention round the edges. Of course, another reason to have a buffer zone with trophy hunting is to push potentially damaging wildlife away from human populations and back to the core. Are animals being sucked out or pushed in?
  12. I think the stage has almost been reached where it will become necessary to fence wildlife in rather than out, which, I understand, is described as "fortress conservation". However, this, too, can have a downside - as is demonstrated by current disturbances in Laikipia County (large well-managed areas in private ownership generate envy). Pastoralism, which recognises no boundaries and in which numbers of domesticated animals owned represent status, is a doomed way of life. Local communities should be allowed to own wildlife and be encouraged to live in a cash economy. This, if properly regulated (???), might allow them to benefit rather than to suffer from the presence of wild animals. The sorts of benefits they might choose to derive could be left for individual communities to decide. They might include ecotourism, trophy hunting, management hunting for meat and, with a more enlightened international conservation strategy, sustainable trading in ivory, rhino horn and even lion products. It is only in this way that areas suitable for wildlife can expand rather than risk shrinkage from human pressures. Wildlife is a potentially very valuable resource from which local communities in Kenya cannot fully benefit. Instead, most of the proceeds from its exploitation end up in the hands of corrupt politicians, officials and crime syndicates. If one doesn't have any faith that governance in African States can be rapidly improved - with corruption largely reduced, proper regulations observed and enlightened legislation introduced to open economic opportunities - one can more or less kiss goodbye to the survival of wildlife as a spectacle. Perhaps, these are merely the ramblings of an old man who has witnessed the changes happening in Africa for 67 years and not much cared for what he has seen. I find it particularly depressing that well-meaning international protectionist NGOs are exacerbating the situation.
  13. @madaboutcheetah: I'm astonished that you asked that question. The WildCRU press release relating to "Xanda" was clearly attempting to exploit the event for financial gain and, from my perspective, detracts from some useful research that its field researchers undertake. Obviously, the latter require funding, but to attempt to raise it by whipping up hysteria among protectionists in order to part them from their money has the downside of making the organisation appear to be far from impartial. Their statement starts to go off the rails with the first mention of David MacDonald and "Cecil" Movements and Summits. WildCRU's primary purpose is, I believe, to resolve human/wildlife conflict. I do not believe that the emotional statements in the press release do anything other than to detract from this brief. It would be far more useful to discuss the facts rather than the motivation. It is, of course, interesting to determine whether the lion in question was, in fact, an active or ousted pride male as this would allow an assessment of which side had been lying and had thus lost credibility. However, it could be that neither was and that muddled communications fitted more with a "cock up" than a "conspiracy" explanation. At the end of the day, none of this has a lot to do with sensible management of lions in and around National Parks. In a previous post on this thread I referred to Bubye Valley Conservancy, which has too many lions. If there is plenty of food and water in a protected area, one will always tend to have too many lions with or without "trophy hunting". In Hwange, there probably isn't plenty of lion food because elephants, a generally unsuitable prey species, dominate the biomass to the detriment of the habitat and all other mammalian prey species and consequently of predators themselves. It is also worth considering WildCRU's call for a 5 km non-hunting buffer around the Park's periphery. Implicit in this demand is a total disdain for real world economics and the interests of the local population. Presumably, the extra land demanded would have no potential to generate money other than, possibly, from ecotourists. To all intents and purposes, therefore, WildCRU is demanding an extension of the National Park . The Park is already 14000 sq km in area and severely underfunded. If it were totally circular in circumference, a 5 km extension round the edge would expand the Park size by 15%. As it is not circular, the effective size would increase more. One can imagine WildCRU demanding an ever expanding protection zone until such time as the buffer zone bumps into human-exploited areas, but it is probably much more likely that the local human population would, with some justification, move into the otherwise unexploited buffer zone.
  14. @ Game Warden: If the statement from the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association is correct, it shows up the statement from WildCRU, quoted by@ madaboutcheetah, in a very poor light. It seems that the latter's fund raising department is attempting to place as bad a construction on the story as possible for financial gain.
  15. A research report, entitled "Cattle Barons", can be found on The Conservation Imperative website. It provides an analysis of the background to the land grabs in Laikipia. It concludes that the problem is being fomented by politicians and other non pastoralists, that it pre-dates the drought and is unlikely to end as a result of good rains. An ongoing problem was exacerbated by relatively recent changes to the constitution, aimed at reducing corruption and devolving power to the regions, but this had the opposite effect to that intended. The author concludes that, in any event, the culture of pastoralism is unsustainable due both to too many people,far too many cattle and social networking (mobile phones) which has broken the bonds between disaffected armed youth and their supposed ruling elders.

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