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Everything posted by douglaswise

  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.
  16. @ pomwiki: Thank you for formalising the link to the article to which I referred. (Perhaps someone would explain how I can produce proper links - I am largely bereft of computer skills.) You appear to differentiate between culling and trophy hunting and are correct to do so. You suggest that the article is an opinion piece, lacking hard evidence, but don't necessarily rule out the need for culling. The article, as I understood it, was a synthesis of the views of a WildCRU researcher who works in Bubye Valley Conservancy. I am satisfied, if my understanding is correct, that the hard evidence does, in fact, exist and could, if deemed necessary, be obtained directly from the researcher in question. You go on to suggest that trophy hunting may do more damage to lion populations than culling by selecting against the best specimens in the gene pool. However, when carried out responsibly in a lawful manner, the opposite may, in fact, be the case. By taking out a small proportion of older male lions, one will be reducing the degree of father/daughter matings. The quality (magnificence) of the trophy will be as much or more influenced by age and plane of nutrition as by innate (genetic) factors. @inyathi has added to the debate and speculated that the minimum culling age of 6 years may not be appropriate in Zimbabwe because it was derived from Tanzanian-based studies. The benefits of trophy hunting have nothing to do with population control and everything to do with the money it provides for conservation managers. @ ZaminOz , in answering a query from @ madaboutcheetah, suggested that hunting blocks were the buffer zone. It is my understanding that he is absolutely correct. However, @madaboutcheetah responded by posting a fund-raising article by WildCRU which appeared to be seeking to exploit "Xandu's" death. Among other things, WildCRU was advocating a rind of non-hunting buffer zone around the Park. To all intents and purposes, this amounts to a substantial increase in effective Park area without indicating a means of funding its management. Given that funding is already inadequate for Hwange, one must suppose that WildCRU is visiting the realm of the cloud cuckoo.
  17. In my view, both @ pomwiki and @ Atravelynn are very likely to be correct in their assessments relating to surplus numbers of elephants contributing to habitat damage in Tsavo. However, I'm not au fait with current numbers present. What is clear, as a matter of record, is that the elephant populations of the Tsavo ecological area were damagingly excessive in the late 1960s, largely because David Sheldrick, the then warden, was encouraged to pursue a protectionist policy which almost completely eliminated poaching. Dr Dick Laws, briefly appointed as scientific director of Tsavo, was adamant that population reduction followed by annual culling was necessary to save Tsavo's habitat. He was forced to resign when his recommendations were ignored. He correctly predicted that disaster would follow when the climate predictably switched to drought conditions. When drought occurred in the early 1970s, thousands of elephants and rhinos died. More importantly, the habitat had been so damaged by elephants by this time that its subsequent recovery was limited. Thus, the current biodiversity and sustainable carrying capacity is now almost certainly very much less than it would have been had Laws rather than Sheldrick held sway. @ pomwiki is correct to conclude that culling in Kruger was not deemed to be a success and has now been abandoned. However, it is necessary to understand why. When elephant numbers in the Kruger were increasing, there were no signs of significant ecological damage (and, arguably, indications of greater species heterogeneity) till they reached 3500 - representing a density of approximately 0.17/sq km. Thereafter, numbers grew to 7000 (the number that was supposed to be maintained by management culling. However, protectionist opposition limited and eventually stopped management culling and elephant numbers are now around 15000. Once numbers passed 3500 there was progressive loss of top cover trees, an indicator of habitat damage. Having lost culling as a management tool, Park authorities have adopted a new approach. They are reducing numbers of artificial water points, so forcing the majority of mammalian species that depended on them (most) into starvation or emigration and they have attempted to provide additional territory by removing the fence which precluded travel into Mozambique, opening the way for a massive increase in poaching. In my judgement, the actions of the Park authorities represent a dereliction of duty forced upon them by well-meaning protectionists. It is important to realise that man has been a keystone predator of elephants for at least one thousand years.and that the species has no other significant predators. If predation by man is prevented, elephant populations will double every 14 years until they run out of food at which point they will self-regulate their numbers. However, this will only occur well beyond the point of sustainable carrying capacity. At maximum carrying capacity, elephants are "living on capital" rather than on "interest" and causing considerable and sometimes irreversible habitat damage as well as dominating the biomass to the detriment of all other species. It is also important to appreciate that wildlife habitats have been shrunk by man's activities and that laissez faire approaches that worked in the past are no longer an option. The provision of artificial water points in arid and semi-arid environments is a simple and effective means of increasing stocking densities to compensate for reduced space. However, because this puts more pressure on the habitat resources, its monitoring becomes extremely important and culling will become necessary to maintain species balance and to prevent the sustainable carrying capacities from progressing toward maximum capacities.
  18. It is, perhaps, understandable that some correspondents here are revolted to learn of the death of this picturesque lion at the hands of a trophy hunter. However, I would implore them to set their gut instincts aside and, at least, try to understand the issue from a conservation perspective. I genuinely believe, along with many others, that African wildlife and African people would benefit enormously from a move away from a protectionist model of conservation towards one embracing sustainable use. However, it seems to me that the majority of those who express opinions on this subject on Safaritalk take a protectionist stance and are so sure of their moral superiority that they refuse even to attempt to understand or address any evidence that conflicts with their worldviews. However, for those with more open minds, might I suggest that they read about the Bubye Valley Conservancy ( and, in particular, to the following article on the subject of lion culling: . This article represents an excellent starting point for more informed debate. I do hope that many of the protectionists here take the trouble to read it and, if they disagree with any of it, to explain why.
  19. My wife ® and I visited Northern Cape Province from 17th to 28th of February, 2017. We spent two nights at Tutwa Desert Lodge in the private Southern Cross Game Reserve followed by three nights fly camping on the banks of the Orange River. We followed this with a further two nights at Tutwa before spending our final two nights at Dundi Lodge. The whole package was put together for us by Craig Eksteen of Kalahari Adventures ( Craig was able to arrange a programme that fully met our joint interests and requests. In part, this was made possible by the fact that his company is run in association with Southern Cross Farms, a private company started by the Steenkamp family, which has export farms producing table grapes and dates and which also owns Tutwa Desert Lodge, set in its own 185 sq km game reserve, the Southern Cross Game Reserve, and Dundi Lodge on the outskirts of Augrabies NP ( Our arrival/departure airport was Upington. Our objectives were as follows: 1) To learn about wildlife management as undertaken on private South African reserves, game breeding farms and hunting ranches. 2) To look at alternative land uses and their relative economics. 3) To catch yellow fish on the fly. 4) To maximise opportunities for night drives in search of less often seen small nocturnal mammals. 5) To see Augrabies Falls and, particularly, its endemic flat (rainbow) lizards. The name of the region we visited is correctly called Bushmanland, but, sometimes, it is known as the Green Kalahari. Average annual rainfall, almost all occurring in the very hot summers, is about 150-200mm. However, this is somewhat meaningless because there is huge inter-annual variation and the rainfall is very patchy or spotty such that one ranch or part of a ranch can miss rain altogether while neighbouring land can receive large amounts. Prior to our visit, there had been seven years of relative drought, terminated about three months before our arrival by good rains. Although we chose to confine ourselves to a relatively small and circumscribed area, other visitors to the region could readily combine it with trips to Kgalagadi to the north or, if wishing to experience the wild flower spectacular in the spring (mid August to end of September), to Namaqualand NP and also to Richtersveld World Heritage Site (endemic karoo desert succulents), both to the west. I will divide the report into sections, which will not necessarily be chronological, and start with Tutwa Desert Lodge and its associated game reserve. However, before getting started, I think it appropriate to say that we adjudged the whole trip to be an outstanding success. Craig's organisation was immaculate and he had arranged very interesting and highly educational visits for us. In addition, we enjoyed his company and appreciated his great patience and that of his team in providing hands-on assistance to a pair of inexpert, geriatric fishers. We were met with great hospitality and kindness everywhere and my only complaint, as one with little self-control, was that the quantity and quality of food was such that I gained 10 lbs in 9 days and R has been starving me ever since. TUTWA DESERT LODGE and SOUTHERN CROSS GAME RESERVE: We were met by Craig at Upington and he drove us directly to Tutwa, a journey of just over two hours, providing biltong and sausage to munch on the way and appropriate fluids with which to wash them down. We arrived mid-afternoon and got settled in. We discovered that we were the only visitors and had the lodge and reserve to ourselves (for all of our stay). Although 20 people can apparently stay, I think this very rarely happens. The Steenkamp family sometimes use it for themselves and friends and it is also used to put up international business people visiting Southern Cross Farms. Most of the time, however, it has very few tourists staying because the area is not on an established tourist route. We were given tea after we'd sorted ourselves out, followed not long after by dinner, which we took, as in the case of most of our other meals at Tutwa, with Norman Mesekwa. Norman was our cheerful and knowledgeable game guide throughout our time on the game reserve and he even came on our Orange River float trip because he had no other guests to look after. After our meal, we set off on a short night drive - short because, by this time, we had been travelling and largely sleepless for 28 hours. We saw plenty of spring and scrub hares, but, until near the end, nothing much else of note. Then, Norman detected eyeshine in a bush beside the track. He stopped and probed around with his lamp. This provoked a zorilla to hurry out and disappear under another bush about 20 m away. We had an excellent clear sighting as it travelled over clear ground between bushes. I failed to take a photograph. Due to dearth of guests and, particularly, those interested in night driving, Norman hasn't driven very much at night in the reserve and had never himself seen a zorilla therein before. However, they and aardwolves are apparently quite common road kill in the area. Next day, we had a full morning drive from about 0.800hrs to 13.00hrs plus a late afternoon/sundowner/night drive from about 15.30 till 20.00hrs. These gave us our first real impressions of the reserve. It was our first semi-desert experience. There was plenty of red sandy soil to be seen between shrubs and tussocks of grass. The terrain was rocky, extremely undulating and the scenery was spectacular. Quiver trees were the most emblematic of the trees and sociable weavers seemed selectively to persecute them by the erection of nests. The main shrub/scrub was camel thorn, which seems to provide the principal source of browse. Along dry river beds, there were occasional specimens of rock figs. Two types of euphorbias were very common, but, apparently, of little to no use for animal nutrition - as was the case for several other shrub species. The most obvious grasses were Bushman grass and Kalahari sourgrass. At the time of our visit, these were well grown, seeding plants (in consequence of rain three weeks previously) and seemed to have lost their attraction to grazers. I wasn't clear what the grazers actually were eating unless there were less mature stages of the same species available. The mature grass is apparently consumed as a last resort towards the end of the dry season. The reserve is fenced except along its frontage with the Orange Rive and has an area of 185 sq km. There are between 6 and 9 leopards (fences don't contain them) on the property which are subject to a research project. We didn't see any and there are no other large cats. Norman enumerated the approximate numbers of mesoherbivores present (i.e. no dassies included, but counting ostriches as honorary mammals) and the sum was in the region of 1000. Springbok, including occasional black ones, made up about 40% of the total and gemsbok 25%. Klipspringers were also quite common. Other species present were giraffe, eland, zebra, red hartebeest, blue wildebeest, kudu, impala and steenbok. We saw representatives of all these species, but the three steenbok we saw were all at night. From a photographic point of view, I could have done with a longer lens (current max of 450mm at 35mm equivalent). I have scenery shots and animals in scenery, but no real animal portraits. The game was spooky and I'll discuss possible reasons later. There were, no doubt, many species of birds, but no profusion of other than LBJs I think the sociable weaver was, by far, the commonest of the LBJs and the pale chanting goshawk the most prevalent raptor. I'll end this first part of the post with some pix. The best, to the extent that the term can be applied, were probably taken by Norman using R's superzoom bridge camera. Sourgrass Bushman grass The biggest sociable weaker colony that we saw - fortunately not at the expense of a quiver tree
  20. @Tom Kellie: I think that the article to which you link provides an extremely important collection and analysis of data. These represent a very serious indictment of Kenya's conservation policy. I suggest that supporters of protectionist policies ought to read this paper and either point out why the authors' conclusions are wrong or, alternatively, abandon their ideas and, instead, support a sustainable use policy.
  21. @Tom Kellie, It seems you have cited a perfect example of interesting academic research that affords little of use to wildlife managers. The results, dressed in fancy language, were entirely in line with those that could have been predicted by any competent nutritionist without ever having done the field work (based on basic theory). Mpala provides a base for visiting researchers. Perhaps the exercise was planned to give a research student practice or a more senior researcher a cheap holiday.
  22. @offshorebirder: I think you have made very good, relevant and valid points.
  23. @Towlersonsafari: The answer to your question is no. That is why I wrote "may represent" and not "does represent". In a previous debate, I acknowledged that orphanages may produce funding over and above that needed to run them and generate profit for owners thereof. However, I suspect that this extra funding is likely to go to to animal protectionist- rather than to conservation-based causes. I accept that, in areas where there is a serious poaching problem, the causes may overlap.
  24. @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.
  25. @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.

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