• Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by douglaswise

  1. I decided to deal with the various conservation lessons that I learnt at Majete in a separate discussion rather than in my previous trip report. I then used some of them in answer to questions raised in other discussions, notably one on Gucci Grace. At @Game Warden's instigation, I'll carry on here. However, I've decided to add "finance" to the tags. In my judgement, it is not possible to consider conservation without discussing how it is going to be paid for. At the end of the Gucci Grace dialogue, @For Wildlife seemed to suggest that managing land for profit somehow invalidated any contribution that it could make to conservation even when the land in question was being run as a wildlife ranch. In the case of very small and intensively-run ranches, his point is plausible. For ranches in excess of 40 sq km, I consider him generally to be wrong. It may be correct that fenced ranches of less than, say, 100 sq km are not ideal for predators and even that it may sometimes be prudent to kill predators getting on to them, this doesn't mean that they are making no contribution to conservation - of habitat and of herbivores. Man is merely replacing lions as the apex predator and is doing so in a sustainable manner. Zonal conservation is a perfectly valid and, often, useful concept and implies that one doesn't need to conserve everything in a single area. Most wildlife ranches in South Africa have been created from extensive cattle ranches on non-formally protected areas. Surely, this extra space for wildlife should be lauded rather than dismissed? Wildlife numbers have increased by 70% in three decades in South Africa and have reduced by the same amount in Kenya. @For Wildlife seemed to be appalled that I ascribed a value to the the herbivores that would be killed at Majete should target predator numbers be reached. I chose to apply monetary value in order to allow me to contrast this with tourist income received by the Reserve. (This will continue to grow, but, in my opinion, ecotourism alone will never cover all the costs). If he would prefer, I can put in an approximate tonnage of animals killed/annum by 30 lions, 40 hyaenas and 50 leopards. The figure is 320 tonnes (about 1775 grazing/browsing units). I do accept, however, that there would be costs associated with acquiring the meat in the form of harvesting, skinning ,butchering and distribution. (For interest, I didn't give any value to hides and costed the meat at $2/kg). As a matter of fact, any game rancher relying purely on meat sales is unlikely to cover his costs. He will almost certainly need additional income from hunting or ecotourism to do so. Many, of course, own game ranches for philanthropic reasons and expect to make affordable losses. It is the intention of African Parks eventually to make profits or break even on all the protected areas they run. Simultaneously, they recognise it as their duty to enhance the living conditions of local communities. Furthermore, AP has ambitions to increase the area of land under management. This will require ever greater donor contributions ($33 million in 2016) unless net running costs can be markedly reduced. Presently costs exceed income by more than 90%. AP has been able to make management agreements in many sub-Saharan states because their governments are only too conscious of losing money in trying to protect protected areas. AP absolves the governments from this unsustainable funding and puts in place a management structure that will generally supply adequate resources for good protection. There are currently about 2.7 million sq km of sub-Saharan Africa with protected status. Presently, AP is managing only just over 2% (at an approximate cost of $500/sq km). The vast majority of protected areas are substantially underfunded. Partial funding provides very little protection and may even exacerbate problems with poaching by creating alienation of local communities and employees. Currently, there seems to much enthusiasm among conservationists for the creation of trans-frontier parks. This is a fine principle in theory, but it is seeking more wildlife territory when even existing territory can't be managed properly with the resources available. I am concerned that many here may equate profit with greed and, as such, a vice. I regard it as a measure of efficiency. AP, a not for profit organisation, aims eventually to make Majete into a self-financing Reserve. This will free funds for investment into the management of other protected areas throughout Africa. In my opinion, most conservation bodies and wildlife donor organisations fail to achieve their objectives because they seem to bury the need for efficiency under a cloak of idealism. I haven't really got to the subjects which I feel most comfortable to discuss, but I'll stop here to allow others to comment on financial matters.
  2. @Towlersonsafari and @inyathi: Partly to escape the trade arguments and get the discussion back on topic, I thought I'd bring the following to your attention: "Predicting the effects of woody encroachment on mammal communities, grazing biomass and fire frequency in African savannas" by Smit and Prins, 2015 ( You may, of course, already be familiar with this paper. I found it to be very useful and informative. It was disappointing to me that the authors omitted elephants from their deliberations because they are, arguably, the greatest drivers of woody encroachment. However, they acknowledged this weakness and explained their rationale at the end of the discussion. The main conclusions were that: 1) Grazers mainly suffered from woody encroachment, but that their reduced biomass was fully compensated by an increased biomass of browsers and mixed feeders. 2) Overall species biodiversity was reduced as woody encroachment increased. 3) Total biomass/sq km was, unsurprisingly, very significantly greater on fertile (basaltic) soils than of less fertile (granitic) soils. 4) Fire frequency declines with woody encroachment. All interesting, but, because elephants make up more than 50% of mammalian biomass in the Kruger (where the data were collected), one regrets not receiving the full picture. One reason given for their exclusion was that they had not reached stable levels (dictated by food availability), but the authors ignored the fact that predation on most of the other species studied means that food availability isn't necessarily the only determinant of their "stable" levels either. I would argue that man has always been the keystone predator of elephants and that it is, therefore, unfortunate that they were excluded from the study.
  3. The figure of $25000/animal/year above (line 4) is a mistake. $28000 minus ($7000 + $2000 (admin fee)) = $19000. Just as white rhinos have made possible the expansion of wildlife in South Africa from 6% to 19% of land area, so do legal horn sales have the potential to provide similar conservation benefits to much of sub-Saharan Africa. As an example, harvested horn from as few as 1600 animals would produce as much annual income for wildlife protection as that received annually by African Parks. The potential benefits of trade should not be dismissed lightly.
  4. A private rhino breeder is able to sell live animals. One can monitor the the S. African auction prices. It would seem that these are falling. I believe the current price is around $30000 for a young adult. I would conservatively estimate that a harvest of 0.8 kg/annum of horn/animal could be obtained from a white rhino. Valued at $35000/kg, this would translate to $28000/animal/annum. I would suggest that horn could be sold by producers to the CSO for circa $7000/kg and still leave them with a reasonable rate of return. This should provide at least $25000/animal/year for distribution to conserved areas. It would be important for rhino breeders to be able to cover their costs and make reasonable profits, but there would be no necessity to enrich them. There would only be one buyer to dictate the buying price - breeders could take it or leave it. The CSO would need to ensure that it left a reasonably generous margin for licensed purchasers so that their home governments could tax them and thus justify proper trade regulation. One might, for example, expect a final retail price of some $60000/kg. I think that many private rhino breeders have philanthropic and conservation motives and are not primarily driven by desire for the acquisition of excessive wealth. I would envisage that, with legal trade, most horn would emanate in the future from private conservancies and public protected areas. The primary role of private breeders would then probably be focused on the provision of live animals for restocking. The currently falling prices of such are a reflection of the fact that the market for them is shrinking in the absence of a legal trade. It would be expected to escalate with legal trade resumption and breeders might then be able to look forward to improved live sale prices. You state that "in the past opening up legal trade opened up lots of opportunities for illegal trade". I think you would be hard put to provide unequivocal evidence to back this unqualified assertion, but, as mentioned previously, we are dealing with matters about which I lack expertise or detailed experience. I hope to be able to discuss them in detail with acknowledged authorities in the not too distant future and will then feel more confident in making pronouncements. At the moment, I'm merely challenging the received wisdom pumped out by protectionist NGOs and suggesting that alternatives to demand destruction are worthy of serious consideration. My 90% figure for fake horn came from a document I read yesterday which was promoting tissue culture-produced horn. Although I have read similar assertions on several sources on the internet, I wouldn't suggest that any were particularly reliable with respect to precise percentages. I'm sure there must be several categories of fake, some convincing enough to fool other than experts or even analysts and others scarcely able to fool tourists. Equally, powdered horn could be diluted with or totally replaced by non-rhino product. It would be necessary, too, to distinguish between the proportion of fake material offered for sale and the proportion actually purchased. I think, therefore, that we should both content ourselves with the assumption that there's a lot of fake material out there. .
  5. @ForWildlife: Obviously, there is no definitive smart trade model. Several ideas have been put forward. You claim that the two criticisms/weaknesses you identified in post # 114 are not addressed in any smart trade model: Criticism 1: Re rhino horn trade. How would private income generated be used to protect rhinos living on public lands? There are various fairly obvious solutions once there is acceptance of a monopolistic organisation which has total control of all legal trade. Such an organisation would determine both purchase and selling prices and there would be a wide spread between them. The organisation would thus generate a considerable surplus over its admin costs which it would be duty bound to distribute for the benefit of wildlife conservation in general or rhino conservation in particular. Clearly, the money available couldn't protect all formally protected areas, but should be sufficient to fund some (perhaps, even, public land parcels on which state management was handed over to independent agencies such as African Parks). This should ensure an increase in the numbers of free-living rhino and offer scope for their wider distribution in Africa as a whole. Importers of horn would need permits from their own governments and would be sanctioned for parallel trading in illegal horn ( potentially separable through DNA analysis). Although the following isn't a direct answer to the weakness you raise, I thought I'd introduce another advantage of smart trade here. It is my understanding that up to 90% of supposed sales in Asia are fake. Legal trade would give confidence to end purchasers that they were acquiring a genuine product and one might therefore expect them to turn away from illicit trade, thus driving down the price of poached horn. In addition, they would be able to feel good about their purchases because they would genuinely be able to claim that they were making a contribution to wildlife conservation. Criticism 2: Re elephants. How would income generated from ivory sales be used to protect elephants from corrupt governments? Governments, as such, wouldn't be empowered to participate in legal trade. They would be required to sign up to the smart model and, if they failed to do so, their protected areas would not be entitled to a share of the surplus generated by the CSO. You might argue that this, alone, would not stop corrupt officials continuing to be involved in poaching. However, one might expect that, as in the case of rhino horn, importing states would be in a better position to crack down on illegal trade. What is clear from your earlier comments is that you either don't understand what could be involved in smart trade or that you have already closed your mind to its potential advantages. I assume that you are not satisfied with the current situation and are, therefore, hoping that demand destruction will eventually bear fruit. I contend that one might be able to bear down on illegal trade just as effectively in the presence of legal trade. In so doing, one might be able to generate as much as $ 750 million/annum for wildlife conservation. I would like to suggest that the introduction of smart trade is very unlikely to make the current situation worse and has the potential to make it much better. I accept that those who believe that demand destruction is about to eliminate the majority of elephant and rhino poaching might see smart trade as an obstacle. Many have no such faith in the ability of prohibition to suppress illegal activity. Furthermore, such prohibition will not affect levels of meat poaching, but, by providing extra funding for protection, smart trade would.
  6. @inyathi: Over the matter of "wriggle room", even if poachers were still to find it worth their while to poach, they would probably still face increased sanctions because their costs would increase in consequence of better policing by both importing and producing countries. Thus, I would argue that a legitimate trade could hardly make matters worse than they currently are. I fully accept that a well thought out and, probably, monopolistic trade model would be required. @ForWildlife: The various types of smart trade model have been designed with the intention of obviating the potential problems to which you refer. As far as I'm aware, nobody is advocating a legal trading system designed along the lines that used to obtain before trade was banned. It would be helpful, therefore, if you were to try avoiding straw man arguments. There may be weaknesses in some of the smart trade models and it would be much more helpful if you could concentrate on identifying them rather than pointing out the accepted weaknesses of the old system.
  7. @ForWildlife: I am reluctantly being dragged into a discussion of legalised trade. I am, in principle, in favour of both ivory and rhino horn trade. My support for it would obviously disappear if I thought that its re-introduction would put wildlife populations under greater threat. I am inclined to believe that a trading model could be put in place that would avoid any increase in poaching and which, in fact, would reduce the levels thereof. Income gained could be used for better protection measures, which would be to the benefit of a much wider range of species than elephants and rhinos alone. I have already stated as much in an earlier discussion with @inyathi. However, I felt obliged to respond to @optig because he only ever appears to see one side of an argument and cites press articles that support his case as evidence that he is correct. You ask what would happen if there isn't enough legitimate product to to satisfy current demand at current prices. I would have thought you could have answered your own question (perhaps it was rhetorical?). My answer would be that poachers would make up the legitimate trade shortfall provided that it made financial sense for them to do so. However, the legitimate trade element would generate income to be used to increase the costs of illegitimate traders, thus reducing incentives to poach. I don't necessarily see how this could make matters any worse than they currently are. You may answer that, while costs of poaching might rise in Africa, these will be more than offset by less transaction costs in Asia. A smart trade model would have to anticipate this possibility and avoid it. I could envisage, for example, the establishment and monitoring of differentiation between conservation ivory and blood ivory with importing nations using taxes from the profits of the former to bear down on the latter. In any event, it is my view that over half the total elephants in Africa live in populations that are overcrowded and damaging to habitat and biodiversity. If one adds ivory from population reduction culls and subsequent annual population stabilisation culls to that acquired from natural deaths, HAC culls and stockpiles, I believe that supply could match demand even with a lower ivory price. Legitimate ivory suppliers would also be able to benefit from meat and hides, which poachers rarely can. Furthermore, if the strategy were successful in suppressing poaching, understocked populations would increase in number to the point at which culling from these would also become necessary. Under such a scenario, an annual sustainable cull of around 25000 would be possible. Of course, you may argue that demand suppression is the way to go. You point out that ivory prices have fallen considerably in China in consequence of Chinese Government action. I believe that the depressed prices have been evident for some considerable time, but have not led to a reduction of poaching. This tends to suggest that it is speculators rather than ivory finishers who are the principal buyers and that they are betting on the trade surviving, but going underground. You may argue that demand suppression should be allowed further time to prove itself, but you must appreciate that it will inevitably get more time because it will be take time for CITES regulations to be changed.. A plan B is needed now in case of continuing failure. I do accept that the case for rhino horn trade is somewhat different because end prices in Asia are so high. One might argue, for example, that, if legitimate traders keep prices up, there would still be enough wriggle room for poachers to undercut and still find it worth their while. However, unless you can demonstrate that rhino horn prices have risen steadily over the last few years and have not yet reached a plateau, I believe you will have failed to provide evidence that demand is so inelastic that price doesn't effect it. One must also appreciate that the costs of rhino poaching ought to rocket if profits from legitimate trade are ploughed back into protection. Proponents of a sustainable horn trade have suggested that it is readily sustainable at current levels of demand (determined by current prices). Those who don't agree need to provide evidence that contradicts this view.
  8. '@optig: Your previous post refers to an article which you claim to be the best you've ever read "against any trade in ivory". I was, therefore, puzzled by your second sentence to the effect that the article in question is "incredibly well balanced", an apparent contradiction. This prompted me to read your link. The article is all about the effects of the one-off sale of ivory in 2008. The authors of the study made several assumptions: 1) That the purpose of the sale was to drive down the consumer price of ivory with the intention of making poaching uneconomic. 2) That the subsequent increase in observed poaching was a consequence of the one-off sale. 3) That this could be explained by the falling prices increasing a demand that couldn't be met with a legal supply, but which, nevertheless, left poachers with good net margins because their poaching expenses fell in line with falling ivory prices. None of these assumptions is robust and all can be challenged: 1) If the purpose of the sale was to drive down consumer prices, it failed at the outset. There were only two purchasers at the auction who formed a cartel and paid a pittance for the product. They subsequently drip fed it on to the market to maintain the original price paid by ivory finishers, making substantial profits by so doing. I believe there is reasonably robust evidence to suggest that most ivory that is poached is sold to speculators who stockpile it in the hope of future rising prices. The actual sales of finished ivory are suggested to be small in comparison. The activities of speculators are unlikely to be inhibited by one-off auctions. They probably would be if they thought sales would be regular annual events to supply ivory in quantities sufficient only to satisfy the demands of the ivory retailers. 2) Given that correlation doesn't always equate with causation, there is little evidence that the one-off sale was, itself, the reason why levels of poaching increased. 3) In my opinion and in those of many who have greater expertise, legal trade in ivory should not be designed to crash ivory prices for the obvious reason that, by so doing, one would risk the creation of unsustainable increased demand. A "smart trade" model would aim to supply ivory finishers with sufficient product to satisfy current demand at current prices. The profits generated would be ploughed back into elephant protection measures, which would increase the expenses of poachers. The final sentence of the article is a quote from one of the report's authors and reads as follows: "We're not saying that legalisation in general never works or that legalisation always works. We're saying that policy needs to be designed to fit the endangered species in question." It seems possible, therefore, that the authors of the report, though naive, did try to be "well balanced", while the reporter sensationalised the so-called evidence in a typically unbalanced manner. The following link raises the possibility that Kenya's policy of burning ivory may,itself, be a factor that increases the likelihood of poaching (by giving solace to speculators who see benefit in increasing elephant and ivory scarcity):
  9. @Towlersonsafari: Thanks for explaining the Kgalagadi situation. In fact, you were pointing out that the success of the Park is attributable to its artificial waterholes, made necessary by the fence. However, the fence, as you mentioned, precludes animal egress and, as such, the wildlife biomass in the dry season is artficially high and only possible because of the waterholes. It is reasonable to ask why, if this is such a bad thing in the Kruger, the situation in Kgalagadi is different. I proferred two possible explanations - high levels of predators and lack of elephants. You suggest that my recommendations for active adaptive management may be OK for a game ranch, but not for a reserve where the aim is to preserve the habitat and, with it, the biodiversity. The discussion is about Majete, a fenced reserve. In such a situation, I would argue that it is totally impossible to preserve habitat and biodiversity without active adaptive management. You suggest that, because our knowledge is imperfect, we should leave "nature" (having excluded ourselves as part thereof) to sort things out because "nature knows best". This suggests a Luddite mindset. We may not know everything, but we do know that total lack of management will lead to overgrazing by some species such that palatable grass species will be replaced with less palatable or nutritious ones, that tree cover will reduce and that scrub encroachment is likely. These changes won't self-correct over decadal timescales. I fully accept that management can afford to become less intense as area under management increases, but this acceptance stops well short of a totally hands-off approach. I appreciate that you did not rule out management intervention entirely and that you would condone it as a last resort. Perhaps, our differences are merely ones of degree. In your discussion of Kruger waterholes, I believe you are conflating various effects such as climate variables and grazing succession which aren't all waterhole related. Furthermore, you seem to imply that, because culling doesn't provide one-off total solutions, it should be adjudged a failure. I would suggest that the repeated interventions, often involving culling of different range of species on each occasion, is not diagnostic of failure, provided that the habitat is thereby insured against irreversible damage. It may be sensible, for example, to reduce stocking densities in anticipation of and during prolonged droughts. Following very good rains, you mentioned that wildebeest and zebra didn't cope well because they don't cope well with long, dense grass. However, this is very well suited to buffalo, roan and sable. When more typical climatic conditions are restored, wildebeest and zebra will bounce back and populations of the previous beneficiaries will fall back. Predator/prey balance can shift and may make it desirable occasionally to control numbers of the former. I fully accept that well distributed artificial waterholes will allow a highish density of lions to thrive, possibly too high without correction. However, they will allow other species to thrive as well in places where,otherwise, they would have been entirely or seasonally absent. Obviously, this carries with it the risk hat the vegetation will be over-exploited and it therefore becomes incumbent upon one to guard against this, either by culling or by translocating surpluses. I think it important to realise that population sizes of smaller herbivores are primarily.driven by predation pressure, but that those of larger herbivores are determined largely by availability of food resources. This applies, particularly, in fenced reserves, but it no less true for unfenced ones. One must therefore ask what will stabilise the size of large herbivore populations that, nevertheless, falls short of creating habitat damage. I cannot think of anything. If one accepts this premise, one must go on to ask whether the damage is likely to be reversible or not and, if it is, over what timescale. One knows that many tree species can protect themselves from irreversible damage by mounting successful defences against ruminant browsers. Unfortunately, these defences are much less effective against elephants. Grasses, particularly the more nutritious perennials, generally have less capability of defending themselves from attack by grazers. Overgrazing, if it goes too far, will lead o topsoil losses and desertifiction. I have been thinking back to the discussion of the pros and cons of culling versus population "self-stabilisation by nature" (lack of food resources). I would like to ask readers to imagine what it would take in terms of food restriction to self-stabilise a population of humans. I don't believe it would occur before there were calls for international emergency relief. Yet, this is what we take for granted in the case of larger herbivorous mammals.
  10. @Towlersonsafari: The opening sentence of your last post (to the effect that "everyone" thinks that the provision of artificial waterholes in the Kruger was a disaster) is clearly wrong. I know this because I, for one, don't agree! Be assured that I am not alone. I have previously discussed assessments of grazing and browsing capacities and their translation into grazing and browsing livestock equivalents. When assessors consider browse, they attempt to calculate the biomass of leaf material/sq km that is present - usually at the end of the wet season. They then assume that consumption should be no more than 10% of this figure if one wants to sustain the habitat. Unfortunately, elephant populations can continue to increase because they can over-exploit the browse well beyond the 10% threshold. They are better able to do this than ruminant browsers because their digestive systems are less inhibited by plant defences against over-browsing. I have likened this over-exploitation as living on capital rather than purely on income or dividends. (This analogy with its capitalist connotations may, of course, not appeal to you, judging by your earlier rebuke relating to my use of the term "socialist" !) An overpopulation of elephants will have large effects on tree cover which will not be reversible for a century if at all. I am sure the Kruger managers appreciate this. Given that they assume that culling will represent an unacceptable solution to the "elephant problem", they have cast around for an alternative means to control it, namely closing waterholes and encouraging emigration from the protected area. Elephants like daily access to water. By eliminating dry season water, they are forced to move. Many or most other species also need to drink every day or two in the dry season and few are any better at long distant journeys to water than are elephants. Thus, closing waterholes to sort out the "elephant problem" effectively punishes other species which are not in surplus. I think it entirely wrong to base a management system around a single species. I have never been to Kgalagadi, but I have seen maps and read trip reports. The latter have not been replete with photographs of elephants! Most of the larger mammalian herbivores (gemsbok, red hartebeest and wildebeest) are ruminant grazers and the springbok is a mixed feeder. There would appear to be a relatively high proportion of predators relative to prey. I am, therefore, not surprised that artificial waterholes have,in your words, proved a godsend in this park. I am not entirely clear why you ascribe the success of waterholes here to the proximity to a fence. May I ask you to enlighten me?
  11. @Towlersonsafari: On reflection, I should have used the word "nationalised" rather than "socialist" in my previous post. We agree, in a sense, about the importance of research. I was attempting to suggest that applied research was likely to be more useful than pure research in the field under discussion. I was also suggesting that the current emphasis on mammalian and species-specific research is overdone and at the expense of habitat research. You suggest that in the Kruger, management have made mistakes. I'm sure they have. You can never expect to have perfection when managing a complex habitat that is constantly fluctuating with irregular climate cycles. Furthermore, one hopes that lessons will be learned from past mistakes and that the body of knowledge will increase. The mistakes thus far have not obviously led to much in the way of irreversible damage. One can be fairly sure that total lack of management within a fenced reserve will always, sooner or later, lead to irreversible habitat damage. One must also recognise that some unwanted change, which may wrongly be blamed on management error, may well be a consequence of natural grazing succession consequent on atypical patterns of rainfall or drought. I believe that artificial water hole placement and management are critically important in fenced reserves. Mistakes have been made in the past. However, the optimum solution is not necessarily to close most of them and drop fences to compensate. You ask if account is taken of drought cycles when practising active adaptive management. The answer is yes. Habitat Monitoring should take place annually and animal counting at least every two years. You do, indeed, seek to regulate animal biomass in line with plant biomass annually. There will be some flexibility in relative species composition because the mix of species will be different following high rainfall years (long grass grazers, for example, can be expected to benefit at the expense of short grass grazers). I'm afraid that I couldn't quite understand your last paragraph example. I found the final sentence difficult to interpret.
  12. I have just re-read a paper by Lindsey et al which relates to Zambia ( ). In it, the parlous state of most of Zambia's wildlife estate is detailed. Most of the protected areas hold but a fraction of their potential carrying capacities. The one exception is Liuwa and this is almost certainly because it is managed by AP and poaching is reasonably well controlled. What lessons can be learned from this? It seems to be a matter of governance and wildlife and land tenure legislation. The Zambian Government has generously reserved very large areas of its country for wildlife and has charged its civil servants with the administration and management thereof. Unfortunately, it hasn't been able to provide the means for them to do so successfully. Consequently, local communities experience more inconvenience than benefit from wildlife and corruption becomes more likely. Liuwa is a rare success because the Government has subcontracted its normal management role to an outside organisation with access to greater funding. Arguably, changes of wildlife legislation might allow far greater areas to be equally well managed if the existing socialist model were to be relaxed or even delegated. Thus, local communities could be empowered to take control, albeit with central Government oversight. Under such circumstances, one might hope that the communities would see the advantages of treating their local wildlife as a sustainable resource rather than as one to be plundered at every opportunity. The Liuwa biomass was recorded by Lindsey et al as somewhat above 2 tonnes/sq km (excluding hippos and small mammals). When I tried to calculate the near-equivalent Majete biomass (based on 2015 counts), I arrived a a figure of 5 tonnes/sq km. I would like to ask those with more experience than I whether it is plausible that the Majete habitat is more than twice as productive as Liuwa's. I have been pondering the importance for wildlife of active adaptive management. It seems to me that African protected areas are replete with young zoologists seeking doctorates. Wildlife research is seen as quite a glamorous, albeit poorly paid, career path. It leads to an academic mind set that tends to be narrowly focused and intolerant of financial realities in the real world. [I am being deliberately contentious (kite flying) in the hope of stimulating discussion]. There seems to be acceptance among practical conservationists that, if one looks after the habitat, species will look after themselves. Why, therefore, don't we find botanists outnumbering zoologists in the conservation field? Does glamour outweigh importance? Isn't scientific wildlife management far more important in most cases than pure wildlife research? This brings me back to active adaptive management. The "adaptive" part of the term implies an approach that includes applied research, which, in my view, is likely to more beneficial than pure research in this field. What is active adaptive management? I first came across the term when I read Rowan Martin's Management Plan for Majete. I didn't fully grasp what it meant until I subsequently read the 6th Edition of Game Ranch Management. In brief, it implies detailed, regular monitoring of plants and animals in the area to be managed and adjusting management decisions based upon one's analyses. There is no fixed management strategy - it continually alters as circumstances change and more local knowledge is acquired. It may vary over different parts of the managed area. It accepts that habitat stability cannot be absolute and will tend to cycle, but aims to maintain this cycling within a range that allows reasonably high productivity. One aims for a resilient habitat, one that doesn't fall into a permanently lower productive state in consequence of any cycle becoming too extreme. If one inherits a partly degraded habitat, it may be sensible, though expensive, to attempt to restore it to greater productivity by making functional changes because, otherwise, the level of productivity wouldn't spontaneously improve. None of this has anything to do with what the majority see as conservation. Most think that wildlife conservation in Africa is all about the control of poaching and that it stops there. I don't dispute that this policing role is important, but I regard as a pre-condition necessary before what I understand to be true conservation can even begin. Thus, I would argue that in areas where there isn't a lot of poaching (e.g. Hwange) and in which there is little or no conservation management, wildlife is at greater threat than in areas where the habitat is kept from near-permanently lower levels of productivity by poachers. Active adaptive management is technically very demanding and requires a range of skills that are unlikely to be found within a single manager. There should, therefore, be a management team or access by a single manager to a range of consultants. Key personnel or skills will be experts or expertise in geographical information systems and assessors or expertise in assessment of grazing and browsing capacities. I think it might be worthwhile for AP to employ its own team of experts to rotate regularly round their various parks to provide the necessary information to local managers. Alternatively, experts could be brought in regularly as consultants on a park by park basis.
  13. @inyathi: I enjoyed your post and was interested in the last three links. I was particularly interested in the contained economic information. It would seem that fencing reduces protection costs by at least a factor of four if one discounts the initial capital costs of the fences. I don't personally believe that it is impossible to create good conservation conditions for lions in fenced areas provided the areas are large enough (e.g. Bubye Valley Conservancy). However, it requires active rather than passive management. (Passive management indicates no or minimum intervention by man and, I would argue, is inappropriate even for most unfenced wildlife areas in anthropogenic environments. The final link was much more detailed. Having read it, I was surprised to learn that the captive bred lion population, though of no direct interest from the viewpoint of conservation, provided indirect benefits by reducing pressure to hunt or derive bone from wild lions.
  14. @ForWildlife: You chose to contradict my contention that "black rhinos are probably somewhat easier/cheaper to protect than white". You are correct if one considers ranched whites or those living in smallish sanctuaries. However, although I probably failed to make it clear, I was thinking more in terms of free living members of the species. Perhaps your knowledge of the poaching statistics in the Kruger is better than mine. I had supposed, possibly incorrectly, that, despite the very intense and expensive anti-poaching efforts, whites were being poached disproportionately. I accept that I used the term, "territory" incorrectly and ,perhaps, should have used "home range" when discussing wild dogs. I was using Laikipia Wilderness Camp as an example when advancing the hypothesis that home range size is probably determined both by prey density and lion avoidance (At LWC, there is no dearth of hyaenas). Under circumstances where there are few or no lions and plenty of prey, it is likely that home range size will more or less equal territory size. I suggested, therefore, that zonal conservation could be important for AWD conservation. You said you couldn't think of anywhere else that was unfenced, lion free and had a high prey base. Though not having been there, I understand that Liuwa might have been an excellent example. It is for this reason that I, personally, deeply regret AP's re-introduction of lions. It used to be a place where mesopredator interactions could be studied in the absence of the alpha predator, but I'm not sure whether this happened. You suggest that cheetahs avoid lions in time, but not in pace. I don't know whether you ever saw the home range maps of lions and cheetahs in Mara conservancies posted on this site by Jake Grieves-Cook. I can't find the post now, but do recall that the cheetah had a doughnut-shaped home range with its centre absent - the latter representing lion territory. Perhaps space is more important than you realise, but I accept that a single example may be inadequate to support my contention.
  15. @optig: As far as I can see, there is a total disconnect between the first and last sentences of your post # 92. The first reads "I have seen in various places that local people aren't in fact jealous when scarce resources are spent on conservation rather than on their needs." You then back this up with an example that signally fails to support your contention. If you compensate locals for livestock losses and provide some of them with lucrative job opportunities, it is scarcely surprising that their tolerance for wildlife will increase. They have little to be jealous about because their economic lot has been improved. Furthermore, I would guess that the community you're referring to are pastoralists and that little is being attempted to reduce their livestock numbers. If there isn't overgrazing and accompanying habitat degradation now, there probably soon will be. As one who has always preached the benefits that can be obtained for conservation by bringing the local community along with you, I find it difficult to see what you thought was the point of your post.
  16. @inyathi: A few points arising from your last post: 1) I accept that black rhinos are probably somewhat easier/cheaper to protect than white. They are more elusive/secretive, smaller and yield less horn. 2) You move on to discuss African wild dogs (AWDs), suggesting their need for large territories and the fact that a minimum of eight packs may be necessary to prevent the requirement for human intervention in the prevention of inbreeding. This appears to be the conventional view. I am tempted to question it. Why do AWDs typically need such large territories? I suggest that it is less likely to be due low prey density than to competition with and avoidance of lions. I certainly don't think it has much to do with hard-wired wanderlust. I am led to this tentative conclusion by my observations of wild dogs at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya. There were two packs in this area, typified by mixed cattle, shoat and wildlife ranching. They seemed to overlap over an area of about 400 sq km. They seemed to be relying upon high densities of hares and dikdiks with the addition of impala when dependent cubs were present. They never seemed to bother the domesticated stock. Because of the latter, lion density was low. (I appreciate that distemper has recently decimated these packs.) I would also suggest that human management to prevent inbreeding isn't too onerous (most dog packs seem to include one collared representative) and the same situation obtains for cheetahs. The cost of such interventions will be trivial relative to the need to protect rhinos and keep elephant numbers in bounds. Perhaps, AWDs provide yet another example of the potential benefits of zonal conservation. If you want them, perhaps the best way of ensuring you have them is by providing lion-free zones. 3) I don't at all disagree that it is desirable to provide extra habitat outside formally protected areas that can be available for wildlife. However, this aim can best be achieved by demonstrating that wildlife ranching/conservation areas provide a more profitable land use than subsistence farming. This will almost certainly require sustainable use model of conservation rather than a protectionist one. 4) Towards the end of your post, you raise what, in my view, is an extremely important issue. Africa is the least urbanised and industrialised continent. It is difficult to see any prospect for its citizens to escape from poverty while such a high proportion survive by subsistence farming or pastoralism. The accumulation of domesticated stock rather than money as an index of status is also inimical to wildlife conservation. Thus, I think you're absolutely correct to be concerned that uplifting the incomes of those communities living adjacent to wildlife areas may, in the long run, be counter-productive. Ideally,one needs to see a reduction in numbers in these communities and a simultaneous improvement of living standards.
  17. I'll add a few more random thoughts to the debate before moving on to fire management issues. 1) Costs of conserving rhinos: How many rhinos and what proportion exist in unfenced reserves? I would guess that the answer is very few. Admittedly, fences are being removed around some of Kruger, but generally this only gives access to private areas that are, themselves, fenced. How much more does it cost to provide effective protection to an area that contains rhinos than it costs for an area that doesn't? I suggest that it might be 4 or 5 times more ($ 2000-2500/ sq km cf $ 500/sq km). This is ,at best, a somewhat wild guesstimate. However, it leads me to a further question. If trade in rhino horn can be legalised to provide extra funding for conservation, should the extra funding only go to areas that either contain or are about to contain rhinos? 2) Provision of supplementary nutrients: I have argued elsewhere that, if we are to restrict wildlife to less favoured agricultural areas, we owe it to them to provide water. What else? I suggest that, in habitats that are deficient in minerals, particularly trace minerals, it is reasonable to supply salt licks. Of course, it should be incumbent upon us, first, to establish whether it is necessary to do so. Minerals may either be deficient because they are lacking in soils or because they are bound in soils such that they fail to get into the plants growing on them. It is, therefore, necessary for management to undertake suitable analyses at the outset unless they have the philosophy that there is something unnatural and immoral about salt lick provision. My own view is that confinement to a deficient area without making suitable provision is far more immoral and is inefficient to boot. Upthread, I suggested that, on Sour Veld, grasses become so indigestible during the dry season that they can't meet the maintenance requirements of grazing ruminant herbivores. Ruminants have their digestion done for them by microbes in the rumen. When grasses lack enough sugars and proteins (as happens in certain grass types in the dry season) the microbes starve and hence their hosts. One can improve the digestibility of these grasses by fuelling the rumen microbes with sources of sugars and nitrogen. The microbes don't need protein per se - they can make it from non protein nitrogen. This can be provided in licks or blocks. Here, one is using a very small input which allows the coarse grass to be used more efficiently, arguably reducing the need to deal with what would otherwise be surplus, unused grass by a regime of burning. I accept that this might be a step too far for some in the direction of the unnatural. However, in my view, it is potentially efficient and acceptable (though cost benefits would need careful consideration). On some smaller game ranches, supplementary feeding is provided during the lean season. Even I regard this as a step too far on a wildlife reserve. Furthermore, it is not affordable except in the case of very valuable stock being bred for re-sale or hunting. 3) Fire and burning regimes: I think it important to debate this issue, though I don't really understand enough about it to have an informed opinion. At Majete, I was told that it is policy to burn the miombo woodland areas in blocks such that each is burned every second year. There is little doubt that annual burning is harmful. The effects of burning depend upon the fire intensity and this, in turn, depends upon the fuel load and the stage of the dry season when it takes place. A good preceding rainy season and elephants (by reducing tree and increasing grass cover) can both increase fuel loads. High intensity fires do more damage to trees, but the damage depends as much on the tree species in question, some being much more fire resistant than others. Furthermore, some seeds germinate better as a result of having been burnt. Downwind fires generate maximum temperatures above ground level while back burning into the wind results in higher temperatures at ground level or even below. It all gets very complex! Fires, though mainly started accidentally or deliberately by man, may be occasioned by lightning strikes. It is, therefore, good practice to burn fire breaks into the habitat to prevent uncontrolled and uncontrollable fires over large areas. Fire can also be used to get rid of surpluses of ungrazed, senescent and nutritionally useless grass which would otherwise inhibit the growth of new grass. This will result in carbon entering the atmosphere, but the minerals in the grass are not lost unless subsequently blown away. One could argue that more efficient use of grass by herbivores will reduce the need for burning and will recycle nutrients , including soil carbon, more efficiently. However, because ruminant herbivores emit methane, the global warming effects of such emissions may well be worse than the carbon dioxide released by burning (methane has one hundred times more global warming effect than CO2 in the short term and twenty times more in the long term). It should be appreciated that new grass growth following burning depends on rain. It won't suddenly sprout in the middle of the dry season. Fire can sometimes be used to enforce a sort of rotational grazing by giving rest to areas just burnt. It may also reduce tick burdens. It can also be used as part of a scrub clearance and invasive species control programme, but, of itself, it won't provide a total solution. I have no idea how one is supposed to determine an optimum burning regime - I have absolutely no experience. However, I think there will exist expertise among wildlife managers in Africa and I would love to read any contributions they might feel able to contribute to the debate.
  18. @Bugs: Having re-looked at the Sabie video, what impressed me most was the enormous amount of money and effort that is deemed necessary to protect the small area (300 sq km) from poachers, principally ascribable to the presence of rhinos. I appreciate that the reserve is long and narrow and abuts Kruger's eastern boundary and that efforts in Sabie, therefore, benefit the Kruger rhinos as well. I do wonder, however, what people such as @optig think of this video. He often makes the point that the presence of trophy hunters in an area doesn't necessarily guarantee adequate protection against poaching. He is undoubtedly correct. He rarely acknowledges that presence of ecotourists may be equally ineffective. This video, however, provides an example of a reserve in which hunting can provide adequate income for protection whereas ecotourism can't. Its survival is threatened by the American ban on trophy imports with consequent loss of visiting clients - something repeatedly lauded by @optig. His attitude appears to reflect a total lack of pragmatism. If he took the view that neither ecotourism nor hunting could fund adequate protection, even for officially protected areas, and that massive overseas funding in the form of donations would always be necessary, it might be fair enough. In that case, might he not consider that local residents could resent the fact that money is going to animal protection rather than to their own needs? It's embarrassing to feel the need to repeat the point that trade in rhino horn might represent an excellent solution. @inyathi: You guesstimate that elephants numbered 26 million in sub Saharan Africa in 1800 and that there has been a 50-odd fold decrease since. Simultaneously, human population has risen 10-fold. By 2060, some reckon it will have risen 26-fold. Humans and elephants are competitors. It would appear that slavery was sufficient to result in a sub Saharan human population decline from 1700 to 1890. As you mentioned, the ivory trade had inextricable links with the slave trade. In 1800, human population density was 4/sq km (40% urban). Now, it is roughly 43/sq km. In 2060, it may rise to 117/sq km (with urban percentage rising only to 50%). This translates into a rural human population density of 26 now and 58 by 2060. If one accepts that people at densities at 15 or above represent virtual fences for elephants, albeit fences involving considerable human/wildlife conflict, one can begin to appreciate that space for elephants is progressively shrinking. It is sensible, therefore, for conservationists to try to secure as much territory for elephants as they can afford to protect before suitable habitat shrinks even further. There is a risk in this strategy of over-ambition, particularly.if elephants are not able to contribute to their own protection costs other than through ecotourism. I went to Majete to learn lessons. Malawi is a populous country and Majete a fenced reserve. I think I may have been looking into the future that's in store for many wildlife areas elsewhere in Africa. We may regret this. We may yearn for wide open spaces where animal populations thrive with no human interventions, but the number of such places will become fewer and fewer. Nevertheless, there will remain many areas where wildlife can continue to thrive, albeit under man's management. In no way need this resemble a zoo - as amply demonstrated by the example of Majete.
  19. @inyathi: I've been giving further thought to your post # 82. You suggest that part of the role of Majete is to breed animals such as rhino, elephant and sable for translocation to other areas that need them. I was wondering how big a part you thought this should be. The management is charged with attempting to make the Reserve self-financing and also to enhance the welfare of the local community. If sable breeding were potentially more cost effective than ecotourism, what would be the case for maintaining lions in the Reserve? After all, their presence would probably reduce sustainable sable offtake? As you know, I favour zonal conservation, but I'm not sure you do. How much, I wonder, would ecotourism suffer by the absence of lions? A lot of visitors come on short self-drive visits from Blantyre. I'm not convinced that presence or absence of big cats would have a great deal of influence on their decisions whether to visit or not. Translocation of elephants is an expensive operation. Majete wasn't credited (financially) for the elephants, but neither was it responsible for meeting the costs. The elephants were moved to other reserves managed by AP so one might consider any financial transactions between them to have been irrelevant internal accounting. However, were, in future, elephants to be moved to areas not managed by AP, I would expect Majete management to receive a payment/animal that covered capture and translocation costs plus, at least, meat value - otherwise the local community is, in effect, being cheated. I would also like to correct an error I made in post # 83. It's embarrassing enough to have made it, but less so than having someone else point it out! In the second part of the paragraph numbered 1), I discussed differences between ruminant and non ruminant herbivores in terms of benefits they derived from their diets. I'll start again: Foodstuffs have an energy value measured as the energy given off when they are fully oxidised (gross energy). Not all of the food will be digested. When the energy of the undigested food is subtracted from the gross energy, one is left with digestible energy. In the case of low fibre (concentrate) feeds, both ruminants and non ruminants have high levels of digestive efficiency. As food fibre content increases, ruminant digestive efficiency becomes significantly greater than that of non ruminants. Once the fibre level increases further and becomes lignified (e.g. grass towards end of dry season) the digestive efficiency of even ruminants drops and they have a problem that is not suffered by non ruminants. Ruminant appetite drops as fibre becomes less digestible and they can become incapable of meeting their maintenance energy requirements. Energy requirement is the main driver of appetite in other situations. Non ruminants respond to high levels of fibre by eating more. Not all digestible energy can be used by an animal - some (8%) is inevitably lost in the urine of all animals and, in ruminants, but not in non ruminants, around 12% is belched out as methane. What remains is called metabolisble energy (ME). ME is used for maintenance and for productive purposes such as growth, pregnancy, lactation as well as for exercise. Non ruminants use ME with similar efficiencies for all physiological states. Ruminants use ME at around 70% efficiency for maintenance, but at 40-60% efficiencies for growth (depending upon the nature of the food from which the ME was derived - being lower for high fibre diets). The point of the above paragraph is to point out that there are both pros and cons of being a ruminant grazer. Mixed feeders and browsers might seem to have an advantage over grazers because they can access leaves of shrubs and trees which don't lignify like grass. However, and particularly in the case of over-browsing, leaves can produce conjugated tannins which are both unpalatable and which suppress the ruminal flora, lowering or, in extremis, stopping digestion in ruminants. The digestive efficiency of non ruminants is less impaired.
  20. @inyathi, I think we may well have more or less exhausted our discussion of elephants as far as the Majete debate is concerned. Such differences as exist between us are nuanced. I would, nevertheless, appreciate your thoughts about the Dick Laws autobiography if you have the chance to give it detailed consideration. I would just like to add a few other elephant-related thoughts: 1) Earlier in the debate, I mentioned that I had recently read the 6th edition of Game Ranch Management and introduced the concept of grazer and browser unit equivalents ( Table 41.8, page 842.) I have since been reflecting upon the contents of this Table. In it, the mean weight of the elephant (representing all the ages and sexes in the population) is given as 3750 kg. This may be true of slow-breeding senescent populations, but it seems far too high for the specific elephant population of Majete. It follows that the total grazing/browsing unit equivalent ascribable to the elephant is also too high. There is also another weakness in the system (if I have not misunderstood its derivation). There is an assumption that food is used with an equal efficiency/unit of metabolic weight by ruminant and non ruminants. In fact, metabolisable energy is used more efficiently by non ruminants (e.g. elephants). Ruminants belch out about 10% of metabolisable energy as methane and the net energy they need for growth is also used less efficiently. Obviously, these differences will be reflected in food intakes. Thus, though the grazer/browser equivalent system is quite useful, it does appear to have weaknesses in that it will overestimate the metabolisable energy requirements of non ruminant animals. However, this could well be counterbalanced by the fact that ruminants are likely to digest typical fibrous foods more efficiently than non ruminants. Thus, the fairly crude assumptions in the Table may well be about right. 2) Woody plants are deeper rooted than vascular plants and, as such, are likely to be better sources of minerals. Phosphorus is often a limiting mineral. Plant-derived phosphorus is bound to phytates. Phosphorus in vegetable matter is absorbed less well by non ruminants than by ruminants. Might this, in some part, explain why elephants strip the bark from some species of top canopy trees? Alternatively, could this be explained by selenium deficiency, which is known to be extremely prevalent in Malawi. (I believe, however, that there is no soil deficiency as such, but that high iron levels in the soil bind selenium, rendering it unavailable to plants and thus to animals eating those plants.) It would seem that no analysis of plant minerals has been undertaken at Majete and that it would be beneficial to rectify this omission (it all costs money!). One lesson I failed to learn at Majete relates to vascular plant (mainly grass) digestibility during the dry season. In Game Ranch Management, I read that, on Sour Veld, grass species typically become very indigestible as the dry season progresses. On Sweet Veld, the grasses remain nutritious and digestible throughout the year. I have read elsewhere that tropical grasses are of the C4 type and temperate are C3. I know that the C3 grasses, with which I'm familiar, lose digestibility as the summer progresses, but less rapidly than tropical grasses. I find it strange, therefore, to think that there exist grasses in Africa which don't deteriorate during the dry season. This is why I have had trouble understanding how selective (or so-called concentrate) grazers could exist without massive loss of dry season condition. Are they confined to Sweet Veld areas? I guess that Majete habitat may be a mixed Veld type, but mainly Sour. Please can anyone provide enlightenment? I've made it clear that I'm in a muddle on this issue. Can anyone enlighten me? I was going to move on to a discussion of fire and its management. On reflection, I'll hope for the enlightenment I sought in the previous paragraph because it has great potential relevance to any fire management regime.
  21. @Towlersonsafari: By coincidence, I have been in private correspondence with someone on the subject of Hwange. He tells me that recent research there has demonstrated that tannin levels in browse are at extreme levels and could be having major negative impacts on kudu, sable and roan. He also suggests that tannins from elephant dung may even be poisoning the water supply. He is trying to obtain the raw data for me. I don't think it's necessary to postulate that tannin levels are a necessary pre-condition for kudu decline in relation to elephant surplus, but, nevertheless, the research sounds interesting. I would like to remind others that the debate was primarily designed around the lessons that could be learned from Majete, a fenced reserve. Physical or virtual fencing is something we are likely to see more of in the future. (I define virtual fencing as presence of humans at densities exceeding 15/sq km on reserve peripheries.) Artificial waterhole effects play a big part in the debate.
  22. @inyathi: I can happily go along with most of what you have written above, but I think I detect what some might regard as occasional inconsistencies of logic. For example, I was surprised by the final sentence in your penultimate paragraph, having read what you had previously written. You seem to imply that the suffering experienced between the first and second shot in the,perhaps, 2% of elephants that are subject to culling may be worse than that experienced over many weeks by elephants starving in a drought (or, if not worse, still of sufficient severity to leave you with reservations over the use of the technique) We both agree that animal welfare considerations shouldn't factor highly, if at all, in conservation management. The point that I was previously trying to make is that I find it strange that many laymen apparently react in horror at the concept of culling because they associate it with suffering while, simultaneously, seeming to be unaware that the suffering associated with natural deaths is generally far worse. Of course, I fully accept that there are others who oppose culling on grounds that have nothing to do with relative suffering. You appear to set great store on the opinions of the Sheldricks. However, their views represent one side of the argument only. Although it currently appears to be the dominant one in East Africa, it is not one to which I subscribe. Your quote from Daphne Sheldrick describes elephant population cycling that is a reasonable explanation of the dry savannah situation. However, this is not what occurs in areas of higher rainfall where populations become senescent and don't generally crash. She is also being naive to suggest that elephants are fragile in having inefficient digestive systems. They are no more fragile than zebras, which are better able to withstand droughts than are ruminants. The big question over Tsavo relates to the habitat's resilience. If elephant overpopulation results in a drought induced crash in numbers, will the habitat recover over the next hundred years or so? Overgrazing can lead to increased erosion and topsoil loss. Although some recovery is possible, the habitat may never get back to its pre-crash level of productivity. I appreciate that you're an avid reader on conservation matters. You might, therefore, like to read the following; This is the second part of Dick Laws' autobiography and some of the chapters are well worth reading. They will give the counter-Sheldrick position. Laws was a very distinguished scientist and a pioneer of elephant research. The book gives detailed accounts of culling, and makes frequent mention of Ian Parker so you might also find it interesting for these reasons. I would suggest that very little of substance has been learned about elephant management since Laws worked on the subject in the mid 1960s. This discussion has tended to become elephant-focused. Obsessing over one species is not appropriate for wildlife managers. To emphasise this point, one might look at crude African population numbers of a variety of species: There are approximately half a million elephants and greater kudu and only a fifth this number of eland and a tenth the number of roan and sable. By the time elephants are starting to self-regulate their populations, their contributions to the mammalian biomass in the areas they occupy will have rocketed to the detriment of other species. In severe droughts, most species will crash in numbers before elephants do. You suggest that elephant culling is "fine if your objective is to basically harvest elephants as a money making venture to fund conservation". I have always in the past attempted to explain that money-making is not the primary objective, but money is a potential bonus that could make a major contribution to conservation funding. The prime purpose is to protect habitat from irreversible damage, to maintain biodiversity and to keep the surviving elephants fit (in a biological sense, which implies the ability to breed well and behave naturally). The following link makes it abundantly clear that Graham Child, for example, considered it to be necessary, even if conducted at a financial loss:
  23. @inyathi: I would like to clarify my comments relating to stress and suffering associated with culling and translocation. I accept that this will involve some repetition on my part and I apologise. Properly conducted culling should involve minimum suffering in those animals killed. In the case of elephants, survivors may display disturbed behaviour unless whole family groups are shot simultaneously. (As an aside, your assumption that a culling operation is typically conducted with prior use of chemical immobilising agents is incorrect - although it has been undertaken occasionally under the mistaken belief that it would be more humane. Typically, whole family groups are shot by two or three riflemen within 60 seconds of the first shot, which is directed at the matriarch. The operation can be conducted on foot or in a helicopter. Obviously, one doesn't conduct the operation at times when groups are merged together in herds. Going off on a further tangent, I'd like to mention a report dealing with problem animal control. In it, the authors noted that, though crop raiding is primarily carried out by bulls, the shooting of the offending bull seldom produced the desired effect of crop protection. However, if one shot a random, adult, non-matriarch cow in the vicinity, crop raiding would probably cease. The surviving breeding group would immediately vacate the area and bachelor groups would follow - a case of being cruel to be kind). Live capture and translocation obviously causes more stress than culling. However, I totally accept that this is generally survivable and of short term consequence - so your omelettes/eggs comment is entirely apt. It is, nevertheless, perhaps worth quoting a sentence from the 6th Edition of Game Ranch Management, page 578: "With the exception of starvation, more wild animals have probably died of capture myopathy in southern Africa over the past 30 years than from any other wildlife disease." Fortunately, the situation is improving with the acquisition of greater experience. One must also give some heed to the effects of live capture from a reserve on the quality of experience of visiting ecotourists. I arrived at Majete some 3 months after their translocation and was surprised to learn that it had been concentrated on the tourist area, presumably because of the better road network and hence accessibility. Whether the apparent dearth of some of individuals of larger species that I experienced was entirely due to their removal (with no filling in having yet taken place from elsewhere in the Reserve) or was also in part due to increased spookiness, I don't know. Craig Hay thought the former to be more likely because the fear generated was directed at the helicopters and not the transporting road vehicles. Going back to the quote from Game Farm Management, it would seem that starvation is quite common. In fact, it is the preferred method of stabilisation of elephant populations - preferred that is by a new breed of conservation zoologist (e.g. Professor van Aarde and CERU), backed by NGOs with animal rights agendas, on the basis that it is natural. (This ignores man's predatory role, which goes back thousands of years.) It probably also explains why, for example, @egiliopreviously posted on Safaritalk that animal welfare had no place in wildlife conservation. Though I'm inclined to agree with him, I am perplexed by the fact that animal rights activists also seem to agree. I think a possible explanation is that the latter fail to understand what is involved in population self-stabilisation and look on it as a benign and suffering-free phenomenon. Having struggled over the problem of explaining population self-regulation to laymen, it has occurred to me that it is often explained with a sigmoid graph that plots population size on the vertical axis against time on the horizontal. The shape of the curve is identical to that of the growth curve of an individual animal (with weight on the vertical and age on the horizontal axis). When an animal stops growing, the plot flattens to horizontal (in my case, this, unfortunately, is not quite correct). The flatline, in this case, does not indicate suffering. However, in a sigmoid population curve, suffering starts when exponential growth (as indicated by the steepness of the curve) slows. It can become serious when it flattens entirely, indicating that birth rate equals death rate. Now, I have to qualify my comments with regard to suffering. If predators are having an impact, they will often cause the prey population size to stabilise while the latter are still breeding well. While predators will, in animal welfare terms, cause more suffering than equivalent deaths through culling, the suffering is obviously inevitable and, in any event, will be small relative to starvation. Elephant population size flatlines as a consequence of hunger and starvation. I would argue that animals are actors on the stage, each species capable only of acting one part (with some slight individual expression being possible). Man can be an actor, but is also capable of writing the script. I believe that we can't leave things to nature - they won't improve. To the extent that we've messed things up, our only recourse is to alter the script by using all technological aids possible. Going back to nature is no solution to our current and increasing over-population. I seriously believe that I have a moral duty to endeavour to explain why the culling of wildlife should be considered an enlightened policy rather than an action that brings negative publicity and potential loss of conservation funding. For me, therefore, pandering to IFAW and other such organisations is not an option - perhaps I'm not sufficiently cynical or pragmatic.
  24. In the spirit of even-handedness, I thought I'd post a good summary of Pretoria University's Conservation Ecology Research Unit's suggested way forward for elephant management (or lack of it). I don't disagree with any of its factual, scientific content. I profoundly disagree with some of the management prescriptions drawn from these facts. They have no relevance for Majete because CERU considers the Reserve too small to contain elephants at all.
  25. In my previous post # 68, I mentioned contraception in elephants. I thought it might be worth giving a link to a relevant document which Craig Hay very kindly sent me after my visit to Majete: http://www.elephant_immuno_report_2012.pdf. Apparently, cost of vaccine is somewhere around US$ 35/dose. In the first year, 2 or 3 shots are needed and, thereafter, one/annum. Breeding groups will probably each need to have a representative with a tracking collar to enable them to be found relatively quickly. The doses will be administered by a vet being flown by a pilot in a helicopter. Not cheap, but I'll make no attempt to guess at the overall annual cost. At the end of the document, there are accounts by several wildlife managers who have relevant experience of judging the technique in action. My interpretation is that it is best used to keep a small elephant population within an acceptable range rather than to keep it constant in number. In other words, allow a reduced rate of population growth to maintain natural behaviour as far as possible. Thus, one might choose to allow a range at Majete of, for example, 250-320, not that this technique has been used on such a large scale previously. Once the upper bound is reached, it would be reduced, either by culling or translocation back to the lower bound of 250. In a fenced reserve, therefore, one has realistically to choose between translocation and culling - though the scale of each either procedure can be reduced by contraception. Culling is cash flow positive and does no harm to the population (conservation is about populations, not individuals). Translocation costs will vary, but I would guess that they will average US$ 3500/animal. Thus, though translocation may be justifiable if there is an elephant requirement elsewhere in the vicinity, it makes no sense as a means of dumping elephants from surplus populations. Contraception, though cash flow negative, may, occasionally, make sense for smallish, constrained populations and will reduce the numbers that have to be culled or translocated. However, both translocation and, to a lesser extent, contraception will cause more suffering than culling, based on animal welfare judgements. Thus, culling would seem to me to be the logical default option. I appreciate @Paolo's sage warning about the irrelevance of logic when dealing with wildlife issues. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder what's happening in this debate. I was astonished to read about the apparent rapproachement of @Bugs and @optig on the virtues of the Bubye Valley Conservancy as a destination. In fact, the latter pronounces it so good that it should forthwith become an ecotourist destination with the immediate cessation of hunting. I wonder, however, whether he has reflected on the downhill spiral that would follow upon the cessation of active adaptive management (something that would inevitably require a degree of culling - as judged by the fact that local communities are currently in receipt of about 20 tonnes of meat/annum from it). Now, @Bugs seems to be going soft! His last link on the Moz Parks Foundation seemed to be aiming at animal rights supporters - it appeared to be focused on what vets were doing for damaged and strayed individual animals, which, I would suggest, has little or nothing to do with true conservation and is an expensive distraction. However, in a free market, who am I to dictate how others spend their discretionary incomes!

© 2006 - 2018 - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.