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Hwange's Dilemma

173 posts in this topic

 

 

 

https://www.conservationforce.org/pdf/Zimb%20Comment%20Final.pdf

Read the above. In this report, he states that the Zambezi Valley ele numbers are on the rise - when we've just heard that there has been a 70% decline in numbers. He's saying anything to make the point he wants to make - just dressing it up in italics and adding numbers doesn't cut it.

 

 

 

He said that elephant numbers in Zimbabwe are still at 80 000+ and they can only support 40 000. The numbers have increased in Gona-re-zhou and Hwange. He did not say they increased in Zambezi valley. The reason for the decline in Zambezi valley could be due to a number of causes, and that has not been determined.

 

 

 

We thought we had a lot of eles in Tanzania and look what happened. We thought we had a lot of eles in Mozambique (Niassa) and look what has happened. We may think we have a lot of eles in Hwange, but with the poachers and hunters running amok in Zim, for how long do you think we'll have a lot of eles in Hwange?

 

I have just got back from Niassa - the challenges and pressures they are having there are extreme, and complex. Its impossible to simplify the situation in response to what you have said above. You have just taken three countries and lumped them into one sentence. Mozambique has just come out of civil war, Niassa size, habitat and remoteness is extraordinary, and Mozambicans are extremely poor. Zimbabwe is feeling the pain of Mugabe for years, - we should be grateful that things aren't a whole lot worse. Tanzania is another completely different situation, which I am still trying to better understand.

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After having read all the posts, and then slept on it, here is my five cents worth......

1. The logistics of culling are now beyond consideration, the reasons are amply covered by several other posts.

2. Hwange is part of the megaherd range that extends across Botswana and into Namibia, SW Zambia and SE Angola, i.e. the KAZA TFCA. Culling (as it has in the past) creates a vacuum that will be filled by others from the megaherd - a common ecological occurrence. The rate of population increase after culling is as much a factor of stimulated breeding as it is immigration - at least in Hwange's case.

3. Point 2 makes the decision for culling on purely ecological grounds quite pointless. This begs the question....

4. Is the reason for culling then stimulated by the economic benefits it brings rather than the ecological benefits?

5. To date, I have yet to find CONCLUSIVE evidence that culling swings the ecological 'damage' in the opposite direction (please note the quotation marks. Damage is a human concept that Nature is quite unaware of). This despite Zimbabwe having culled more than 40,000 elephants since the inception of its culling policy.

6. Hwange is sadly reaping the consequences of the (at the time) ignorant, but well meaning, decision to place waterholes in what is effectively an extension of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. If the TRUE desire is to relieve the browsing pressure (note, not damage) on Hwange's ecosystem, then the waterhole system has to be phased out and allow the park to revert (over time) to a CKGR type national park.

 

My mantra is that for every problem there is a solution, and I challenge the establishment to start looking and thinking out of the proverbial box. Globally, reductionism in wildlife management has nearly always led to ecological calamities. Shouldn't we be doing something else? Well someone is, and his name is Allan Savory. The man whose research developed the culling policy for Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), now regrets his involvement and strives every day to change the long lasting effects it has had. Yes, he believes (as do I) that the culling of the 70's & 80's is the primary culprit for habitat degradation (I see the raised eyebrows). Watch his TED talk and check out the Savory Institute to get some idea of what he has achieved in 'healing land' using cattle (yes, cattle) in large numbers to mimic the large herds of herbivores that were also culled in an effort to eradicate FMD. You will be astounded. The Savory Insitute runs a research and teaching ranch outside Vic Falls call Dinamgombe Ranch. It sits neatly between Kazuma NP and the Chobe, right in the middle of prime elie country. What has been the result of his methods here? Erosion has been halted, rivers remain flowing, grass cover is ABUNDANT, browse is ABUNDANT, and wildlife numbers have increased, particularly elephant and buffalo. The problem he now faces is that he doesn't have enough cattle. That's right, the land needs even more herbivores to maintain its high rate of production.

 

Am I suggesting cattle are introduced to Hwange. Hell yes, why not? As I said we need to challenge the perceived norms. However, ONLY under the Savory model, not using current pastoralist practices. Think of the knock on effects to local villages and their economies. Suddenly the NP's become a true asset, not something that is elitist in the eyes of the locals. What about predators you ask? Well at Dinamgombe, there are more lions than in the whole of Kazuma NP (Savory pers comm.) and so far they have lost one cow, but they are producing a lot more calves, so it remains a net gain. Until such time as the mega herds of herbivores return to places like Hwange, why shouldn't we use cattle as surrogate healers?

 

On a final, personal, note. I find the concept of mass culling (elephants, seals, dolphins) despicable, and when it comes down to the crux of it, it is always driven by greed, not ecology. The ability of our species to inflict 'zooicide' (apparently genocide is only for humans and I don't think slaughter is definitive enough) is one of our most heinous attributes.

 

Now that I have effectively tossed a leopard amongst the guineafowl, let me sit back and watch the fallout....

 

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@@LastChanceSafaris Some very good points about culling.

However, I have to disagree with you on the Savory stuff. There's quite a bit of critique on the way they have done their work and science.

For example:

inexactscience

slate.com

terrastendo.net

 

I guess 'holistic' also implies you have to be critical to everything.

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Posted (edited)

 

 

 

 

https://www.conservationforce.org/pdf/Zimb%20Comment%20Final.pdf

Read the above. In this report, he states that the Zambezi Valley ele numbers are on the rise - when we've just heard that there has been a 70% decline in numbers. He's saying anything to make the point he wants to make - just dressing it up in italics and adding numbers doesn't cut it.

 

 

 

He said that elephant numbers in Zimbabwe are still at 80 000+ and they can only support 40 000. The numbers have increased in Gona-re-zhou and Hwange. He did not say they increased in Zambezi valley. The reason for the decline in Zambezi valley could be due to a number of causes, and that has not been determined.

 

 

 

@@Bugs - here is the extract from that report on which I based by comment above re the Mid-Zambezi Valley eles:

 

2. Mid-Zambezi Valley The Mid-Zambezi Valley has been surveyed consistently (in 2001 , 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010), and as recently as 2011. ZimParks Resp. p. 7; Chewore Safari Area, Elephant Database. In 2005, this area was estimated to have approximately 30,000 elephant, "the highest ever for the region indicating that the population was increasing." ZimParks Resp. p. 7. In a 2010 aerial survey, the Chewore Safari Area (of approximately 3,400 krn2 ) was estimated to have 5,000 elephant (or 1.5 elephant/krn2 ). See Chewore Safari Area 2010, Elephant Database. The Mid-Zambezi Valley shares its elephant populations with the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia and the Magoe in Mozambique (ZimParks Resp. p. 7), which also requires shared management and surveying. (See page 12 below on Transfrontier Conservation Areas). Similar to the water hole census in Hwange: The Wildlife and Environment Society of Zimbabwe have done an annual game count in Mana Pools National Park in the middle of the lower Zambezi Valley since 1995. While conducted by wildlife enthusiasts and not as part of a scientific programme, the count uses the same transects and methodology each year and can give an indication of population trend. The results (Figure 1) would indicate a general increase in the elephant population over the last 20 years. Safari Operators of Zimbabwe, Status of Elephant Populations, Hunting, and Anti Poaching Effort in Safari Areas in Zimbabwe ("SOAZ Report"), p. 2 (including graph showing population increase).

 

The bolding is mine. What have I misunderstood here?

 

Granted the 2005 numbers quoted here are old numbers, but this is no way reassures me. Rather, it makes me question why such old numbers were quoted in the report, when in the preceding sentence, they themselves say that the last survey was conducted in 2011. Was there a downward trend showing already? I don't know this, but I suspect this to be the case. I have looked everywhere for the 2011 Mid-Zambezi Ele Survey numbers but I cannot find them.

 

He also seems to be extrapolating from the ele numbers obtained from the Mana Pools annual game count to the entire mid-Zambezi Valley, and certainly, when I read it this paragraph, I understand from this that the ele population of the mid-Zambezi is growing and thriving.

 

Which leads me to the conclusion that when someone (from either side, btw, I will grant you that) wishes to make a point, they can massage whatever numbers they want to make them look however they want it to look.

 

If I look back at the number of times you yourself have discounted papers because, according to you they were either written or sponsored by animal rightists, you can understand, I hope, that people who work for Conservation Force etc are not likely to be considered very reliable or trustworthy opinions for people coming to this issue from the opposite side of the fence.

 

But I don't want to get into a hunting/not-hunting or culling/not-culling debate at all - I just wanted to say that the very experts and scientists and workshops and conferences and papers that we base so much of our thinking on is already so biased & loaded & simply reinforces our preexisting points of view.

 

I really do want to discuss the points you raised about translocation (but I need to educate myself a bit first before I can talk to you sensibly) and most of all, about the Transfrontier Park, because I think we can all find some congruence on that last point.

Edited by Sangeeta
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Elephants are known to migrate to safe havens. Apparently Hwange is safer than other areas in Zimbabwe and across in Zambia. Should you now cull to create more room for more elephants to come in? Or should maybe the management in the areas outside Hwange be conducted in a 'smarter' way? IE, create safe areas for elephants. No hunting, relatively high anti-poaching efforts and away from human settlements.

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@@egilio

Amen to that (safe havens)!

The thing about the Savory stuff is that the proof is in the pudding. And not only in Africa, but on 5 continents. Sadly established science and institutes that have been teaching something for decades resist anything that counters the 'accepted' science. Scientific history is littered with this - from Galileo to continental drift. It takes time to get the 'benchmark' institutes to come round to different science and thinking that completely flies in the face of what is considered 'the norm'.

As I said - can we not think, and act, out of the boundaries set by institutionalised thinking, particularly if it is not working?

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From Davison´s book I remember that he started the artificial waterholes because the access to the Gwaii river was fenced out.

 

So how natural is the wildlife in Hwange?

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Here's a paper reviewing Savory's initial trials. They mention some key points which he oddly did not mention in his TED talk.

The years of the initial trials had above average rainfall (>24% more)

He had to supplement feed his livestock

The livestock became stressed and lost weight, enough to compromise the profitability of higher numbers of livestock.

 

Another oddity. Savory doubt that his method could be tested experimentally. But testing the method experimentally would be THE proof that the method works, and would work in other geographic areas too.

But he also claims it works in other geographic areas, and that he has done so.

 

Others have tried and failed.

So why is it so difficult for others, independent of Savory, to replicate his methods? Did he not clearly write out his methods?

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I agree with @ egilio that @ LastChanceSafaris' claims relating to the benefits of Savory's holistic grazing system are overstated. I very much doubt that Savory, himself, would claim that his methods could solve the "Hwange Dilemma".

 

If holistic grazing has any benefit, it is because it can obviate the need for burning which reduces organic soil carbon. In areas that are not carrying sufficient livestock (wild or domesticated) relative to the potential determined by plant productivity, a surplus of indigestible, lignified grass will accumulate. Without burning, this will suppress new growth. However, in the absence of migrating grazers, surplus vegetation will almost inevitably be present at the end of the rainy season and subsequently rapidly deteriorate towards inedibility. This surplus could usefully be consumed before its deterioration by introducing and then removing domesticated grazers, arguably more beneficial than burning. Another approach might be to cut the surplus before it lignifies, leaving it as useful hay for wild grazers during dry periods (baling not necessary). Yet another approach would be to provide block feeding (urea and molasses) which would enable the otherwise indigestible dry season grass to be made use of. Thus, there are four human interventions that might be used to overcome seasonal grass growth characteristics of which burning is the most common, the cheapest, but probably the least useful. The others are all likely to increase biomass. If this increase is not to involve domesticated stock, it will require sustainable cropping of wildlife to pay for the extra management inputs.

 

Hwange's problems are not going to be solved in any of the above ways. Here, point sources of permanent water have allowed biomass to increase above what the peripheral vegetation can sustain. Over time, this is clearly not sustainable - animals will die in large numbers, but, in the meantime, there will be so much botanical damage that desertification will ensue.

 

One anti-culling argument relates to density dependent mortality. I cannot accept this as valid. Overcrowded populations are under considerable nutritional and social stress. As such, their reproductive rates will be sub-optimal and their welfare compromised. If one reduces population density, reproductive rates will increase, an indication of fitness and good welfare. It has been suggested that culling elephants would be a waste of time because their numbers would increase by 10%/annum, allowing a population doubling every 7 years. (NB, if culling is as stressful as some claim, reproductive rate wouldn't increase.) The anti-cull argument only makes sense if one considers a one-off cull. If one wants a sustainable elephant population in Hwange and elephants can't diffuse naturally from the area into contiguous elephant-suitable/friendly habitat, culling will need to be continuous or one will have to ship in supplementary feed.

 

I find talk of semi-continental megaherds to be mere hand-waving. While humans continue both to multiply and persevere with subsistence farming, there will be less and less space available for elephants. To the extent that many conservationist efforts focus on helping local communities to carry on in a more comfortable, but essentially similar, way, they could be said to be exacerbating the problems for wildlife in the long term.

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@@douglaswise and @@egilio

 

Your points are well taken and your comments are valid under accepted science. Please visit Dinamgombe the next time you are in the Vic Falls area and see the difference with your own eyes. The constant state of flux and number of variables in each environment concerned make 'replication', 'repetition' etc. extremely difficult. Those folk who have managed to 'replicate' (for want of a better word) the system swear by it - from the Karoo to Texas to Sweden. Holistic grazing is NOT about stocking rates. It is a means to an end for; reversing soil erosion, increasing water retention, reducing fire dependency (a regular Hwange management tool BTW). All that ultimately (takes about 5-7 years) leads to higher productivity of the land.

As much of a disciple that I am, all I am trying to do is shed blinkers and get people to start thinking that there MAY be another way. When conclusive evidence is presented to me that culling 'works' I will reconsider it. So far the only reversal in environmental degradation I have seen is at Dinamgombe where elephant numbers have gone up, not down.

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Eish - wrote a whole additional response and suffered an African outage!!! Will try again

 

With elephants able to communicate over areas as large as 380sqkm (=93,900acres! - measured response of males to mating call of a female) there is no doubt in my mind that they suffer severe stress from adjacent culling activities. This is reinforced by my own observations of calm elephants responding to unseen/unheard (by me) stimuli from elephant hunting and poaching practices in the Mamili/Linyanti/Kwando area in the late '90's. However, this is an acute stress, not a chronic one such as that brought on by reduced resource availability. Now at the risk of being labelled anthropomorphic (something I recommend on occasion since we are mammals and we know more about our species than any other mammal) human response to acute stress (e.g. war) is to bonk like bunnies! So to relate reproductive success to stress levels is, in my humble opinion, oversimplified. Different stresses may induce different reproduction strategies - we just DON'T know.

The KAZA megaherd is more than hand-waving or pie in the sky; it is the current reality that is well illustrated by Elephants Without Borders' GPS tracking data. However, I do agree that its long term sustainability, when considering human density increases and current subsistence farming practices, is at risk. I also agree that current community focussed conservation strategies are merely a stop gap with no real long term solution. The Savory ideology has shown that subsistence communities CAN live, indeed prosper, with wildlife. So again I implore the establishment to not scoff at the ideas because they don't tick the accepted boxes, but rather put some effort into considering them.

Finally....

I am just off a game drive in the Chobe NP which, this late in the season, is dddrrryyyy! Whilst watching elephants this morning, I was once again struck by their consideration of the vegetation resources available to them at this time of year. It is like watching ladies pick cherries. This feeding behaviour is well documented with the desert elephants and reiterates to me that we DO NOT understand all the processes and CANNOT quantify all the variables at play. Only when I see proof that culling 'works' will I reconsider my stand point. At this stage the only reversal of environmental degradation I have seen is at Dinamgombe Ranch, where the number of elephants has increased, not decreased.

Once again I hypothesise (and agree with @douglaswise) that a feasible solution to the Hwange Dilemma is a phasing out of the waterholes over a decade, or two, so that the ecology can adjust to the precipitation patterns of the area.

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Eish - wrote a whole additional response and suffered an African outage!!! Will try again

 

With elephants able to communicate over areas as large as 380sqkm (=93,900acres! - measured response of males to mating call of a female) there is no doubt in my mind that they suffer severe stress from adjacent culling activities. This is reinforced by my own observations of calm elephants responding to unseen/unheard (by me) stimuli from elephant hunting and poaching practices in the Mamili/Linyanti/Kwando area in the late '90's. However, this is an acute stress, not a chronic one such as that brought on by reduced resource availability. Now at the risk of being labelled anthropomorphic (something I recommend on occasion since we are mammals and we know more about our species than any other mammal) human response to acute stress (e.g. war) is to bonk like bunnies! So to relate reproductive success to stress levels is, in my humble opinion, oversimplified. Different stresses may induce different reproduction strategies - we just DON'T know.

The KAZA megaherd is more than hand-waving or pie in the sky; it is the current reality that is well illustrated by Elephants Without Borders' GPS tracking data. However, I do agree that its long term sustainability, when considering human density increases and current subsistence farming practices, is at risk. I also agree that current community focussed conservation strategies are merely a stop gap with no real long term solution. The Savory ideology has shown that subsistence communities CAN live, indeed prosper, with wildlife. So again I implore the establishment to not scoff at the ideas because they don't tick the accepted boxes, but rather put some effort into considering them.

Finally....

I am just off a game drive in the Chobe NP which, this late in the season, is dddrrryyyy! Whilst watching elephants this morning, I was once again struck by their consideration of the vegetation resources available to them at this time of year. It is like watching ladies pick cherries. This feeding behaviour is well documented with the desert elephants and reiterates to me that we DO NOT understand all the processes and CANNOT quantify all the variables at play. Only when I see proof that culling 'works' will I reconsider my stand point. At this stage the only reversal of environmental degradation I have seen is at Dinamgombe Ranch, where the number of elephants has increased, not decreased.

Once again I hypothesise (and agree with @douglaswise) that a feasible solution to the Hwange Dilemma is a phasing out of the waterholes over a decade, or two, so that the ecology can adjust to the precipitation patterns of the area.

 

~ @@LastChanceSafaris

 

Reading your excellent post is a refreshing tonic.

Your sound appreciation of the complexity of ethological variables is heartening to read.

During a class discussion several days ago life science students were discussing how know-it-all attitudes tend to impede full understanding of ecological issues.

What you've written above rings true to my limited experience. There are numerous variables affecting behavior, some of which may seem inconsequential yet are actually determinative.

Thank you so much for taking time to prepare such a thought-provoking post. I learned from your reasoning.

Tom K.

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@@douglaswise and @@egilio

 

Your points are well taken and your comments are valid under accepted science. Please visit Dinamgombe the next time you are in the Vic Falls area and see the difference with your own eyes. The constant state of flux and number of variables in each environment concerned make 'replication', 'repetition' etc. extremely difficult. Those folk who have managed to 'replicate' (for want of a better word) the system swear by it - from the Karoo to Texas to Sweden. Holistic grazing is NOT about stocking rates. It is a means to an end for; reversing soil erosion, increasing water retention, reducing fire dependency (a regular Hwange management tool BTW). All that ultimately (takes about 5-7 years) leads to higher productivity of the land.

As much of a disciple that I am, all I am trying to do is shed blinkers and get people to start thinking that there MAY be another way. When conclusive evidence is presented to me that culling 'works' I will reconsider it. So far the only reversal in environmental degradation I have seen is at Dinamgombe where elephant numbers have gone up, not down.

 

Aren't you contradicting yourself here? You say 'holistic management' can't be proven in an experimental setting, yet you'll only accept if culling works if conclusive evidence is presented.

If 'holistic management' (whatever that is, nobody has managed to explain it to me, in my view it's just a different style of management) is so complex, it's still posssible to describe the workings of it. Savory is so eager to tell that he put way more cattle in an area, but now you tell me it's not about that? It shouldn't be too hard to explain relationships between soil condition, production, rainfall, productivity, grazing pressure. It doesn't surprise me that that are more elephant at Dinamgombe than surrounding areas if there's more forage there and they were in close proximity (Hwange) in the first place. And I won't deny that the vegetation biomass in Hwange, and probably a lot of farms in the area, couldn't be higher. But I doubt 'holistic management' is the key. It might be one way, but the way it sounds 'holistic management' in itself is many different ways of managing. So every area should have different management, which contradicts 'holistic management' as THE solution as there is no THE holistic management. It's more of an adaptive management strategy where the framework and adaptive strategies are not very well documented (yet).

 

 

What I do agree with you and @@douglaswise is that to start with they should phase out the artificial watering points.

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@@LastChanceSafaris:

 

I don't disagree with the great majority of what you have written. Furthermore, I am approaching the subject as a theoretician with no specific knowledge of the Hwange ecosystem and am prepared to bow to your practical experience. However, I do have experience of animal welfare science and, in consequence, am possibly less concerned than you about the supposed conscious psychological suffering of elephants that are outside the visual but within the auditory range of a culling operation.

 

I did acknowledge one benefit of holistic grazing - namely, it obviates the need for fires. I did not touch on another potential advantage. If one has an area of semi-degraded or overgrazed habitat, it is likely that residual vegetation is composed primarily of unpalatable plant species in consequence of prior prolonged selective grazing. If one then heavily and temporarily overgrazes such an area, all vegetation is likely to be removed and the ground will receive a concentrated dose of fertiliser from dung and urine. Subsequent destocking will provide the opportunity for long-living seeds to germinate and the new sward may be more productive than that which preceded it. In addition, the dung will have improved soil structure by adding organic material. In theory, one could also contemplate some seeding with introduced nitrogen-fixing legume seeds. However, I'm not sure whether this approach is really what Savory is advocating. I think his main thesis is that rotational grazing is superior to set stocking and the evidence for this is equivocal.

 

@@egilio and you both suggest that I have advocated the phasing out of the Hwange water points and you both seem to agree that this is a sensible thing to do. However, I do not necessarily advocate this. I must suppose, therefore, that my prior comments were misleading and clumsily expressed.

 

I think that we can agree that the Hwange water points have enabled more wildlife to exist than otherwise would have been the case. Elephants have disproportionately benefited because they can travel greater distances to and from water than other species. Furthermore, the great bulk of the increased biomass is elephant biomass because of their relative size. The consequence, as I understand, is that tree cover has declined to near zero levels and grass cover is disappearing and its quality declining. This is clearly unsustainable. However, the fact remains that the watering points have created more wild biomass and, probably, more biodiversity than would have been the case had they not been been created. In turn, this has enabled the establishment of tourism with consequent economic benefits.

 

What will be achieved by the phasing out of watering points? Large numbers of animals will either starve or move to other areas where they will over- pressurise the plant communities to which they have moved. At best, one might hope for the re-establishment of the ecosystem that obtained before water points were introduced. However, because over-grazing is already evident and would continue during the phase out, the more likely outcome would be a degree of desertification such that the de-watered area never got back to the carrying capacity of its pre-water level.

 

For the reasons above, I would advocate a policy of active management whilst retaining the water points. However, while one could consider various ways of upping "pasture" productivity, I cannot see any alternative to a heavy cull of elephants, which, in my opinion, would be more humane than slowly killing them by water withdrawal.

 

I think @@LastChanceSafaris and @@egilio are taking the purist stance of leaving nature to take its course. I am sufficiently arrogant to believe that systems can be made more productive by human intervention, while accepting that mistakes can be made.

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I have sent an email to Allan Savory asking for his input - hopefully he will be able to answer the questions posed. It would be great to have his insight to so many subjects and debates on ST. Maybe @GameWarden could arrange an interview????? Think it would spark a fascinating debate in its own right.

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Allan has got back to me, is busy digesting all the material in the debate.

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@LastChanceSafaris:

 

It's very good news that Allan Savory will soon be joining the debate. Congratulations for facilitating this.

 

Having re-read past comments, I think the suggestions by @@michael-ibk, @@inyathi and @@Bugs relating to the construction of more water holes and the rotation of their use have a lot to commend them. Clearly, there would be a funding problem as far as application goes. However, I suppose a more limited cull than would otherwise be necessary might pay for it.

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Posted (edited)

@@douglaswise, I guess i am part of the "ignorants" because i disagree with your idea of culling.

 

I totally agree with @@Sangeeta

 

 

 

Frankly, in this day and age, when these animals are already facing the kind of existential pressure they are, I find discussions about culling not even remotely interesting or controversial or eliciting of any outraged response. I just find them repulsive and paradoxical.

Culling elephants for me is not and will never be an option especially for a species whose numbers have declined from 10million to 300,000 in 100 years.

 

How ironic that some humans are considering culling those majestic animals whereas the human species is unable/unwilling to control/limit its own population despite all the means available. Maybe it would be better and make more sense to convince africans to stop breeding like rabbits?

 

Regarding ivory trade, i prefer not to even comment on it...

Edited by Dam2810
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Posted (edited)

i read on the Facebook page of the aim NP an interesting comment from a well respected guide. (on a slightly different topic, it seems that Hwange has also too many lions???)

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1401593360091693/?fref=ts

 

 

If anyone was wondering why there were some lions missing from the 100 mile drive in Hwange, well you can see they have now arrived in China, all thanks to those who continue their culling propaganda. Tell people something long enough and they will believe it. Tell Parks they have too many elephants and eventually they believe it and then they cull, which includes removing baby elephants, and whilst they are doing it, how about a few lions on the side. They could have just bought excess lions from a lion park, this would have been better than removing wild lions from the park. So please think carefully before promoting something that started with little thought in the 1960's in Hwange and is often promoted with little thought today

Edited by Dam2810

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@Dam2810:

 

OK. I'm repulsive and you're ignorant.

 

Yes, there's been a 33 fold drop in African elephant numbers in the last 100 years and a 14 fold increase in humans. You'd prefer more elephants and less Africans. While we might both agree that it would be highly desirable were Africans to have smaller families, the effects on reducing numbers wouldn't become manifest for 30-50 years because a very high proportion of the population is approaching breeding age. Do you live in a nation that devotes as much of its territory to wildlife conservation as do African range states? Is it possible that your presence on the planet is more ecologically damaging than that of an African subsistence farmer? Is it possible that you are being hypocritical, racist and elitist? I'm sure not - you're just using the emotional side of your brain (empathising with elephants) and forgetting to use any of its cognitive apparatus. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 

What positive recommendations do you have for saving the Hwange ecosystem and preventing its projected long term deterioration into desert? You have said what you wouldn't do and, perhaps, that has given you a warm glow inside. However, has it helped? Do you support the suggestions of @@LastChanceSafaris and @@egilio that water points should be gradually phased out? How would that help the ecosystem or the biomass upon it? I don't think it would (see post #64). You might take the view that foreign money is thrown into a relocation exercise (including yours?). Wouldn't you accept that @@Bugs has a valid point when stating that poor Africans will quite reasonably resent that aid is going to wildlife and not themselves, thus fostering resentment at both donors and wildlife?

 

Finally, suppose all African elephants received blanket protection and continued to breed at 5%/annum. In 70 years, they'd be back to 10 million. When there were last that number, there were only 250 million people in Africa. In 70 years time, there'll be well over 7 billion. What, in your view, is a sustainable number of elephants? You might well argue that future human numbers won't be sustainable anyway and I'd be inclined to agree. Anyway, one lesson does emerge. Elephants, as a species, can bounce back quite quickly since they aren't much predated by other than humans, but they can only do so if they have suitable ecosystems in which to do it. Desertification of Hwange is a step in the wrong direction.

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@@Dam2810 There have been some really interesting discussions in this thread on the whole issue.. the desertification of Hwange.

 

I think many members have submitted some excellent ideas on how this could be tackled in a different way.

 

There is no doubt there is a problem and perhaps you can also make suggestions on how this could be managed.

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Allan has got back to me, is busy digesting all the material in the debate.

 

Fantastic, looking forward to learn more about the issue from him!

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I have been invited to comment on your site I did not know about and hope that I can do so helpfully. Thankyou for your invitation to an obviously caring and concerned group.

 

I have one suggestion that I firmly believe will enable us to solve this issue permanently for the good of everyone, result in many more elephants not damaging their environment, and even result in rhino returning safely into the wild. My single suggestion to all of you is this. Put together a representative group of your own. Visit the Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) (we have accommodation for up to 30 people and easy access). There have a look at what is going on – no one visits without changing. And let us discuss and plan how to bring about a “Solutions” workshop or retreat involving key players that you advise and we discuss. We already have some idea of who needs to be at any solutions retreat – WWF, IUCN, etc, local Chiefs (five of whom are Trustees of ACHM) National Parks, Safari hunters, and ?????? Let’s determine these together and plan a strategy to hold such a solutions retreat leading to real change in today’s policies that can only result in loss for everyone and continued loss of Africa’s big game. I already have at least one person strongly opposed to any hunting or culling willing to donate $10,000 to such a retreat’s costs.

 

My suggestion I know will make little sense to all of you. So please read my reason below and pardon the length to explain such a complex situation.

 

The problem is not new to me having first become deeply concerned at the fate of elephant, rhino and all our African game when I joined the old Northern Rhodesian Game Department in the 1950’s and saw the deterioration of wildlife habitat getting underway in the Luangwa Valley, Kafue, Sumbu, Mweru wa Ntipa, etc.. My concern continued when I transferred to the S.Rhodesia Game Dept working in the lower Zambezi, and my concern remains as great today.

 

It was my faulty research, approved by a team of other scientists appointed by the SR government and led by Reay Smithers, to verify my research, that eventually led to the culling in Zimbabwe that startedi in Hwange. As I explained, in a recent TED talk http://on.ted.com/Savory on global desertification, I was wrong .

 

We were all wrong. Culling, as I was to learn, can never solve the problem, while causing anger, conflict and public condemnation of hunting. That culling “to bring the elephant numbers down to a level the land can sustain” is no different from our centuries old belief that controlling cattle (or any livestock) numbers would stop land degradation, or desertification, which is what we are actually dealing with. This is now a global problem not only an African one. It is happening over the entire seasonally humid/dry environments of the world where the institute named after me is working on six continents finally achieving results.

 

That reducing animal numbers (elephants or any animals including livestock) does not work I illustrated in the TED talk with the example of a National Park in New Mexico with all animals removed for 70 years – now an appalling state of bare soil and deep erosion with most life lost. I used this extreme - of totally removing all large grazing/browsing animals - to make the point. My home in the US, where I live half the year is 500 yards from the Aldo Leopold Memorial Forest along the Rio Grande River. It too now is in a terrible state of degradation devoid of most life because our old ideas of conservation, and limiting animal numbers to what the land can sustain, are simply not working in the US or anywhere I know of in what we term brittle environments. These are environments where the soil life and all plant and animal life co-evolved over millions of years with vast numbers of large herbivores and their pack-hunting predators.

 

As scientists we simply missed looking at the full cycle of life – birth, growth, death, decay – essential to all life in the synergistic relationship between soil life, climate, plants and animals - over millennia. In particular we failed to observe the decay link in this vital cycle, that affects all life if it breaks down in any population (especially in the grass populations) in synergistically functioning biological communities. In the absence of sufficient numbers of large mammals functioning naturally much annually dying plant material shifts from rapid biological decay to gradual chemical/physical weathering. This in turn leads to the available rainfall becoming less effective, or desertification as we now know it. I should point out that this problem does not occur in about one third of the world where humidity is evenly distributed and where historically although large mammals existed, most herbivores were insects. This is why conservation works so well in tropical forests, much of the East and West coasts of America, Europe, etc. but is failing in our African savanna national parks as well as US reserves.

 

We humans are tool-using animals. None of you reading this can even drink water right now without going to the nearest river and drinking with your hands and mouth, unless you use some form of technology (glass, jug, tap, etc.) Scientists and environmentalists (all of us) believe we have many tools with which to manage say Hwange NP or any other. We do not. We have only some form of technology (machines, chemicals, GPS, satellites, etc. etc.) we have fire (that made all the modern marvels of technology possible once we could melt stone and enter the copper, bronze and iron ages) and we have the concept of resting the environment (leaving it to nature or conservation).

 

As I pointed out in the TED talk, no technology even imaginable in science fiction can maintain rapid biological decay over two thirds or the world’s land every year, fire is rapid oxidation and exposes soil (making rainfall less effective) and resting the land (conservation) is perhaps the single greatest thing leading to biodiversity loss and desertification in the vast brittle environments (as shown by the extreme of rest in both the US National Park and Aldo Leopold Mem. Forest, and many research plots).

 

There is simply no tool in the human toolbox that can prevent global desertification (or the degradation of Hwange NP)– leading to increased frequency and severity of droughts and floods, wildlife habitat degradation, poverty, social breakdown (poaching), mass emigration to cities and across borders, ideal recruitment for dissident violent organizations, violence and climate change. And no tool that can address the degradation occurring in our national parks like Hwange, Chobe, Zambezi, Mana, etc. The greatest mystery would be if our parks were not deteriorating and losing biodiversity, and we were not facing global desertification and climate change.

 

That – lack of a needed tool - is one part of the problem we face. The other is as simple and profound, and necessary to understand if we seriously want to enjoy elephants, rhino, etc. far into the future living in the wild, with poachers in greater danger than the animals. That other point is that management and not the animal numbers, either too few (becoming endangered) or too many (needing culling), is the problem.

 

Just as we scientists did not look at the decay portion in the plant populations in the entire biological community overall life cycle, and recognize we lacked any tool to prevent desertification, so too we did not recognize another flaw that I discovered almost by accident (as often happens in science). That point is that humans use a very simple genetically embedded way to arrive at all conscious actions we take, including of course developing policies and management at all levels and in all situations. And this of course includes how we take such actions as culling or any other to manage say Hwange.

 

This genetically embedded way is profoundly simple. It’s simplicity prevented it being discovered till recently. We have many objectives or goals and to achieve any objective, from cull elephants to brushing our teeth, we always use one of the three tools we have (most often we use technology). And we make our decision on a number of considerations – past experience, research results, expert opinion, cost, profitability, expedience, public reaction, intuition, peer pressure, compromise and so on endlessly.

 

We can recognize this framework throughout this entire thread of comments and suggestions to deal with the elephants. We can recognize it from the simplest family decisions to a sophisticated integrated team of scientists engaged in space exploration. And it is the framework unknowingly used by all governments, international agencies and environmental organizations developing policies, development projects, etc. Every one of the good people trying to come up with a policy to truly save elephants, rhino, etc. is unknowingly using this underlying genetically embedded way. All have objectives or goals, all will use technology mainly, and all will make their decisions on many considerations as mentioned.

 

This way of doing things is not immediately problematic with everything we “make” – cars, weapons, building, bridges, computers, planes, satellites, etc. All things we make do what they are designed to do, and do not do unexpected/unplanned things. All involve technology and expertise and all are complicated but not self- organizing (ie they do not work if a part is missing, battery flat, no fuel, etc) and thus by definition everything we make is not complex. All the things we make are in Systems Science called “complicated hard systems”.

 

Our way of doing things is very problematic with everything we “manage” – human organizations and nature mainly. These are self-organizing (work if a person or species is missing although they may change) and are complex by definition. And globally we are running into increasing problems with what we manage – from global finance driving environmental destruction, global economies, conflicting religious organizations, agriculture producing twenty times as much dead eroding soil as food needed per human every year, etc. including global desertification and climate change.

 

The reason is profoundly simple. Objectives or goals need a reason, or context. If I have the objective of lighting fires with no reason or context it is likely to lead to problems. We do have a reason, or context, for all our management actions. For example, all of you concerned with the elephants and Hwange have a reason or context for your actions and suggestions. Our context, if you think about it in almost every management situation is such things as – need, desire, profit, support our family, deal with a problem (excessive poaching, saving an endangered species) and so on, and in every policy and development project without exception the reason or context is to address a problem. This is why managing parks such as Hwange or the elephant population is not working – not due to ill will or lack of available knowledge.

 

Here lies the main reason for management over many centuries leading to disappointing results and endless unintended consequences – because management cannot avoid social, cultural, economic and environmental complexity, and reducing that complexity to such simple context is tantamount to having no context for our actions. Like lighting fires with no reason.

 

This flaw we were able to solve in the early 1980’s by developing the holistic framework for management, in which management actions all have as their context a Holistic Context. This is a statement of how people want their lives to be, tied to their life-supporting environment and behaviour. A generic example of a Holistic Context I use when visiting strange countries, reading research, listening to news, looking at all the comments and suggestions in the thread of responses in this site looks like this:

We want stable families living peaceful lives in prosperity and physical security while free to pursue our own spiritual or religious beliefs. Adequate nutritious food and clean water. Enjoying good education and health in balanced lives with time for family, friends and community and leisure for cultural and other pursuits. All to be ensured, for many generations to come, on a foundation of regenerating soils and biologically diverse communities on Earth’s land and in her rivers, lakes and oceans.

 

By now if you have read this far your eyes are probably glazing over and you may be thinking how this might help in the case of the elephant problem in Hwange. The answer is that this simple way of having any authorities develop policies using this framework will I assure you solve the problem. In the 1980s the U.S. government had me train 2,000 people from all the main government land managing agencies, World Bank, USAID and faculty members from a number of universities. They analyzed hundreds of their own policies including wildlife management and many other problems. They found all their policies would disappoint and be likely to lead to unplanned consequences. This you will note in their policies across the board – drug policy leading to more drug use, violence, etc. terrorist policy leading to increasing problems, noxious weeds policy wasting a billion dollars a year with many unplanned consequences and so on. I did the same sort of training in India and Lesotho with similar results.

 

Working with 35 MPs in Zimbabwe recently from both main warring factions I had them work on the most contentious issue in the country – land and agriculture policy. By the end of the workshop they had the nucleus of a policy that if applied would lead to it being the first country in the world producing more food than eroding soil, massive move back to the land from cities, rivers once more flowing and wildlife increasing, etc. They expressed two reactions. The first sadness and anger over the fact that they have had so many consultants and others advise and no one ever show how easy it was to do. By the way all hostility in the group just faded as soon as we had a national Holistic Context to work with. Please believe me it will be the same as soon as we can bring contending parties and work on the Hwange elephant problem using the holistic framework in place of the way things are now being done.

 

I am confident we will work out what to do and it will result in many more elephants doing way less damage, far less poaching, and total support of all the major environmental organizations and the local people. I know what solution is likely to emerge using all the science and knowledge people already have about the elephants and the land BUT and this is vital – people have to discover and work out the solution together. If told the solution without going through the process of working it out for themselves it would result in enormous conflict leading to no progress for years.

 

At the Africa Centre for Holistic Management we are managing holistically and training people from many parts of the world. We are already managing the land and wildlife holistically. Habitat for all wildlife is dramatically improving and contrasting greatly with the surrounding national parks as visitors land manger and scientists in training see.

 

You can Google my name and will find lots of criticism and academics claiming Holistic Management is not based on science, does not work, etc. All this is the normal resistance to change as any paradigm begins to change. Well described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. John Ralston Saul who studied management problems more than most had this conclusion in his best selling book Voltaire’s Bastards “The reality is that the division of knowledge into feudal fiefdoms of expertise has made general understanding and coordinated action not simply impossible but despised and distrusted.”

 

Not a single critic has made any effort at all to actually study what they are critical of.

 

And all the academic and expert opposition is offset by the people who did their due diligence investigation before making awards – such as Australia’s International Banksia award “for the person, or organization, doing the most for the environment on a global scale” Buckminster Fuller award to ACHM for “addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues” of the fact that ACHM with Savory Institute is a finalist in the largest prize ever in the history of science – the Virgin Earth Challenge. You will just have to make up your own minds when you come to Dimbangombe the ACHM place.

 

So, I return to my single suggestion. Put together a representative group of your own. Visit ACHM (we have accommodation for up to 30 people and easy access). There have a look at what is going on and we will run through a mockup of what a solutions retreat would cover and how it would be done so all involved develop the solution themselves. And let us discuss and plan how to bring about such a “Solutions” workshop of retreat involving key players that you advise and we discuss. We already have some idea of who needs to be at any solutions retreat – WWF, IUCN, US Fish & Wildlife, etc, local Chiefs (five of whom are Trustees of ACHM) National Parks, Safari hunters, and ?????? Let’s determine these together and plan a strategy to hold such a solutions retreat leading to real change in today’s policies that can only result in loss for everyone. And let us determine who has the convening power to bring about such a retreat. Perhaps Prince Charles who strongly supports our work? Or who else?

 

This is what M.Sanjayan the host in a recent National Geographic/PBS documentary Earth A New Wild Part II, had to say after filming at ACHM and our work in Montana "If Allan is right, then we may have to completely rethink life on the plains. The message is an extraordinarily powerful one, and it could be the best thing, the absolute best thing that conservation has ever discovered."

“In a million years, I never thought that cows could be so beneficial for the wildlife I love . . . As an ecologist I was taught that people, and especially their livestock, are the enemy of wildlife, but my journey from Africa to the Arctic to here in Montana, is forcing me to rethink everything I know about conservation.”

 

Dr M.Sanjayan (at the time a Senior Scientist in The Nature Conservancy)

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@@Allan Savory

Welcome to SafariTalk, and thank you for your input. My support for SI & ACHM comes from the fact that decades of focussed management has created more problems than solutions, the Hwange Dilemma being just one of them. If holistic management is adopted on the scale you suggest, I have no doubt everything will turn around inside a generation.

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@@Allan Savory

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this discussion.

I won't pretend that I yet understand all of what you wrote but after 2 or 3 more readings I am sure I will get there.

 

Your suggestion of putting together a representative group is exactly what I have been trying to do for the last couple of months. It is still very much work in progress.

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