Rwenzori

Good fences make safe lions - Born free is good, but protected is better

46 posts in this topic

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/25/opinion/la-oe-packer-how-to-save-lions-20130425

 

love the ending:

"we need a latter-day Marshall Plan that integrates the true costs of park management into the economic priorities of international development agencies. Lions are too valuable to take for granted."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's been some pretty strong criticism on this study. Do you really want to protect 20-50 lions in small reserves where they don't really fill their ecosystem function, but are near (or often over) carrying capacity or do you want to protect >2000 lions in an area like Selous where lions do fill their ecosystem function, but is impossible to properly fence?

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@egilio

 

... the latter!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you read the article no one is suggesting to break up the Selous into smaller fenced reserves.

 

The author say that basically it will be hard to get local people involved in conservation until lions keep attacking them and eating their livestock.

 

If there is no wilderness outside a reserve but only farms and villages, like in the disticts west of Serengeti, what's the poing in being "free"?

 

You already aren't but is harder to protect you.

 

There are times when lack of fences doesn't promote connectivity but only keeps human-wildlife conflict high.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They argue to fence Selous as a whole. The cost of this is immense, the cost of maintaining it even bigger. If you have the budget and put it to anti-poaching work instead of fence maintenance the protection of Selous would already be much better than it is now. Basically they claim that it is better to protect 20 lions in a small fenced area than 1,000 lions in a big unfenced area BECAUSE the 20 in the small area are closer to the carrying capacity of lions in that small fenced area.

 

Added to that, if you separate wildlife and people the tolerance and willingness of people to protect wildlife will decrease. The forget to live with animals, they don't see the animals as an integral part of the ecosystem they live in. But they will keep seeing it as a resource, they will keep poaching, they will keep snaring, and the fences just so happen to provide good materials for that.

4 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Western Serengeti needs to be fenced, this is clear.

I have doubts fencing Selous is great. This might help lions, but what would happen with other species, especially migratory ones?

Botswana fenced a lot in the past and this lead to huge collapse of different species. We must think in a global way, protecting lion not always benefit to all the species.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What would people use those fences for?

The fences in Botswana stayed up because there's just very few people there, and the fences were to separate wildlife and cattle, and those fences are not predator proof.

 

Even in intensively managed places, like Save, fences are taken down and turned into snares. But Save has quite intensive anti-poaching, much more intensively than National parks. So this would mean that you need money to build the fences, money to maintain the fences and increase money for patrolling within the fences.

 

What would a fence in Western Serengeti do with the wildebeest migration? The current illegal off-take of wildebeests in the Serengeti is estimated to be around 100,000 annually, currently that is sustainable. Putting a fence up in the Western Serengeti will reduce the wildebeest numbers, it will not completely wipe out the poaching. It might not even reduce the poaching at all.

 

I think the route of making certain species World Heritages in itself, with proper UN funding backing it to conserve them, might be the way.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

@@egilio

The fences in Botswana lead to the collapse of the elephant population, as they had no possibility to migrate during the dry season.

In Serengeti, the fences would enable protecting people against animals, especially crop raiding. I agree with you, that fencing will never stop poaching, but limit conflicts.

I also completely agree that parks are underfunded or not funded at all.

 

The point is that we need to find innovative solutions, as it is clear the parks will not receive further funding. Even APN allow small budget in its biggest protected areas.

The best solution, I guess, would be to make huge trusts from billionaires, which dividends would help to fund some parks. Not all, this would be imposible But it is clear we will never reach 100 MUSD for Selous per year, there is not enough money for it. I am estimating that Tanzania would need a bit around 700-800 MUSD every year to fund properly its network of protected areas, while the nation GDP is about177 billion USD.

 

What is your opinion about Akagera, Majete and very soon Liwonde?

Do you think that fencing is a mistake? My opinion is that it will reduce conflict such as crop raiding, and limit cattle invading the parks, so I guess this is a good idea. These parks are also some islands of wildlife surrounded by fields...

Edited by jeremie
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never heard of an elephant collapse in Botswana because of fences. Do you have more info on this? As far as I know the elephants aren't really controlled by the fences. Lots of zebra and wildebeests died in the Kalahari when they tried to move north to get to water but came across fences.

 

I don't think we should rely on generous billionaires for the protection of areas. A UN initiated fund to properly protect natural world heritage would be more sustainable I think.

 

Fencing is not innovative, it's going back to fortress conservation. Separating humans and wildlife might reduce the conflicts in the short term, but in the long term people will perceive smaller infrictions on themselves as a problem, ie their tolerance to wildlife will be reduced considerably.

 

If you read the AP reports you can see that Liuwa Plain has a work force of about 100 people, it cover 3,600 sq km. Majete has a work force of about 300 people and covers about 700 sq. km. The majority of the people employed in Majete are for fence patrol and maintenance. In some areas, like Majete, where there is no connection for wildlife to other wildlife populations, where there is a very dense human population all around the park, it's the only way to protect the animals inside the park.

 

So maybe we should fence people in, and not wildlife? I doubt that's a correct solution too. You could fence villages and fields to keep animals out, but you need the same effort to patrol fences and maintain fences. And what if the number of people in the village grow and you need more space for houses and fields?

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I meant wild beast, what a terrible mistake.

 

My opinion si that if there is no more space for animals, and in high densities areas, such as the area west to Grumeti reserve or outside Liwonde or Majete, you have to fence. I am not sure people will be more tolerant to wildlife without fence than with a fence. Crop raiding make people quite intolerant.

Same problem for Yankari.

 

I do not see any other solution.

 

Concerning the idea of a UN fund. You are true, this is the long term solution if countries cannot fund their own protected areas, but how long will it take to make such a fund? What amount should be given by nations for the fund? While we have huge problems to find the 100 billions promised for the COP21, I have serious doubts we will be able to create a fund in the next 20 years for conservation. My evaluation is that Tanzania would need 700 MUSD each year to protect each protected areas with sufficient funds, well, this would mean we need a trust of 14 U

billions USD only for Tanzania (5% interest rate).

 

I guess you see the huge difficulties it means. And why I am asking billionaire to play the game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If animals go absent from an area, even for a very short time, the intolerance towards them increases rapidly once they return.

I've seen this in Liuwa and Luangwa. Lions regularly wander through many villages in Luangwa at night, sometimes killing dogs. The people know this, and, although they don't like it, they don't report it as a problem.

In Liuwa, where lions where pretty much absent safe for one for less than 10 year, people are quick to report to AP when lions wandered through a village at night. When asked what the lions did the response was: "They were there!" IE, they didn't attack anyone or any livestock or dogs, but it was already perceived as a problem.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@jeremie

Fences are about the worst idea for southern African national parks (particularly in countries like Zambia) because they would:

1. cut the park off from its surrounding wildlife buffer areas; and

2. provide poachers with a ready supply of snare materials.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@

ZaminOz

 

I repeat: In am in favour of fences in islands reserves surrounded by highly populated human landscapes such as Liwonde, Majete, Yankari...

I am against fences in large wild or pastoralist areas, where fencing might protect lions, but would potencialy lead to a collapse of other migratory species.

The case of Luangwa is clear. Both national parks are in a way connected to some Malawi protected areas and many other areas in Eastern Zambia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Certainly, there is no "one" answer to declining lion populations, but fencing--for some of them--is probably a good option. Packer has done a lot of research on lion populations and does believe that fencing can help slow the decline. Of course, issues raised in this thread--like the detrimental effects on migrations--are valid and is why there can be no "one" solution to lions in decline.

 

There are various good programs being implemented to help mitigate human-lion conflict, such as blinking lights that scare aware lions (see, eg, http://www.examiner.com/article/saving-the-african-lion-richard-turere-s-lion-lights-invention) as well as program's like WildCru's Long Shields Lion Guardians (see, eg, https://www.panthera.org/cms/sites/default/files/April-2014-Newsletter.pdf)

 

I don't like the idea of paying villagers if lions kill their cattle--though I understand the need for some type of renumeration--but the practice has led to less lion deaths. (Can't find the reference right now.)

 

So, again, I think fencing may be a solution for some lion populations where other means to mitigate human-lion interaction is not feasible or not successful.

Edited by lovesbigcats

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not like fences at all in some cases it may be necessary

I think that managing an area differently and make sure that the local communities get profits from the parks,reservs,protected areas and help to protect them is a more long term solution but I am afraid that the pressure to farm more and build more will in the end make a lot of wild and natural areas to be fenced and then they are no longer wild.

I absolutly belive that the only way to save wild areas is to make profit from them maybe with help as @@egilio suggests from ex the EU but also from tourism and hunting

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There probably is not a "one size fits all" answer here, but we need to seriously look at one of the few areas on the continent where the lion population is actually INCREASING and see what they are doing. In Olare Motorogi Conservancy, one of the private conservancies of the Masai Mara, conservancy funds are used to build fences, but not to fence the lions in. Funds are used to construct bomas to protect landowners' livestock from predation. This has no impact on migratory species and landowners feel ownership in conservancy profits. This conservancy, along with the other private conservancies in the area, are fastidious about paying landowners their share of conservancy fees which are based on bed numbers whether those beds are occupied or not, meaning the landowners have a steady income. This model seems to be working well for the predators. This does not work as well when the conversation switches to rhinos who need the fences to protect them.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't see that this has been mentioned above, but while you're busy fencing a park to keep the lions in, you're also destroying the park by keeping the elephants in. Aberdare National Park in Kenya is a good example of this. Every year a bunch of 4x4 enthusiasts head off into the bush for an extreme multi-day 4x4 off-road (and I really mean there's no semblance of a road) event. They bring in all sorts of equipment, food, supplies, fuels, lubricants, etc. They party and drink and listen to loud music. They drive across fragile ecosystems with their monstrous vehicles, and they raise tens of millions of shillings for conservation. This money goes straight to Rhino Ark who uses it to fence off forests like Aberdare NP (and now Mau and Eburru). They celebrated when the Aberdares were fully fenced. This meant no more conflict between elephants and local farmers. But what it did mean (and literally NO ONE wants to talk about this) is that the local elephant population continued to do well and continued pushing over trees (as they do). But because they could no longer travel farther afield and migrate to other parts of the country, they just continue pushing over trees in this essential 'water tower' catchment. So instead of the aberdares being under risk from illegal loggers, it is now under risk from elephants! About 1/5 of the country's population relies directly on the water supply that comes from the aberdares. If the elephants are allowed to continue deforesting the park, we're all screwed. But it's a huge accomplishment for conservation, right!?

This is the problem with fences - they are a 1 dimensional solution to a multi-dimensional challenge. It's narrow minded and short-sighted.

 

Almost every park in East Africa that has lions (other than Nakuru and Nairobi), also has elephants. You fence in the lions, you also fence in the elephants, and it's no secret that elephants are WELL-KNOWN as very influential ecosystem engineers.

 

Another example, specifically using lions (and wild-dogs), why fences may be detrimental. If say, we were to fence off Masai Mara (even including all the conservancies and some extra land), we'd cut off that wildlife from their neighbouring populations in the Loita Hills and the Southern Rift (Shompole, Olkiramatian, Enkusero Sampu, etc.), and onward to Ambosel and Tsavo. We're all under the impression that those are separated ecosystems. How many people are aware that one pack of wild-dogs has been tracked from central Serengeti, up to the Mau, down over the Nguruman escarpment, across lake Magadi, up through Kajiado, through Amboseli, and into Tsavo West? Genetic studies on lions across that region also show that there is still an exchange of genes. Shompole and its surroundings have as high a density of lions as most of the mara and serengeti. The Loita hills still have a decent (but very shy) lion population that mixes with their neighbours on either side.
This has nothing to do with a 'Joy Adamson style emotional plea for lions to be born free/living free' and everything to do with sensible, long-term, broad solution thinking.

 

Where ever local communities benefit directly (generally monetarily) from the wildlife they would otherwise be in conflict with, conservation tends to succeed. Where ever local communities are ignored, marginalized, and told to "just value the wildlife as your nation's heritage", they're only too happy to see that wildlife disappear or be locked up behind a fence.

9 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@ armchair bushman:

 

Your thesis only has merit if the elephants trapped within a fenced area would otherwise be able to move away at times of unfavourable nutrition to areas where conditions were better. One could regard this as self-transhumance. An example would be wildbeest "following the rains" in the Mara/Serengeti system. However, you, yourself, say that almost every area in Kenya that has areas appropriate for elephants already has elephants within them. This might suggest a mis-match between elephant population numbers and their available habitat. If fencing represents the outcome of one dimensional thinking, consider fencing plus harvesting (culling) surplus animals - two dimensional! Otherwise, please be more specific about the broad solution thinking that will allow simultaneous explosions of human and elephant populations.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I, personally, am not wholly against culling, under the right circumstances, control, and supervision, I can guarantee you that the general conservation/bunny-hugger fraternity in Kenya would absolutely, categorically never allow such a thing in this country. Carrying capacities, etc. mean nothing here, where "animal welfare" is basically synonymous with "conservation". Science and hands-on management are a pretty foreign concept when you have emotions ruling national policy.

 

Hence, corridors (which generally require some fencing) are probably the best "happy medium" for Kenya. A well designed corridor can have two desired effects:

1. Allow elephants and other migratory/wandering species to continue their natural behaviour without the need for culling
2. Keep elephants and other marauding animals out of farmlands, towns, roads, etc.

 

Aberdare NP is somewhat unique in that it supports a healthy elephant population, but is almost wholly surrounded by farmlands and settlement. Other parks that are completely surrounded (Nakuru, Nairobi) do not support elephants, while other parks that support elephants are not (yet) fully surrounded, allowing for some continued movement. In areas where conservancies (and I don't necessarily mean mara-style, tourism-based conservancies) abut National Parks, Reserves, and other major wildlife areas, elephants (and lions) are free to move in and out, allowing for a continual mixing of the gene pool.

 

I have read that only 3 areas of Kenya still have viable lion populations with a large enough gene pool to be self-sustaining (Mara, Laikipia, Tsavo). I would, with some hesitation, challenge that concept and say that the Mara and Tsavo actually share/trade gene pools from time to time. Research on lions across the Southern Rift region suggests that there is still some trading of genes and that through ongoing conservation efforts in the area, this is actually increasing.

The same is true of many parts of Northern Kenya, where elephants and lions are beginning to reappear in areas they have not been seen for decades. There is some hope, in fact, that elephants will soon be seen on Mt. Kulal again in a couple of years (they have not been seen there for over 20, I believe). They have been steadily moving farther and farther North, as some of the old matriarchs retrace some of their old paths across the Milgis lugga and beyond. Better land use planning, changing attitudes towards wildlife, and improved rangeland management across the Northern Rangelands means the elephants are gaining more confidence to explore their old stomping grounds again.

I would argue that if a park is completely surrounded by farms, you either have to fence it and remove the elephants, or cull the elephants. Otherwise, if there's any room for a corridor to further feeding areas, that corridor MUST be established and maintained.

4 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@armchair bushman:

 

I agree that your conclusions are valid. Certainly, corridors to alternative feeding areas, where possible, make a lot of sense. I also think that the wildlife prospects in the Northern Rangelands have been boosted by the activities of the NRT, in large part by changing attitudes of the local populations. However, when it comes to changing attitudes, would you not agree that that it is "the bunny hugging fraternity", to whom you refer, that are in need of education. They should be encouraged to appreciate that the "road to hell is paved with good intentions". Do you, as a tour guide, consider this as part of your duty? Certainly, many so-called conservation NGOs seem to encourage ignorance on the subject of biological sustainability (eg The Born Free Foundation). Their continuing protectionist agendas seem to be almost designed to precipitate human/wildlife and even racial conflict and habitat destruction.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello y'all - hope all well with the ST gang!

 

It seems to me we come to these issues with such vested ideas and (dare I say it) such inbuilt prejudices that our individual answers inevitably devolve into familiar rants against the ranter's favorite punching bags. Which is not particularly helpful in advancing the debate.

 

The bunny-hugging brigade continues to proceed along its well-intentioned road to hell, undeterred by the fact that focusing on animal welfare and animal rights is anathema to so-called serious conservationists.

 

The culling brigade can't see a road to anywhere that doesn't involve at least a little bit of culling to tidy things up & make them ship-shape, undeterred by the fact that culling is now considered to be an extreme solution that most people will no longer accept.

 

The hunters and 'sustainable use' brigade can't see a single animal of any specie, however endangered, whose hunt will not ultimately be beneficial to conservation, undeterred by the fact that the hunting industry is riddled with crime and corruption.

 

Maybe, just maybe, we need to look at things from an altogether different perspective - one that marries conscience with science with ethics with conservation. Maybe we just need to start asking different questions:

 

Here are 2 articles/talks that I found to be quite intriguing and thought provoking:

 

http://theconversation.com/the-limits-of-intellectual-reason-in-our-understanding-of-the-natural-world-60080

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEbg_dGQ0uI

5 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hear hear, @@Sangeeta

All the arguing and all the "your side never listens to this part of our argument" stuff isn't helping wildlife. Perhaps compromises and a marriage of conscience, ethics, science, and rational thought are what's needed, rather than a hard line on either side. Whatever the case, the solutions need to be thought out quickly and acted up on immediately. In many areas, we're running out of time.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Sangeeta:

 

As usual, you produced a post that was lucid and I would welcome a prolonged face-to-face debate with you. I read and listened to your two attachments and, though they were interesting, I don't believe that they had more than very peripheral relevance to this debate. I would also like to suggest that you have made a couple of comments that are both disparaging and wrong:

 

1) You suggest that focussing on animal welfare and animal rights is anathema to so-called serious conservationists. I would reply that "welfare" and "rights" are totally different concepts and I very much doubt that there are many serious conservationists who are inimical to the former.

2)You state that "the hunters and the sustainable use brigade can't see a single animal of any species, however endangered, whose hunt will not be ultimately be beneficial to conservation." Personally, I think this is total and unsubstantiated rubbish. It also leads me to suspect, perhaps unfairly, that you believe that any who advocate culling do so for undisclosed motives of blood lust.

 

I am much more concerned that you are quite probably correct in suggesting that culling is now considered to be an extreme solution that most people will no longer accept. You go on to suggest that , because majority opinion is anti-culling, we should strive to find solutions that would better suit the said majority. In reply, I would suggest that majority opinion is often wrong. Thus, if democracy is to work, it requires enlightened leadership, which keeps opinions in line with reality or changes them when they have gone wrong. To some extent, as an erstwhile educator, I feel compelled to attempt to change the anti-cull views of what are, probably, the majority of Safaritalk contributors. It seems clear that I'm not making much progress and, I suppose, I never was a very good teacher. However, I'll keep trying and, perhaps, attempt to add emotional and ethical content to unadulterated scientific logic!

 

Imagine, if you will, that you own a ranch of, say, 1000ha. You stock it with cattle at an appropriate stocking density. After a year, you find that you have surplus animals (of course, if there is no harvest of the surplus, most ranchers would be out of business). However, you're independently rich and don't like the idea of harvesting the young stock because you've become emotionally attached to them. In the short term, maybe for a few years even, you can get round the problem by buying in food and fertilisers. However, the growing numbers of animals will still be damaging your pastures. OK, you can get round this by putting your young stock in feedlots or even housing them off the pasture altogether. Oh dear, your ethics and conscience kick in and you decide, though your housed stock are thriving, that you wouldn't like to be in a feedlot yourself so why would your cattle? You still have money - more than your neighbours, so you solve your dilemma by buying more land at over the market rate. It is unfortunate that your neighbours lose their livelihoods, but, at least, they now have some of your capital so they have the opportunity to take up other activities. Your efforts are clearly unsustainable in the long run, though you may feel good about things for a few years. Perhaps, you could push things for slightly longer if you could persuade wealthy, like-minded people to give charitably to you and allow you to take over yet more land.

 

Am I being ridiculous? Possibly. However, please try to bear with me. Substitute elephants for cattle and expand the ranch by a factor of 100. Your elephant numbers are increasing at 5%/annum and they have no predators. The trees are being devastated. Is it ethical not to cull? Is it better to allow population growth to stop naturally through overcrowding and starvation? In animal welfare terms Is sudden death through culling better or worse than lingering hunger and death through starvation? What about the accompanying habitat destruction and its effects on other species?

 

Am I making a strawman argument? If so, please tell me why my logic is flawed and why my sense of ethics is inferior to yours? You might argue that humans have apparently been able to multiply in huge numbers, so why can't they accommodate reasonable wildlife numbers? Here, I sympathise. However, our own multiplication as a species is almost entirely due to our unsustainable exploitation of fossil sources of energy. I believe that we could save our own and other species by taking corrective action, but I doubt that we will. Like all other animals, we have evolved to perceive and respond to short term threats much better than to long-term ones. By the time that climate change risks become more overt, it will probably be too late to take effective corrective action. Again, like other species, we are very much influenced by our "selfish" genes such that we take an "eat, drink and be merry" approach, living for today with few thoughts of tomorrow.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Inspired by the thread on the translocation of elephants to the Nkhotakota Reserve in Malawi that will be starting this year I decided to write something about this. However Rather than add it to that thread I thought should write rather more regarding Malawi and add it to this thread as I think it is relevant to this debate.

 

When African Parks Network took over the management of the Majete Game Reserve in Malawi there was very little wildlife left at all so they put a fence up around the reserve and then reintroduced all of the big game. Majete is now home to sable, nyala, and other antelopes and to buffalo, elephants, black rhinos, leopards and lions all of the species that historically occurred there. Well not quite all there is one species they haven’t brought back African wild dogs these animals need huge areas in which to roam and hunt and Majete simply isn’t big enough maintaining wild dogs in small fenced reserves is a serious challenge. African Parks clearly decided that returning these animals would not work. This example illustrates a problem with fencing reserves and parks animals if you can’t satisfactorily keep wild dogs inside fences what future wild dogs? An issue for all parks the world over with or without fences is, are they big enough to support viable populations of all of their animal species especially the larger animals?

 

Just recently African Parks has taken over Liwonde National Park and the Nkhotakota Game Reserve the former is probably Malawi’s premier tourist attraction certainly as far as parks are concerned. When I visited Liwonde in 2001 there was a fenced black rhino sanctuary with I think at the time just 1 pair of rhinos known as Justerini & Brooks after J & B Whisky who’d sponsored them otherwise the park was unfenced. Back then some game species had already been reintroduced and there were still quite a few elephants but some animals were still missing. I don’t think there were any lions there at all, only quite recently at least one lion appeared in the park having wandered over the border from Mozambique. I am not quite sure what the lion situation is right now but AP’s plan is certainly to reintroduce them, one of the first things they have done since taking over is start to put up an electrified fence which will go right around the park as they did at Majete. Just a few months ago one of a series of TV news reports on the elephant poaching crisis featured Liwonde and the reporter was flown over the park, you could very cleary see the park boundary because it was a straight line with thick woodland on one side and an expanse of maize on the other with almost no trees. If you look at Malawi on Google Earth and go to the southern end of the lake find Lake Malombe and zoom in on the area immediately south of it you can clear see where Liwonde is and where the boundaries of the park are from the change in vegetation. Since the creation of the park as the local population has expanded they have cleared all of the trees to create fields right up to the boundary. The park is completely surrounded by farmland and this is pretty much case with other parks/reserves in Malawi other than in the mountains almost everywhere outside of protected areas is now cultivated.

 

This scanned slide shows a typical landscape in Malawi.

gallery_6520_335_316561.jpg

 

If elephants leave parks and reserves they end up in people’s crops if lions leave they end up preying on livestock or perhaps even people. Fencing at least these small parks and reserves makes sense, you have to protect the animals from the people and the people from the animals and fences are best way to do that. Although having said that, it is vital to ensure that the fences are properly maintained. In the area around Mecula Town in the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique conservationists put simple fences comprising strands of electric wire around people’s fields to keep out elephants. For some reason the locals failed to maintain the fences the electricity went off rendering them useless at keeping out elephants, while at the same time providing local people with a perfect source of wire to make snares. The law of unintended consequences came into play and an initiative that should have been good for the reserve’s elephants proved to be bad for other species like buffalos, zebras and antelopes that fell victim to meat poachers.

 

While looking at Liwonde on Google earth if you then scroll back up the western shore of Lake Malawi you fill find the town of Nkhotakota the reserve next door is very obvious because because it is much darker shade of green than the surrounding countryside. Nkhotakota like Majete has lost most of its wildlife it still has elephants but only very few, the population is just around 120, as was reported in another thread African Parks are planning to capture a total of 500 elephants from Liwonde and Majete and move them to Nkhotakota. This will reduce the elephant pressure in those to parks while giving Nkothakota the elephant population it needs both for ecological reasons and to attract tourists. There are currently around 800 elephants in Liwonde 250 of them will be moved this year and there are now close to 400 elephants in Majete some 200 of these animals will be moved next year. I assume a few more will be moved from Liwonde as well in 2017 to make up the 500. A 170km² fenced sanctuary has been or is being constructed to provide a temporary home for the elephants and other animals like roan, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, buffalos and other species that will be reintoduced. Once the animals have settled in and are breeding and numbers have reached the desired level they will be released into the wider reserve. In time I’ve no doubt that the entire reserve will be fenced but at almost 4 times the size of Liwonde this will be some undertaking, it will though protect farmers crops and protect the animals in the reserve. Cleary it won’t take long for the population of elephants in Liwonde to get back up to 800 and for the numbers to recover in Majete likewise. Nkhotakota had at one time 1,500 elephants even after the addition of 500 new elephants to the 120 or so that remain there now it will take few years for the population to get back up to 1,500 but not too many. The reserve should actually be able to support 2,000 when the population reaches that level then moving surplus elephants at least within Malawi may not be an option. In time Liwonde, Majete and Nkhotakota will all be full of elephants and if poaching can be kept under control then elephant population in other parks and reserves will rise to the point where there’s really nowhere to move elephants to.

 

Kasungu the country’s second largest park used to have around 2,000 elephants but in 2014 an aerial count found fewer than 40, a Dutch NGO Kasungu Elephant Foundation is supporting the park and trying to bring an end to the poaching. If the situation can be brought under control then moving surplus elephants to Kasungu could become an option. Kasungu in conjunction with Lukusuzi National Park in Zambia should be able to support a significant population of elephants assuming that the land between the two parks is kept open as a wildlife corridor; these parks form part of the Malawi – Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area (MZTFCA). Of course the Zambians would have to seriously up their game as Lukusuzi has been seriously neglected and has a big problem with squatters so I imagine that a fair bit of poaching has been going on there. The distance between the boundaries of Kasungu and Lukusuzi at the narrowest point is only about 7 miles however almost all of this intervening land is cultivated but I would have thought it should be possible to find ways to allow animals to move between the two without impacting too heavily on local people. Using sattelite tracking collars it should be possibel to determine the routes that the animals take if they are still moving between the parks and then take steps to protect people’s crops in those areas. If the security situation in Kasungu can be sorted out then it should become possible to move some surplus elephants to the park. As the park isn’t fenced it would be necessary to construct a fenced sanctuary where the elephants can be kept until they are fully settled in to ensure that they don’t try to leave and head home to Liwonde.

 

Malawi’s largest national park is Nyika where for some time there has been a small herd of elephants whether this herd is increasing due to breeding or immigration from Zambia or from Vwaza Marsh GR I’m not sure but a significant increase would be undesirable. The high plateau of the Nyika is predominantly grassland but it has been suggested that in the past when the climate was much wetter that it would have been entirely covered in montane forest however this is disputed and there is evidence from the fauna and flora present indicating that there has always been at least some grassland. Over time as the climate has changed and due to the influence of bushfires either natural or manmade the amount of grassland and forest has fluctuated sometimes the plateau was mostly forest and sometimes mostly grassland. Today it is mostly grassland and only tiny remnant pockets of montane forest remain these forests are home to a variety of rare (at least for Malawi) plants, birds, mammals and other animals. Aside from the constant threat to these forest fragments posed by fires the future of these important forests would be seriously threatened by any significant increase in the elephant population. Nyika is not fenced and along with Vwaza is part of the MZTFCA so animals can move between the different parts of the conservation area. In 2007 a major restocking of game was carried out on the border between Vwaza Marsh and Zambia’s Lundazi Forest Reserve. Establishing and maintaining wildlife corridors will link the area ultimately to North Luangwa National Park it is therefore important that these parks are not entirely fenced. The southern and eastern sides of Vwaza Marsh border agricultural land in Malawi so electric fences have been put up to protect farmers from elephants and other wildlife.

 

There really isn’t anywhere else in Malawi that could provide a home for elephants.

 

In the far south of the country there is a reserve called Mwabvi that is in the process of being restored by an organisation called PAWS (Project African Wilderness) quite how far they have got I’m not sure as the English woman Gaynor Asquith who founded PAWS and was its driving force died in 2011. Mwabvi is very considerably smaller than Majete it's only about a fifth of the size far too small for elephants but they were intending to return lions and I imagine black rhinos eventually as the last Malawian rhinos were apparently poached there. North of Mwabvi and just south of Majete is Lengwe National Park but this park is slightly smaller even than Mwabvi.

 

When I visited Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve below the Nyika Plateau I was taken on a walk along the shore of Lake Kazuni which is the boundary of the park. It is just a small lake, over the other side is a low ridge at the top of which were a number of houses, walking along the side of the hill just below the houses was a herd of elephants. We stopped and watched the elephants and could see that we weren’t the only ones watching the elephants some of the local people were lined up in front of their houses looking at the elephants moving through the trees just below them. I’ve often wondered what they were thinking and thought about the contrast between how we as tourists view elephants and how they as local farmers view elephants.

 

This scanned slide shows the view across Lake Kazuni the human figures are not easy to make out even in the full sized scan but you can clearly see how close the elephants are to the houses.

 

gallery_6520_942_149851.jpg

 

This illustrates why it is important that at least parts of the Malawian boundaries are fenced to keep elephants out of people’s crops however wild dogs have regularly been sighted in Vwaza (and have been seen in Nyika) it is therefore vital to keep the Zambian border open as these dogs must have come from Zambia and also to maintain a wildlife corridor between Vwaza and Nyika. Vwaza is slightly larger than Majete but if it were fenced entirely it would likely also be far too small to support wild dogs. Given how far wild dogs roam these dogs presumably cross the border on a quite regular basis and it’s quite likely that the dogs occasionally seen in Nyika are the same ones seen in Vwaza.

 

Wild Dog Conservation Malawi Report 2014

 

These examples from Malawi show that for small parks and reserves that are very largely surrounded by agriculture putting up fences is only sensible. You need to keep people out to prevent meat poaching; cutting of trees etc and you need to keep the animals in to protect crops and human lives. There’s really nothing to be gained from not putting up fences if animals leave the park there’s nowhere for them to go any elephant migration routes are long gone. Animals have already been prevented from moving between reserves because of the growth in the human population and the loss of habitat to agriculture establishing wildlife corridors through these agricultural landscapes isn’t an option. It will undoubtedly still be necessary for animals to move from one park/reserve to another to prevent inbreeding but this will have to be done by wildlife managers moving them. In the smallest reserves inbreeding is likely to be the biggest problem and if steps are not taken to prevent it then some species may well decline. The animals like wild dogs that require much larger areas to roam and that would likely be doomed by fences are already gone from these reserves.

 

 

Edited by inyathi
2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


© 2006 - 2017 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.