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Game Warden

Tsavo destroyed, faces ‘extinction’ in 15 years

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Reports www.the-star.co.ke

 

Quote

Tsavo National Park, home to thousands of animals and a prime tourist attraction, is on the verge of ecosystem collapse, experts have warned.
Water sources are drying up, habitat is being lost, human-wildlife is increasing...

 

To read the full article, click here.

 

When did you last visit Tsavo and were you witness to the problems the park is facing? Are reports like this likely to discourage tourists from visiting, or will it be the filip for action to be taken?

 

 

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My worry is that it will be further deterrent to tourists visiting - and Kenya doesn't need any more of these at the moment.  Conversely I am not convinced that it will spur action unless a way can be found to replicate the methods used successfully to support the Mara by giving local communities a stake in the tourism gnerated by conservation (the conservancy model).

I am increasingly doubtful (?cynical) that national governments (the world over not just Kenya) are capable of the long term investments needed to protect ecosystems.

 

Quoted here was a view on the destructive potential of large elephant populations. This was a view expressed to me in the Madikwe last week but I am aware that attempts to manage populations actively in the Kruger a while back were not judged successful. I don't have any knowledge to suggest a solution but it does seem that non-intervention risks a severly depleted environment before the elephant population decreases (and neither the environment or the condition of elephants at that stage will do much for tourism)

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I doubt that the ecosystem has the capacity to carry the number of elephants we have in the parks,”

from the article. 

 

These behemoth bulldozers were designed to roam vast areas that could recover and even benefit from the destruction caused by eles after they moved out.  The shrinking habitat available to elephants results in this type of sad a discouraging news.

 

I hope the "round table meeting with governors of the counties surrounding the Tsavo" an produce insights and solutions.

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In my view, both @ pomwiki and @ Atravelynn are very likely to be correct in their assessments relating to surplus numbers of elephants contributing to habitat damage in Tsavo.  However, I'm not au fait with current numbers present.  What is clear, as a matter of record, is that the elephant populations of the Tsavo ecological area were damagingly excessive in the late 1960s, largely because David Sheldrick, the then warden, was encouraged to pursue a protectionist policy which almost completely eliminated poaching.  Dr Dick Laws, briefly appointed as scientific director of Tsavo, was adamant that population reduction followed by annual culling was necessary to save Tsavo's habitat.  He was forced to resign when his recommendations were ignored.  He correctly predicted that disaster would follow when the climate predictably switched to drought conditions.  When drought occurred in the early 1970s, thousands of elephants and rhinos died.  More importantly, the habitat had been so damaged by elephants by this time that its subsequent recovery was limited.  Thus, the current biodiversity and sustainable carrying capacity is now almost certainly very much less than it would have been had Laws rather than Sheldrick held sway.

 

@ pomwiki is correct to conclude that culling in Kruger was not deemed to be a success and has now been abandoned. However, it is necessary to understand why.  When elephant numbers in the Kruger were increasing, there were no signs of significant ecological damage (and, arguably, indications of greater species heterogeneity) till they reached 3500 - representing a density of approximately 0.17/sq km. Thereafter, numbers grew to 7000 (the number that was supposed to be maintained by management culling.  However, protectionist opposition limited and eventually stopped management culling and elephant numbers are now around 15000.  Once numbers passed 3500 there was progressive loss of top cover trees, an indicator of habitat damage.  Having lost culling as a management tool, Park authorities have adopted a new approach.  They are reducing numbers of artificial water points, so forcing the majority of mammalian species that depended on them (most) into starvation or emigration and they have attempted to provide additional territory by removing the fence which precluded travel into Mozambique, opening the way for a massive increase in poaching.  In my judgement, the actions of the Park authorities represent a dereliction of duty forced upon them by well-meaning protectionists.

 

It is important to realise that man has been a keystone predator of elephants for at least one thousand years.and that the species has no other significant predators.  If predation by man is prevented, elephant populations will double every 14 years until they run out of food at which point they will self-regulate their numbers.  However, this will only occur well beyond the point of sustainable carrying capacity.  At maximum carrying capacity, elephants are "living on capital" rather than on "interest"  and causing considerable and sometimes irreversible habitat damage as well as dominating the biomass to the detriment of all other species.  It is also important to appreciate that wildlife habitats have been shrunk by man's activities and that laissez faire approaches that worked in the past are no longer an option.  The provision of artificial water points in arid and semi-arid environments is a simple and effective means of increasing stocking densities to compensate for reduced space.  However, because this puts more pressure on the habitat resources, its monitoring becomes extremely important and culling will become necessary to maintain species balance and to prevent the sustainable carrying capacities from progressing toward maximum capacities.     

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i haven't been recently but I can say it is not only Tsavo. The only places looking pretty secure at the moment in the face of the election, the drought and the cow outbreak are the Mara (cash cow and golden goose) and the Aberdares (fenced and blessed with lots of water). There will be more bad stories coming out of Kenya I am sure and there is no doubt it will affect tourist decisions.

 

@Game Warden Most of the Tsavo tourists are on 1-3 day safaris from the coast and are unlikely to have much awareness or to consider an alternative. However, the regular flights from Mombasa to the Mara will likely have had a significant impact - for some time- especially on higher end places and Bush and Beach package itineraries. However, I do not know this - it is just supposition. It would be interesting to know first- hand if tourist numbers are down in Tsavo this year. And I believe Tsavo West has been under a lot more pressure than Tsavo East, and for a number of years now. 

 

I really wanted to go to Tsavo East this year (so no this wouldn't put me off) but no time left and it was in the wrong direction. 

 

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Posted (edited)

@pault

 

Well, things do not seem that rosy in the Mara either. Besides the usual illegal grazing inside the Reserve and the excessive pressure from tourists and tourism establishments, there is now this:

 

https://africasustainableconservation.com/2017/07/18/kenya-are-fences-going-to-ruin-the-mara-ecosystem/?fb_action_ids=10155507291511419&fb_action_types=news.publishes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=[1571903072851030]&action_type_map=["news.publishes"]&action_ref_map=[]

 

 

 

 

Edited by Paolo
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@Paolo Thanks for the link. Interesting - and worrying. Actually, I noticed fences in a aerial shot I took this weekend - noticed the different coloured rectangles and zoomed in and yes, fences! I was thinking I must have taken the shot much further north than I thought I had, but it didn't make sense as we were clearly already on the descent and quite low. I guess I should have said "relatively secure" rather than "pretty secure" - that was actually my first choice of wording but I thought it was unnecessarily "doomy".

 

Being unrealisitic, why can't folks tear these fences down to access grazing instead of the Laikipia elephant fence?

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I think the stage has almost been reached where it will become necessary to fence wildlife in rather than out, which, I understand, is described as "fortress conservation".  However, this, too, can have a downside - as is demonstrated by current disturbances in Laikipia County (large well-managed areas in private ownership generate envy).  Pastoralism, which recognises no boundaries and in which numbers of domesticated animals owned represent status, is a doomed way of life.  Local communities should be allowed to own wildlife and be encouraged to live in a cash economy.  This, if properly regulated (???), might allow them to benefit rather than to suffer from the presence of wild animals.  The sorts of benefits they might choose to derive could be left for individual communities to decide.  They might include ecotourism, trophy hunting, management hunting for meat and, with a more enlightened international conservation strategy, sustainable trading in ivory, rhino horn and even lion products.  It is only in this way that areas suitable for wildlife can expand rather than risk shrinkage from human pressures.  Wildlife is a potentially very valuable resource from which local communities in Kenya cannot fully benefit.  Instead, most of the proceeds from its exploitation end up in the hands of corrupt politicians, officials and crime syndicates.

 

If one doesn't have any faith that governance in African States can be rapidly improved - with corruption largely reduced,  proper regulations observed and enlightened legislation introduced to open economic opportunities - one can more or less kiss goodbye to the survival of wildlife as a spectacle.

 

Perhaps, these are merely the ramblings of an old man who has witnessed the changes happening in Africa for 67 years and not much cared for what he has seen.  I find it particularly depressing that well-meaning international protectionist NGOs are exacerbating the situation.

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