News / Africa

Fences and Wildlife Don’t Mix

A male elephant stands up wearing a newly-fitted GPS-tracking collar around his neck, during an elephant-collaring operation near Kajiado, in southern Kenya Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. Teams from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the International Fund for
A male elephant stands up wearing a newly-fitted GPS-tracking collar around his neck, during an elephant-collaring operation near Kajiado, in southern Kenya Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. Teams from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the International Fund for

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
If you want to protect endangered species in the wild, don’t fence them in. An article in the journal Science says fencing can actually harm both animals and ecosystems. Scientists at the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society say the use of fences to protect threatened species should be a last resort.
 
Researcher Sarah Durant said, “Fences by their nature will segregate habitats and that can actually be a real problem, particularly in drylands systems where wildlife often has to move quite large distances to access resources and water. So that in itself can be a problem. And then you have wide-ranging species, such as cheetah and wild dog, but also elephants as well, which need access to very large connected habitat for their survival.”
 
Fences are not very widespread right now in Africa. Durant said the biggest concentration is in South Africa.
 
“They’re often used basically for territory protection. So people will own private land and they build fences around their private land to protect wildlife as a resource within those areas.
 
However, she said there’s concern more fences may be built, as human populations spread further into wildlife habitats.
 
“Governments, for example, very often see fencing as a potential solution to addressing human-wildlife conflict. It’s seen as a solution that appears more straightforward than it is in practice. Once you put a fence up, then you have to maintain it. And if you don’t maintain it, you can end up with a situation where wildlife conflict could actually be higher than it was before.”
 
Often, Durant said, local communities will actually breach such fences.
 
“Very marginalized communities that have problems meeting their own household needs in terms of food and nutrition – very often they will want to breach the fences to gain access to the wildlife. And also fence wire can be used to build snares and that can actually exacerbate a snaring problem.”
 
She said many communities have developed strategies over the years to deal with marauding animals, such as elephants. Coping skills they might lose if fences are built around their communities, and then the fences are breached by one or more elephants. What’s more, fences can build resentment in communities against conservation efforts.
 
Besides that, the wildlife researcher said fences can affect predator-prey dynamics.
 
“When you look at some of the densities of lions in fenced reserves what you find is that they’re actually kept at levels much higher than what the areas would be expected to support. So that suggests that it’s actually altering the predator-prey dynamics. And lions aren’t the only predators in ecosystems. You’ve also got other predators such as spotted hyenas, wild dogs,” she said.
 
Predators, such as cheetahs and wild dogs, need a lot of space.
 
“They need areas in excess of 10,000 square kilometers, if you’re going to support – what we call – viable and sustainable populations of these species. They need very wide areas of connected habitat. Elephants and wildebeests can need areas in excess of tens of thousands square kilometers, particularly where you’ve got migratory systems, such as you have in the Serengeti, where the wildebeests will range across areas in excess of 20,000 square kilometers,” she said.
 
Durant said one well-known fencing disaster occurred in the Kalahari. The fence was a veterinary cordon barrier. It was designed to separate wildebeests from cattle and prevent disease from being transmitted to cattle herds. What happened, she said, was the collapse of the wildebeest migrations in that region.
 
Instead of spending a lot of money to build and maintain fences, she said, invest that money in alternative approaches. These include improved animal husbandry, community-based crop protection, insurance programs and sensitive use of land to help prevent human-wildlife conflict.
 
The authors of the article do say fences can be valuable resources in some cases. They cited the protection of birds in New Zealand against foreign species -- and safeguarding wolves and lynx in Scotland.

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs