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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More