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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid