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 Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.