Andreas Späth

Saving our big game

2013-08-26 12:49

Andreas Späth

South Africans are proud of their wildlife conservation heritage. And with good reason: there are few countries anywhere in the world where you can as easily observe such a wide variety of wild animals - the Big Five and many others - in their natural habitat.

But as human populations and activities, from settlements and roads to mines and farms, continue to encroach on wilderness areas, how secure is the future of these wild animal species and their environments in the long run, especially outside of the large and well-maintained national parks? What is the viability of the many much smaller conservation areas and the animals they are home to?

Earlier this month, a new paper published in the peer-reviewed, open-access publication PLoS ONE, tried to address some of the issues involved. A group of international and South African researchers employed sophisticated computer modelling techniques to evaluate the risk of extinction facing a number of large South African mammal species under a range of different conservation scenarios, and attempted to evaluate the most cost effective approaches to maximise the chances that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will be able to see them in their natural setting.

As the subject of their study, the researchers chose the so-called Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot in KwaZulu-Natal, an area known for its wealth in wildlife, including many species that occur nowhere else.

The region has witnessed significant conservation successes over the past, most notably the widespread re-establishment of a large population of southern white rhinos, centred on the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, recovering from less than 20 individuals in 1895 to over 17 000 today.

Other large mammal species, although once common throughout the region, have experienced major declines, becoming extinct in many locations. The researchers focused specifically on conservation actions that might benefit six large game species: the black rhino, African wild dog, cheetah, leopard, elephant and lion.

Currently, small populations of these animals are present in a patchwork of many small, heavily managed and fenced reserves, and one of the questions the study attempts to address is whether that is the best way of ensuring their survival in the region.

Some of the key findings are as follows:

- The current situation, involving many small, adjoining but fenced-off reserves was found to represent the least effective way of reducing the extinction risk for all of the six species investigated.

- While elephants, leopards and black rhinos are currently at a very low risk of extinction (less than 5%), that threat is significantly greater (above 25%) for cheetahs and African wild dogs.

- Increases in poaching and diseases pose the most important threats to black rhinos, leopards and elephants.

- Larger, more connected, protected areas represent the most efficient way of reducing the probability of extinction for all six species. Connections can be established by incorporating suitable habitats that are not currently designated as conservation areas (especially where other land-use options are less financially viable than wildlife conservation). In the absence of corridors of land connecting existing reserves, translocations of individual animals plays an important role in enhancing gene flow, particularly for those species that are unable to cross electrified game fences (black rhinos, cheetahs, lions and elephants).

The researchers recommend that in the short term, the fences between adjoining reserves should be removed to increase connectivity and conservation area. In the longer term, efforts should be made to link such more-connected patches to each other.

The fight against poaching is highlighted as a major obstacle to improved conservation strategies, as is the lack of capacity and funding, particularly in poorer communities. What’s required to tackle these challenges are effective partnerships between local communities, government, private landowners, NGOs and conservation agencies.

- Andreas is a freelance writer with a PhD in geochemistry. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath
 
Send your comments to Andreas

Disclaimer:
News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

- News24

NEXT ON NEWS24X

Grannies are great

2014-07-30 09:36

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Movies
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Brackenfell - 12:01 PM
    Road name: N1 Inbound
    ROADWORKS - left lane closed at the R300 Highway - DELAYS
  • Wednesday Goodwood - 11:51 AM
    Road name: N7 Vanguard Drive Southbound
    DELAYS approaching Voortrekker Road
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R4300.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is always easier to look out and see what needs changing. Looking in is a lot harder... Today you may need to look at what...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.