Can More Fences Mean More Wildlife?

If your vision of nature is all the animals roaming free together, you might be in for a shock: building fences might be the only way to save lions.

The proverb "Good fences make good neighbors" is truer than ever when your neighbors happen to be the kings of the jungle. The New York Times reported on lion researcher Craig Packer's crusade to bring fences to the Serengeti to protect endangered lions from farmers, who hunt down the beasts that feast on their livestock.

Traditionally, conservationists have attempted to let wildlife roam free, which helps make tourists feel like they’re in virgin African wildnerness. But Packer told the Times that he’s over that kind of magical thinking, which has contributed to the disappearance of 75% of Africa’s lions in the last 100 years. Part of the problem is that Africa’s population has grown significantly, putting more humans, and their farm animals, into contact with lions:

"Reality has to intrude," he said. "Do you want to know the two most hated species in Africa, by a mile? Elephants and lions."

Packer was a co-author on a recent paper in Ecology Letters, which compared unfenced and fenced lion populations in 11 different African countries. "Nearly half the unfenced lion populations may decline to near extinction over the next 20–40 years," the paper concludes, and argues for the installation of fencing—expensive at $3,000 per kilometer—wherever humans and lions are cohabitating.

"In some cases, human-occupied zones within larger wildlife-dominated ecosystems may even need to be fenced as enclaves," reads the paper, citing the fact that about "30,000 people live in 40 villages inside Mozambique’s Niassa National Reserve."

So is it the humans, or the lions, that need to be fenced in? The ethical, aesthetic, and financial challenges could make Packer’s strategy a hard one to pull off.

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  • sandcanyongal

    Zak. I thought I was the only person on this entire planet who thought a fence is the only way to protect wild life from extinction and the wild lands from complete destruction. They stay on their side of the fence and we stay on ours.

    I under estimate youth and their clarity in which many are able to see the state of the world today. With all the technology and communications, and ability to innovate, we, as a species, are void of respect for the ecosystems and diversity of life we share and depend on. 

    We moved from city living to a rural area some years ago. In cities the land is covered by asphalt, concrete, sod,dwellings and stores galore. Animals have been shut out except for the few that are under the radar or able to thrive in people centric environments, though not easily or with any security.

    Life if no better for wild life or wild lands in rural communities either. Here is central Calif. wind farms have slaughtered just about the entire population of raptors, songbirds and bats, and have lobbied for the exlusive right to legally kill them in the course of making "clean energy" instead of retrofitting protective grills over the football field length blades. Bones from prehistoric man are dug up and put on piles.

    Here is a link from an investigative series 5 or 6 related articles in the Sacramento Bee. Now I understand why my community neighbors question about what periodically has happened to the coyotes or when there are whispers that someone found hundreds of them dead in the hills.

    This one is disgusting: /www.predatorcontrolgroup.com/h...

    I think that the best way to stop poaching is to use armed drones with real time remote viewing, and  kill the poachers on the spot like the ones killing all of the elephants, rhinos and forest rangers. When the number of rhinos killed in 2012 (I think) was said to be 600, I didn't know there even that many left any longer. The murder of 50-100 elephants every day at the African Park is just insane andhas to be stopped before they're all gone. 

    Let's start building fences around us.