2012, pp 215-234
Date: 07 Oct 2011

Ecological, Social and Financial Issues Related to Fencing as a Conservation Tool in Africa

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Abstract

Fencing is commonly used as a tool in wildlife management in Africa, particularly in the southern part of the continent. Fencing confers a number of advantages to wildlife managers including: the ability to utilize small habitat fragments and conserve wildlife in otherwise human-dominated landscapes by reducing edge-effects on large mammals; enabling intensive management practices (e.g. holding of wildlife in pre-release pens, separating genders or individuals, and protecting specific habitat types from certain species); and acting as a tool in disease control. Fencing is a potentially important tool in reducing human-wildlife conflict, and can assist in protecting wildlife from illegal hunting. Finally, fencing is important in the allocation of ownership and/or user-rights over wildlife and was important in providing the legal basis for the development of wildlife-based land uses on private land. However, there are a number of problems associated with the use of fencing, which can be categorized as ecological, epidemiological, social and financial. Ecological and epidemiological issues include: the inhibition of ecological processes such as migration; high levels of mortality of some species (particularly reptiles) along fence lines; and failure to achieve key objectives relating to disease control. Social issues include: negative community perceptions towards fences in some areas due to a feeling that they are an exclusive imposition; and, the importance of fence as sources of material for snares for illegal hunters. Financial issues include: the fact that fencing influences (and in some cases limits) land use options; and that fencing is costly to erect and maintain. Solutions to some of these problems include: using the minimum amount of fencing possible to achieve management objectives; where possible enlarging wildlife areas encompassed by fencing, or amalgamating adjacent areas; re-thinking the use of fences for veterinary purposes and using alternative strategies (such as commodity-based trading, or relaxation of veterinary controls in favour of wildlife-based land uses); conducting adequate environmental and social impact assessments to minimize ecological problems and social conflicts resulting from the construction of fencing; and re-designing fences to reduce mortality due to entanglement.