Monday, June 14, 2010

Functional wildlife systems:why is Africa's wildlife in protected areas in widespread decline?

In an emotive newspaper article, HOORC researchers Drs Casper Bonyongo and Richard Fynn maintain that Africa’s wildlife inside National Parks and Game Reserves is in widespread decline and it has little to do with poaching or bad conservation management! Studies done in most parts of East Africa namely, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa seem to indicate that herbivores are on the decline. Closer to home, at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) an estimated 250000 wildebeest in the 1970’s and 1980s has crashed to several thousand today. The same is true for eland, hartebeest and zebra in the CKGR. By stark contrast the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is no longer a functional wildlife reserve because its key migration routes to dry-season grazing, such as on the Boteti River, Lake Ngami, and in the Southern Kalahari have been cut off by human expansion and cattle farming, hence the precipitous crash in its once great populations of wildebeest, zebra, hartebeest and eland, which can never be expected to recover so long as their dry-season grazing grounds are lost. They conclude that conservationists must now focus time, energy and money on conserving what still works: the functional OMSCH complex with its unbroken migration routes and large herds of game. They go on to say that hunting has minimal negative effects on the numbers of wildlife in the region and more importantly does not stop critical migrations between wet-season and dry-season grazing grounds. Should these areas be lost to conservation in the future there will be a major impediment to migration and Nxai pan and Makgadikgadi will have become fragmented from the Delta. The article is available in the Sunday Standard.

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