Fences can do more harm than good…


KUAPO Strongly Believes Fencing of National Parks & Reserves Will Cause a Broad Range of Negative Ecological, Social & Economic Effects

We, members of the Kenya United Against Poaching Trust, strongly believe that complete stakeholder engagement and education on alternatives needs to be conducted before any decisions are made regarding fencing of National Parks and Reserves in Kenya.

KUAPO supports a national conservation agenda that actively involves the People of Kenya as caretakers of wildlife by embracing age-old philosophy, traditions, and cultures alongside newer practices for the purpose of eradicating poaching and other environment and wildlife crimes and promoting environmental and social well being. We aim to bring a complete halt to poaching and other wildlife and environmental crimes in Kenya through a participatory approach that inculcates ethics, honesty and age-old cultural conservation practices as well as respect for the individual and joint contribution of all the members.

We are concerned that a unilateral decision may be made on the fencing of national parks and reserves. This fear is based on Dr. Richard Leakey’s recent interview in The Star newspaper. Among other things, Dr. Leakey said that KWS will eventually put up chain link fences with alarm and supervision systems, which cannot be crossed, and that he intends to start raising money for the fencing project in the next six months.

KUAPO understands that fencing is a tangible solution that can appease communities living with wildlife but strongly believes that it does not consider the long-term interests of communities inhabiting wildlife dispersal areas. It is also an approach that reduces general tolerance towards wildlife and one that does not fully take into account the future sustainability of the species and populations that KWS has been protecting.

While scientific thought and analysis is divided on the issue of fencing, with most of the older researchers siding with fencing as policy, there are many newer schools of thoughts that need to be considered. For instance, in Conserving large populations of lions: the argument for fences has holes published in Ecology Letters (2003) the authors says that though fences can reduce conflicts outside protected areas, they however “carry important costs, including ecosystem fragmentation, loss of dispersal and migration routes, genetic isolation, reduced conservation value of buffer zones and consequent loss of wildlife-based economic benefits in buffer zones.” They also say that there is a tendency for the fencing materials to be used for wire snare poaching. Further, they argue that rather than fence off parks, effective lion conservation requires better-funded law enforcement inside reserves, landscape-level strategies that reduce human-wildlife conflict outside reserves, and a high priority for conservation in large and intact ecosystems.

We also cite a policy direction published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, which says that apart from a few countries that have considered fencing an option, in other African countries, authorities are removing fences to restore wildlife populations and migratory movements and to promote wildlife-based economies for conservancies and local communities. The 2015 report; Developing fencing policies for dryland ecosystems says that Southern African Development Community (SADC) made the Phakalane Declaration in 2012 which recommended strategic realignment of veterinary cordon fences (i.e. fences erected for wildlife disease control) to counteract the harmful impacts of fences on wildlife populations. In addition, the non-governmental organization (NGO)-led Transfrontier Conservation Area and privately led conservancy movements across Africa are encouraging the widespread removal of fencing to re-establish large-scale animal movements and to restore wide-ranging species whose populations are no longer viable in small reserves. Some scientists also say that fenced populations have markedly higher budgets for substantially smaller areas that often hold intensively managed lion populations well above carrying capacity.

Furthermore the report; Barriers to Migration: Case Study in Mongolia: Analysing the Effects of Infrastructure on Migratory Terrestrial Mammals in Mongolia by B.Lkhagvasuren, B.Chimeddorj and D.Sanjmyatav , warns against fencing off migratory animals. The report says that denying such animals the “escape option” results in high intra and inter-specific competition, poor body condition, low birth rates and high mortality. It states: “fences constitute death traps for nomadic gazelles, and unhindered movement for gazelles between these areas should be one of several conservation priorities…effective conservation of such species requires integrative approaches that blend science and public policy, such as a willingness to accommodate transboundary animal movements.” The report also states that fencing and fragmentation of habitat into small, and often non-contiguous patches, decreases capacity of large wild herbivores to escape locally poor habitat conditions. Today, it is also quite clear that as climate change increases the importance of wildlife mobility and landscape connectivity, fencing of wildlife should become an action of last resort.

We would like to further stress that no fence can deter human beings from entering a park or reserve to access resources there. This is reiterated in the Journal of Applied Ecology that states that though such fences may be well-constructed and well-maintained they can only be wildlife proof but can never be human proof. “Even the most heavily fortified fences have not prevented the illegal killing of white rhinoceros and black rhinoceros in South Africa over recent years. People are likely to be able to circumvent any fence, but they may also destroy fences in order to gain access to useful resources on the other side of the barrier, such as bush meat, ivory, honey, medicinal plants and grazing.”

For KUAPO, the secret to conserving wildlife lies in forging effective and beneficial engagements between national wildlife authorities and local communities.

We urge KWS to learn from the mistakes made in other countries, where large-scale fencing has not stopped poachers, encroachment and led to genetically isolated populations. We strongly recommend that KWS continue to partner with communities surrounding national parks as provided for in the ‘Wildlife Act 2013’ like some other parastatals are doing. The Kenya Forest Service has partnered with Community Forest Associations in a co-management scheme that is fostering forest conservation successfully. The Kenya Marine Research Institute has partnered with communities through Beach Management Units (BMUs) for restoration of fish spawning areas, fisheries and sustainable fishing. At the same time, non-profit organizations across Kenya are working successfully in community lands and creating corridors of tolerance for wildlife.

Fencing our wildlife may exacerbate the commonly held belief that the wildlife of Kenya is really not Kenya’s collective heritage but the preserve of the government authority mandated as its caretaker on our behalf. Let us take this opportunity to use appropriate land-use planning to develop policy that will further inculcate communities into the protection of their wildlife, as opposed to alienating them. We ask for the necessary engagement of all stakeholders to discuss, educate, plan and implement how to resolve human-wildlife conflict, poaching, encroachment and trespassing with a holistic view of cost-effective options.


One thought on “Fences can do more harm than good…

  1. I cannot imagine anything more wicked than forcing wildlife to starve or die of drought against a fence. Privately fenced reserves removes any moral responsibility to share the benefits with the indigenous community. If they are not harmed, they supposedly have no claim… The South African disease.

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