MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (03/07/2013) African lions and villagers would benefit from fences to protect them from each other, according to a new study by University of Minnesota researcher Craig Packer published online by Ecology Letters on Tuesday, March 5.
Fencing has long been anathema to most conservationists, but Packer said it offers the best hope for saving iconic African wildlife, an undertaking that will require sweeping measures rather than piecemeal efforts. In an interview, he called for an international "Marshall Plan" to erect fences where possible to protect people, lions, elephants and other threatened wildlife species.
Most African governments don't have the resources to protect people and wildlife from each other, but without a massive increase in conservation funding nearly half of unfenced lion populations could decline to near extinction over the next 20-40 years. And in the long run, it would be more cost-effective to maintain lion populations in fenced reserves.
For the study, Packer and 57 colleagues compared population densities and management practices across 42 sites in 11 countries. Fenced reserves maintained lions at 80 percent of their potential population capacity on annual management budgets of about $500 per square kilometer, while unfenced populations required an average of $2,000 per square kilometer each year to remain at just 50 percent of their capacity.
"Even though lion habitat has been reduced by at least 75 percent over the last century, more still remains than can possibly be conserved," said Packer, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. "Several of Africa's most famous wildlife areas involve large-scale migrations of wildebeest and zebra that could never be enclosed within a fenced reserve, so the lions' last stand should be thought out carefully in terms of those places that can safely be fenced and those that will be worth the enormous monetary inv
|Contact: Peggy Rinard|
University of Minnesota