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A neighbour’s perspective on the new management policy of the Kruger National Park.

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A neighbour’s perspective on the new management policy of the Kruger National Park.

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... As fires alone do not seem to be effective in causing these Acacia species to disappear (see Table 4), it seems likely that several pressures are acting simultaneously. This agrees with Henley's (2005) findings in Southern Africa that fire and elephant damage may in combination kill older trees. ...
... Pellew (1983) reports that in the Serengeti, elephant damage resulted in an annual loss of 6% of all Acacia tortilis, and that culling could not prevent damage to this preferred species, only slow down the rate at which this occurred. Henley (2005) speculates that the high densities of preferred tree species could be a relict from the days that large browsers such as elephant were heavily persecuted and low in numbers. their fruit and for creating impregnable fencing round shambas; however, some of these have escaped into neighbouring parts of Lewa. ...
... Effects of such a corridor will depend upon the degree to which it is utilised by large browsers. In Southern Africa, Henley (2005) found that large male elephant were often the first to roam into new territories, and that this reduced browsing pressures as male groups were often far more destructive in their interaction with the environment than mixed groups. ...
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The historical decline of African elephants to a low of 120 animals in 1920, and their subsequent recovery to over 10 000 is described for the major populations of South Africa. Population growth rates of 6,8 and 6,7 per annum are derived from census and estimates for the Kruger National Park and the Addo Elephant National Park respectively. The reasons for elephant population control in the Kruger National Park, and the impact of elephants on both the Kruger and Addo environments, are discussed. The translocation of young elephants to found new populations is mentioned. The consequent increase of elephant range and numbers in the next decade to a possible maximum of 31 000 km2 and 13 000 animals, is envisaged.
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As part of the investigation reviewing the South African National Parks policy on the management of elephants in the Kruger National Park in South Africa it was decided to assess the current density and structural diversity of the woody vegetation in the park as it is affected by elephants and fire. The management policy used till recently, limited the population to approximately 7000 elephants, based on a conclusion that 6000 elephants (1 per 1.94 km2) was the highest number of elephants that could be carried in the Kruger National Park. The inclusion of the effects and interaction of fire in the investigation arises from the general recognition that elephants and fire can have a highly significant impact on the species and structural diversity of tree and shrub vegetation in African savannas. In the absence of quantitative data describing the condition of the woody vegetation in the Kruger National Park, subjective comparisons of changes in the density of large trees were made for the periods 1940 vs 1960 and 1960 vs 1986/89 using aerial photographs based on four of the major vegetation landscape units in the park. The results indicate that in the vegetation landscapes in areas with granitic soils there were no significant changes in the density of large trees between 1940 vs 1960 whereas a moderate decline occurred in the vegetation in the areas with basaltic soils. Conversely during the period 1960 to 1986/89 there was a dramatic decline in the density of large trees in all four major vegetation landscape units. On-site inspections and botanical surveys suggest that the decline in the density of large trees is the result of the effects of the interaction of elephants and fire. This had arisen because during the period 1960 to 1986/89 systematic burning programs had been introduced at the same time as elephant numbers had risen sharply. The results presented suggest that the changes in the woody vegetation do not involve a decrease in species diversity but rather a change in structural diversity where the woody vegetation is being transformed into a short woodland community interspersed with a low density of large trees. It is concluded that if it is desirable to prevent further structural changes to the woody vegetation then the current density of elephants should not be allowed to increase, the frequency of burning should be significantly reduced and the ignition procedure altered to allow or simulate point ignitions of fires.
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Arising from public debate held in Midrand on 4 May 1995, the South African National Parks undertook to review its policy for the management of elephant in the Kruger National Park. The new policy focuses on the extent and intensity of elephant impacts on biodiversity rather than on numbers of elephants per se, and is based on four fundamental principles: a) That ecosystems are not static; fluctuations of conditions and population responses are an inherent attribute of ecosystems and contribute to biodiversity. A range of elephant impacts in different areas at different times, is thus also natural and desirable; b) That elephants are important agents of habitat modification and thus contribute to biodiversity (intermediate disturbance hypothesis); c) That elephant populations which are confined will increase in number until negative impacts on the system's biodiversity will ultimately result; d) That elephants should not be viewed in isolation, but as one component of a broader, integrated system, and their impacts should be managed in conjunction with other ecosystem process (such as fire) to promote biodiversity in its broadest sense. The new policy proposes that the Kruger National Park be divided into six zones@two botanical reserves, two high-elephant-impact zones (no population reduction) and two low-elephant-impact zones (where numbers will be actively reduced). A history of the elephant population is given, and a resume of previous poli-cies.
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Northern Botswana and adjacent areas, have the world's largest population of African elephant (Loxodonta africana). However, a 100 years ago elephants were rare following excessive hunting. Simultaneously, ungulate populations were severely reduced by decease. The ecological effects of the reduction in large herbivores must have been substantial, but are little known. Today, however, ecosystem changes following the increase in elephant numbers cause considerable concern in Botswana. This was the background for the "BONIC" project, investigating the interactions between the increasing elephant population and other ecosystem components and processes. Results confirm that the ecosystem is changing following the increase in elephant and ungulate populations, and, presumably, developing towards a situation resembling that before the reduction of large herbivores. We see no ecological reasons to artificially change elephant numbers. There are, however, economic and social reasons to control elephants, and their range in northern Botswana may have to be artificially restricted.
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Carrying capacity in plant-herbivore systems generally refers to the equilibrium density that can be attained by a herbivore. In this paper I have summarised and analysed models and methods for calculating the carrying capacity of mammalian herbivores. I examined the models for their ability to objectively and quantitatively estimate carrying capacity in deterministic and stochastic environments. Of the seven model types reviewed, only the interactive model was suitable for calculating carrying capacity in both types of environment. The interactive model relates plant biomass to the rate of increase and food intake of herbivores. The carrying capacity predictions of the model were tested using a red kangaroo-shrubland assemblage. I adjusted the degree of environmental stochasticity (rainfall) for the assemblage and modelled the resulting plant-herbivore dynamics. The results indicated that the concept of carrying capacity could be validly applied to deterministic, or low variance, environments but in stochastic environments that are characterised by a high degree of unpredictable environmental variance the concept is not useful for describing plant-herbivore dynamics.
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Many large mammals such as elephant, rhino and tiger often come into conflict with people by destroying agricultural crops and even killing people, thus providing a deterrent to conservation efforts. The males of these polygynous species have a greater variance in reproductive success than females, leading to selection pressures favouring a ‘high risk-high gain’ strategy for promoting reproductive success. This brings them into greater conflict with people. For instance, adult male elephants are far more prone than a member of a female-led family herd to raid agricultural crops and to kill people. In polygynous species, the removal of a certain proportion of ‘surplus’ adult males is not likely to affect the fertility and growth rate of the population. Hence, this could be a management tool which would effectively reduce animal-human conflict, and at the same time maintain the viability of the population. Selective removal of males would result in a skewed sex ratio. This would reduce the ‘effective population size’ (as opposed to the total population or census number), increase the rate of genetic drift and, in small populations, lead to inbreeding depression. Plans for managing destructive mammals through the culling of males will have to ensure that the appropriate minimum size in the populations is being maintained.
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The reduction in canopy cover of the Seronera woodlands since the mid- 1960s can be largely attributed to the destruction of mature Acacia tortilis trees by elephants. The development of the tree regeneration that has colonized the gaps in the mature canopy is being suppressed by giraffe browsing and periodic burning. A simple model is presented which simulates these impacts upon the dynamics of the A. tortilis population. Height-specific impact rates of these three agents are quantified. Between 1968 and 1977, mature trees were lost at a mean annual rate of some 6%, although this figure showed considerable annual variation (13.5-2%). Combinations of impact rates, simulating possible natural developments within the Serengeti woodlands, are programmed into the model to assess their effects upon the tree population structure. The results suggest that measures to promote regeneration development (fire protection and/or giraffe culling) are more effective in the long-term to encourage mature canopy recovery than are measures to reduce mature tree mortality (elephant culling). The management implications of these results are considered, and their extrapolation to other wildlife conservation areas experiencing similar declines in mature canopy woodland is discussed. It is suggested that the effects of the combination of low elephant densities and high giraffe densities prevalent in the Serengeti produce a dynamic system in which the woodland structure oscillates between mature canopy and open regeneration-grassland phases. The woodland structure desired by Park management to ensure continuity of mature tree canopy represents an unstable transitional stage between these two phases.
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1) Between 1985 and 1991, bush encroachment was serious in Lake Manyara National Park, northern Tanzania. Shrub cover increased by ~20%. The increase was independent of initial(1985) shrub cover. 2) Since 1987 there hasa been a steep decline in teh number of African elephant in the Park due to poaching. Elephant density decreased from about 6/km2 to1/km2. However, shrub establishment, as determined from counting tree-rings, preceded poaching. 3) Shrub establishment in two areas of the Park coincided with anthrax epidemics that drastically reduced the impala population. In the northern section of the Park, this was in 1984, in the southern section in 1977. 4) The diameter increment of Acacia tortilis was 5.24mm/year, irrespective of the size of trees. Size measurements indicated an even-aged stand of Acacia established in 1961, which coincided with another anthrax outbreak among impala. 5) Size measurements of old A.tortilis trees indicated another even-aged established at the end of the 1880s. The size of the trees of this stand was not significantly different from a stand in Tarangire National Park, nor from a stand near Ndutu(on the boundary between Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area), also northern Tanzania. All three stands are likely to have originated from bush establishment caused by the rinderpest pandemic at the end of teh 1880s. 6) It is suggested that seedling establishment of Acacia is a rare event under the prevailing conditions of high browsing pressure by ungulates such as impala. Punctuated disturbances by epidemics among these ungulates create narrow windows for seedling establishment, which may explain the occurrence of even-aged stands
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