Welcome to Eco Wild!
In this issue:
1. An elephant never forgets...
2. Methane down under
1. An elephant never forgets... I would like to apologise for
an error in the Sept. 19 Eco Wild where I mistakenly mentioned an exploding elephant
population in Part 3. Anyone interested in conservation knows this is not the
case at all (and boy, did I hear about it!). I was referring to the Sept. 12 Eco
Wild issue where I outlined that some South African parks have reached their saturation
points for elephants; unfortunately I had not clearly mentioned this reference
in last week's newsletter. I apologise to my readers and assure you that there
is NOT an elephant explosion; we must still fight to protect them!
The issue is not too many elephants, but lack of their habitat
range. Due mostly to human population growth, elephants now have less area to
wander, creating more damage to a specific area. African elephants spend up to
18-20 hours/day consuming 500 pounds of vegetation. They used to roam 100 miles
before returning to the same area; however, now they stay in their small areas,
which disturbs the ecosystem and can turn a closed woodland into grassland if
the area is too small for the number of elephants. This explains why scientists
are trying to translocate the elephants to a better suited area. However, translocation
is expensive and needs expertise to move these 14,000 pound animals. In addition,
as elephants are territorial, the newly transferred elephants become disorientated
during the move and cannot always find food in their new area.
Elephant contraception is an alternative to elephant culling or
translocation. This birth control device reduces elephant births by as much as
70% and lasts for a year. So if the elephant population changes and/or faces sudden
decline, the birth control device can be removed in the field.
Again, this doesn't really solve the problem, since the issue
is not too many elephants but lack of adequate space for them to roam. Well, at
least my mistake motivated some people to submit their views! Jake Grieves-Cook
of Porini Ecotourism and Tropical Places lobbied and coordinated a campaign against
the ivory trade before the ban. He sums up the situation quite well:
"...And don't forget, any increase in elephant numbers over the
last ten years will be made up entirely of juvenile elephants less than ten years
old. With the resumption of sales of ivory by Zimbabwe to Japan there is a danger
that poachers will be encouraged to start their operations again if markets are
being re-opened. In fact it has been reported that over 1,500 elephants were poached
in Zimbabwe last year. The problem is not increasing elephant numbers but loss
of elephant rangeland through increasing human encroachment and cultivation in
elephant habitat which brings the animals into conflict with people. So it is
contraception for people that is required, not elephants, as it is actually the
human populations that are "exploding"!
What we need are more protected areas for elephants and "migration
corridors" to enable elephants to continue moving from one area to another instead
of being penned into isolated parks. My own organisation, Porini Ecotourism, has
set up a Wildlife Conservation Area at Eselenkei on community-owned land. We are
now seeing elephants return to an area from which they had been absent for nearly
twenty years after the intensive poaching of the 1980's. The community members
are tolerating the presence of elephants as small-scale tourism is now producing
an income for them. As this is a semi-arid area, it is not suitable for cultivation
and it makes better economic sense to utilise the land for wildlife-related tourism
which means allowing elephants to migrate into the area from Amboseli (National
2. Methane down under
A mention of methane fuel-cells in last week's issue led to many
enquiries about methane. I wanted to share some exciting news from the Aussies,
who are making methanol gas from 30 million hectares of plantation trees! Within
50 years, they hope that using this methanol gas will reduce the carbon dioxide
emissions by 400 million tonnes/year, which is just about the same amount emitted
by the Australian energy sector! In addition, planting these trees restores degraded
areas of land and will also create approx. 100,000 jobs in rural Australia by
2020 and 400,000 jobs by 2050. But the icing on the cake is that potentially enough
methanol could be produced to replace liquid fuels made from crude oils, saving
$US 18 billion by 2050. Another green point for the team down under!
I hope you enjoyed this week's issue as much as I enjoyed writing it; now I
encourage you to take some action and go wild about East Africa, wildlife and
Thank you for your support!
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