What you should know about conservation





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    Exclamation What you should know about conservation

    Hi all,

    After reading some of the posts on this and other forums I feel the need to discuss some concerns and related issues around 4x4ís and environmental/conservation projects. (posted onto other forums as well)

    In general 4x4 drivers are not looked on favourably by most conservation authorities (and I broadly include quad bikes whose riders are considered even worse) Conservation groups are extremely hesitant to talk to us and allow or invite us to get involved with their projects. This is purely as a result of bad faith on the part of 4x4 clubs and associations who have previously been involved and, quite frankly, STUFFED IT UP. Also the Beach ban and the strict enforcement of the environmental laws now on the Wild Coast, Namibia and Angola are as a result of the actions of a few bad apples in our community.

    I know of two 4x4 clubs who do/did fence patrols and both have had teams kicked out of the reserves due to bad behaviour of the people attending. Not once, not twice, but MANY times, one park is considering if it is actually worth the hassle at the moment the other has stopped them altogether.

    When the 4x4Community approached FOPS (Friends of the Pilanesberg) to see if they could be of assistance it took just on 3 months just to get them together in a meeting, thatís how bad the anti 4x4 feeling was.

    On the other hand, the Desert Lion Project of the Land Cruiser Club, The Vulture sponsorship at the Jeep Club, Work parties from the 4x4 Community and the initiatives from the AAWDC to engage with the Endangered Wildlife Trust amongst others, are working miracles in building and repairing these relationships. Also the NOW initiative has been a building block in all of these successful partnerships as it shows that we want to, and can be, responsible off road drivers.

    There are a huge number of environmental/conservation projects all over Southern Africa (Iím limiting this to where we normally travel) and we have a huge number of 4x4 owners in this country and WE CAN AND WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE to some of these projects, yes, some of them. Unfortunately we cannot help everybody as much as we would like to and the next thing is that we need to give them the help where they need it, not where we think they need it.

    With very few exceptions, and Iím not one of them, we are not scientists, experts in soil erosion, wetlands, animal husbandry etc, they, the conservation groups, are, and we need to let them get on with their jobs and give them the support that they need. Sometimes that support will be in the form of fund-raising, sometimes it will be equipment or logistics and backup vehicles, other times it might be blood, sweat & tears while building enclosures or doing much needed maintenance, alien vegetation control or anything else that is required. Please understand that I am not going to use fancy terms or scientific names here either as I want people to understand what I am saying.

    The point is that our focus should be on approaching existing organisations, preferably those who have a national footprint, those who are registered and have a decent track record and pooling our resources to help them do their jobs more efficiently. This is not to say that we cannot help regional or local organisations, we must, but the focus must be the most good for the most return.

    People also seriously misunderstand the processes etc involved in conservation/environmental work.

    Very very often, the organisations tasked to do this work are hampered by the very laws they are trying to enforce, lack of funds, lack of staff, old & broken equipment and the list goes on.

    Very often, the true conservation work is hampered by animal rightists who use emotion as a tool to drum up support for non-sustainable practices that ultimately become a drain on funding & staff that could be having a hugely profound effect in real terms on the issues at hand.

    Also, when the conservation field workers are out in the field, away from base, communications, legal help etc, and due to the issues mentioned above, help and assistance from them is not always instantly available and due to the specific behavioural patterns of the various species, sometimes jobs have to wait for the right time to do them, regardless of the emotions raised.

    When a person starts to understand that everything in nature is inter-related, then one starts seeing the issues at hand in a different light. One needs to understand the population dynamics of the various species, their home ranges and their territories, their food requirements and the carrying capacity of the land, the complete biodiversity of the area and, even more importantly, how the surplus animals in saturated populations survive and what happens when species populations or their habitat are interfered with.

    Every species occupies a niche in nature and that niche is related to a particular type of habitat, so another worry is where an alien species which fulfils the same natural niche as one of our local species is introduced, as there is now direct competition for the same living environment.

    So for example, Animal Exhibit A. In a completely natural (unfenced) environment, as the population grows in an area, some die, some live, ultimately, the population grows to point and then stabilises (100%) and surplus animals move off into the wilderness to find their own home range, some do, some donít and some come back when the alpha male/female die off, but the population in that specific habitat is stable and ultimately so is the habitat/environment.

    That same population in a fenced/limited area has hugely different dynamics as there is no natural moving off of surplus animals and so the habitat itself becomes stressed as the population exceeds its carrying capacity. The end result is a loss of vegetation, leading to a loss of soil, leading to degraded habitats for many other species and the Animal Exhibit A and then ultimately to a population crash and permanent damage to the environment & habitat.

    So what do you do with the Animal Exhibit A population that are surplus? Relocate? At whose cost and to where, as they cannot just go anywhere and need lots of space. Do we hunt them and put that money back into conservation? Do we cull them and feed the local area human populations in the hope they wonít poach other animals?

    Can we armchair conservationists really have an informed opinion and make such a decision? We know nothing of the actual issues on the ground. Realistically, we should be supporting the teams that are on the ground, maintaining those populations and become informed.

    In terms of predator control, very simplistically, when you take one animal out, all you are doing is creating a vacant home range for another, and when you start taking species behavioural patterns into account, very often we are interfering badly in the natural scheme and ultimately cause a worse problem.

    A huge problem in terms of conservation is the fact that animal rightist groups use emotion to drum up funding and support for issues. emotion is good, it gets people off their backsides, and gets them to pull out their wallets, but uninformed emotion is extremely bad. Most people find it easy to support Lion, Leopard, wild dog, elephant & rhino projects, ICONIC species and mostly apex species who are at the very top of the food chain and as such make up about 1% of the species in their habitat. Without looking at the big picture and ensuring the conservation of, and in this order, soil, water, plants and finally animals and right at the end, apex species, there will be nothing to protect.

    The other side of the coin is the hugely emotional issues such as seals, rabbits, whales, dolphins, gorillas etc where there are some humaniod traits, big soft eyes, intelligence etc. We receive an emotional email, we believe it, we forward it on even if we are slightly suspect because it might help, just in case. Who actually goes and researches that info and makes an informed decision? Did you know that PETA arranged some and then faked other seal culling pics? It's all in the agenda of the organisation!

    So in closing, Nature Conservation, while highly emotional, actually needs people to think reasonably, and to have the bigger picture kept in mind at all times. Any assistance offered to conservation groups, parks and reserves etc must be fully thought out, well disciplined, projects should be ring-fenced and have defined parameters, a clear understanding of who and what you are helping, and of what you are there to do. Without this, it is very easy for projects to collapse and destroy many years of relationship building.

    If you want to get involved, then first think about how you want to get involved, do you want to be an honorary officer, do you want to be a guide, do you want to do maintenance, do you want to just donate some money or equipment, do you want to fetch & carry?

    If you have specific projects that you would like to get involved with, do some research, find out about them, what do they do, how long have they been doing it, are they respected in their field, what help do they need and can you help them. Do they need help locally or nationally, do you need individual help or group help, do you need special training to be able to be of assistance (such as the training required before you may become an Honorary Officer at the North West Parks Board)?

    Regards

    Doug


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    "
    In closing, Nature Conservation, while highly emotional, actually needs people to think reasonably, and to have the bigger picture kept in mind at all times. Any assistance offered to conservation groups, parks and reserves etc must be fully thought out, well disciplined, projects should be ring-fenced and have defined parameters, a clear understanding of who and what you are helping, and of what you are there to do. Without this, it is very easy for projects to collapse and destroy many years of relationship building.
    Amen!
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    Doug,

    congratulations on a well argued essay. That must have taken some time to write!

    There is a flip side to the "problem" of pressure groups supporting schemes for the conservation of their favourite species, and you alluded to it. The usual targets, as you say, are apex predators.......lions, cheetahs, wild dog etc. I think it is good news that these pressure groups exist to promote an awareness of wildlife, and of conservation issues..........and the flip side, the bonus of these campaigns (apart from raised awareness and funds) are that any reasonable plan for the conservation of an apex predator naturally has to deal with the health of all of the supporting pyramid of animals and plants throughout the food-chain/ ecosystem. As an example, you can't preserve wild dogs without ensuring healthy populations of browsers and grazers over a wide territory, and you can't have that without attending to the health of the vegetation, water-courses etc.

    The problem of the behaviour of some 4x4 owners is surely one of education, structures and discipline. If everyone attending as a volunteer had to sign up to an agreement to abide by the rules imposed by the conservation body in charge, and if those rules were clear and enforced, I wonder how long it would be before the problem went away? If there was one person from the 4x4 group in charge of the conduct of the 4x4ers, and reporting directly to one person from the conservation group.......in charge of briefing before any voluntary work, and holding pieces of paper with a signature from every volunteer, then there is immediately some sort of structure in place that can be used to invoke discipline.

    It is hugely important that there are people like you, Doug, who are pushing this important agenda from within the 4x4 community. More power to your elbow.

    Mike
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougN View Post
    Can we armchair conservationists really have an informed opinion and make such a decision? We know nothing of the actual issues on the ground. Realistically, we should be supporting the teams that are on the ground, maintaining those populations and become informed.
    Beautiful post Doug!
    I want to highlight this bit.
    Though we all want to help, and learn. It's neigh impossible to know everything about everything. To be able to make an informed comment, let alone an informed decision one would have to have a degree in the relevant field of conservation and or biology and or animal behaviour and or veterinary science.
    Which we can't. But we can provide our support to those who have it already.
    Scientists are there to help and conserve. Let's not hinder them, but support them any way we can. They don't need advice or opinions on how to do their jobs. They need us to support them and their decisions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeAG View Post
    The problem of the behaviour of some 4x4 owners is surely one of education, structures and discipline
    I think the problem is less complex than that... These guys get involved to boost the egos, rather than having a real desire to contribute to overall conservation.

    As the 4WDCSA-WC we are heavily involved with Cape Nature, and the commitment to this by members is amazing, because it ss HARD work, rebuilding roads, getting rid of allen vegetation etc etc

    Nice article Doug, and good comments from Mike too
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    Well done and said, Doug.

    I am in the process of becoming an HR at SANParks. It is a long and difficult process. I am actually doing an orientaion course at Rietvlei Nature Reserve (we do service there as a favour to Tshwane) this weekend, and will be assisting with, among others, fence patrols in the future.

    Fence patrols are good, since you can (and should) use your 4 x 4 to do it. However, you have to do it with MINIMAL environmental damage - which (mainly) means slow and responsible driving and rather turning around than leaving the established "road" and damaging the veld.

    However, it involves much more than only fence patrols. We will also inpsect the facilities, clean facilities, do audits etc.

    Main message is: conservation work looks more glamorous and lekker than what it mostly is, and in our instance it is done without any personal gain, using our own equipment and time. If anybody wants to be involved in conservation, make sure that you know what you let yourself into and do what you can do best and what you have time for.

    It is however still a great thing to do. It beats walking around in a mall on a Saturday by a LONG mile.

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    Thank you for posting such a great and well thought out essay Doug.

    Quote Originally Posted by ArrieMeyer View Post
    Well done and said, Doug.

    I am in the process of becoming an HR at SANParks. It is a long and difficult process. I am actually doing an orientaion course at Rietvlei Nature Reserve (we do service there as a favour to Tshwane) this weekend, and will be assisting with, among others, fence patrols in the future.
    Arrie, could you please start another thread detailing the process of becoming an HR at SANParks? http://www.sanparks.org/groups/hr/ provides some information, but I believe a first hand account would be better.

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    Doug, bet you are glad you got that little lot off your chest, well done.
    You know I am willing to help anywhere and any time, put me on the list, when you compile it, Alan

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    Thanks Doug!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeAG View Post

    There is a flip side to the "problem" of pressure groups supporting schemes for the conservation of their favourite species, and you alluded to it. The usual targets, as you say, are apex predators.......lions, cheetahs, wild dog etc. I think it is good news that these pressure groups exist to promote an awareness of wildlife, and of conservation issues..........and the flip side, the bonus of these campaigns (apart from raised awareness and funds) are that any reasonable plan for the conservation of an apex predator naturally has to deal with the health of all of the supporting pyramid of animals and plants throughout the food-chain/ ecosystem. As an example, you can't preserve wild dogs without ensuring healthy populations of browsers and grazers over a wide territory, and you can't have that without attending to the health of the vegetation, water-courses etc.

    Mike, the concerns around this are numerous and a strong concern is that actually, very often, the issue is not about conservation per se but rather animal rights, which disguises the true issues.

    Lets take elephants as an example as they are an apex species, they are also an ICONIC species and they have huge emotional pull.

    In a limited/fenced area, without proper management, the population will ultimatly exceed the carrying capacity of the enclosed habitat which leads to habitat degredation and loss of other species in that area. Why cant the population be properly managed? Because the animal rightists under the guise of conservation and using emotion block every attempt, so what happens in reality is that the guys tasked with the management of our parks and reserves are not actually alowed to do their jobs and ultimately the entire habitat and every species in it suffers permanent damage.

    A very good book to read is Ron Thompson's "A Game Warden's Report" ISBN 0-620-30850-8
    Last edited by DouglasN; 2010/03/17 at 10:01 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by IanG View Post
    Arrie, could you please start another thread detailing the process of becoming an HR at SANParks? http://www.sanparks.org/groups/hr/ provides some information, but I believe a first hand account would be better.
    I had asked Arrie to supply me with the details already and he has, so after a bit of research I will create a "sticky" that will give the path to becoming an HO in the variosu parks boards.


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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeAG View Post

    The problem of the behaviour of some 4x4 owners is surely one of education, structures and discipline. If everyone attending as a volunteer had to sign up to an agreement to abide by the rules imposed by the conservation body in charge, and if those rules were clear and enforced, I wonder how long it would be before the problem went away? If there was one person from the 4x4 group in charge of the conduct of the 4x4ers, and reporting directly to one person from the conservation group.......in charge of briefing before any voluntary work, and holding pieces of paper with a signature from every volunteer, then there is immediately some sort of structure in place that can be used to invoke discipline.
    In all the clubs that I have belonged to, there have been a base set of rules for the projects that have been undertaken, and in each case there has been someone who thinks the rules don't apply to them.

    I received a call Monday from a guy who was part of a team initiating a fence patrol in a local reserve a little while back, not Borakalalo or Pilanesberg, and all was well until the patrol came a cross a small river crossing with a mud pool when some of the group decided this was a good place to play and lost the plot.

    What kind of reception will a 4x4club get when they approach that park again now? The club members can be disciplined but the damage to the greater 4x4 community and conservation work has been dealt a huge blow that takes forever to get past.


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    Thank you Doug and well said in actually a short essay if you look at and understand the broader picture. I think there are two groups ie.

    People with 4x4's who wants to get out in nature to enjoy their 4x4's and sometimes in the process cause a lot of damage for us and People who love nature and conservation who drives a 4x4 for conservation purposes.

    Arrie I will also be at Rietvlei for that course on Saturday. It will be nice to put face to name.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougN View Post
    I received a call Monday from a guy who was part of a team initiating a fence patrol in a local reserve a little while back, not Borakalalo or Pilanesberg, and all was well until the patrol came a cross a small river crossing with a mud pool when some of the group decided this was a good place to play and lost the plot.
    Doug, slightly of the main thrust of the thread, but the above sums it up for me. As another example, the behavior at Ponta of our SA 4x4 drivers and quadders has to be seen to be believed.

    I suggest the solution needs to be fixed at source and that ALL new 4x4 owners must register with NOW and be educated in the responsibility and privilege that comes with owning a vehicle that can go to amazing places through obtaining an advanced drivers certificate. This should be extended to existing owners as well.

    Responsible owners will than have a reporting mechanism without having to confront.

    Probably easier to say than implement?

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    Does anyone know how long it shoudl take to get the NOW certificates once one has completed the 'recognition of prior learning" course?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Venter View Post
    Does anyone know how long it shoudl take to get the NOW certificates once one has completed the 'recognition of prior learning" course?
    Apperantly they are behind schedule.
    Did my course end January. Was told up to eight weeks.
    There are people who did RPL end November last year who until recently still had nothing.

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    Conservation is not limited to going out and removing alien vegetation or doing fence patrols in reserves it is a positive state of mind and starts with yourself.
    Small things like engaging 4wd even when the vehicle can go without it or staying on track and leaving minimal footprint. It can be as simple as getting your friends to do their bit in leaving as little as possible in regards to footprints and taking only pictures. Small gestures like taking your own fire wood instead of picking it up in the veld has a significant effect to the environment.

    Getting involved with a group like the honorary rangers must be the ultimate satisfaction in knowing that you helped make a difference and is commendable but regardless of how little or how much you do nature is the ultimate winner. Lets respect nature and do our bit to help conservation, we can make a difference.

    Doug I salute you and Erin for the work you are doing.

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    Morning all,

    There seem to be some informed people on this forum with regard to conservation. So I was hoping that one of the experts could explain to me the current histeria from nature conservation about not allowing any animals into an area where they "did not previously occur naturally".

    Lets take the simple example of the Blesbok. The geographic area where you are allowed to "establish" blesbok has now been strictly defined. If you fall outside this area, and you don't already have blesbok on your farm, you can just forget about it. You will not be allowed to bring any onto your farm. This is just a single example, but consider the implications for the game rancher. He is now prohibited from offering his customers a variety of game which could seriously affect his ability to market his farm commercially.

    The Blesbok has been thriving in many areas outside the now prescribed area and this has probably contributed to the strong population and genetic pool that exists today.

    I find this approach more incomprehensible when it comes to endangered species. Surely ANY assistance which is offered for the future wellbeing of an endangered species should be welcomed? In this case I'd like to cite the example of the Cape Mountain Zebra. Nature conservation will not allow ANY of these animals to be transported outside the Western Cape and thousands of game ranchers who are just to eager to become involved in the conservation of this rare animal are prohibited from doing so.

    If the limitation was related to havbitat, there might be some logic to it, but it isn't. As we have seen with the Blesbok, there are vast areas of the country with habitat suitable for Blesbok, which are now off limits for this animal.

    Can someone elucidate me as to the logic behind this aproach? I fail to understand this.

    C

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    Quote Originally Posted by hbannink View Post
    Conservation is not limited to ......[snip]


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    Well said Henk.


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    Quote Originally Posted by C Africa View Post
    Morning all,

    There seem to be some informed people on this forum with regard to conservation. So I was hoping that one of the experts could explain to me the current histeria from nature conservation about not allowing any animals into an area where they "did not previously occur naturally".

    Lets take the simple example of the Blesbok. The geographic area where you are allowed to "establish" blesbok has now been strictly defined. If you fall outside this area, and you don't already have blesbok on your farm, you can just forget about it. You will not be allowed to bring any onto your farm. This is just a single example, but consider the implications for the game rancher. He is now prohibited from offering his customers a variety of game which could seriously affect his ability to market his farm commercially.

    The Blesbok has been thriving in many areas outside the now prescribed area and this has probably contributed to the strong population and genetic pool that exists today.

    I find this approach more incomprehensible when it comes to endangered species. Surely ANY assistance which is offered for the future wellbeing of an endangered species should be welcomed? In this case I'd like to cite the example of the Cape Mountain Zebra. Nature conservation will not allow ANY of these animals to be transported outside the Western Cape and thousands of game ranchers who are just to eager to become involved in the conservation of this rare animal are prohibited from doing so.

    If the limitation was related to havbitat, there might be some logic to it, but it isn't. As we have seen with the Blesbok, there are vast areas of the country with habitat suitable for Blesbok, which are now off limits for this animal.

    Can someone elucidate me as to the logic behind this aproach? I fail to understand this.

    C
    We currently have situations globally where the introduction of species for any and every reason has had disasterous consequences. Sometimes it is the introduced species itself that suffers and other times (more often than not) it is other species and/or habitat or environment that suffers.

    Lets take the above mentioned zebra as an example... the following situations may arise:
    1. It is taken to a sof sandy area... the hooves of the animal are not worn away by the rocks and they therfore continue to grow. I saw this happen to a zebra in east africa (discovery channel) where the hooves grew so long they actually curved and spiralled like a kudu horn. Painful for the animal and expensive to capture and/or dart if on a private game farm.
    2. The cape mountain zebra numbers are limited but the gene pool is quite pure. Now you take a few of these individuals to another area and they mate with Burchells zebra, you now have bastard strain that could either taint the "pure" population if re-introduced or at best you have a hybrid population that either taints the local burchells or has to be managed to prevent future tainting.
    3. Lastly, as zebras are heavy animals with heavy grazing activity they could destroy large areas if not manged correctly. Sourveld conditions do not recover well/quickly so the mangement of every species is important. This is hard enough when you have local species that have adapted to the environment and vice versa, it is even harder trying to manage exotics. Also, there are miriad game farms that are owned and run by rich people who no knowledge and even less experience in game/habitat/environmental management.
    We don't want the problems Australia has with cane toads, foxes or rabbits. Or the situation like England where there is literally one semi-viable population of the iconic red squirrel... the rest have been lost due to the american grey squirrel.

    If we want to save the cape mountain zebra then we need to do it in its own habitat by saving its own habitat.

    IMHO
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