Science and Research

With land privatization and fencing of thousands of hectares of communal grazing areas, East Africa is struggling with one of the most radical cultural and environmental changes in its history, accordig to a recent study.

The 668,500-hectare Greater Mara is of crucial importance for the great migrations of large mammals and for Maasai pastoralist culture. However, the magnitude and pace of these fencing processes in this area are almost completely unknown.

The study, published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, provides new evidence that fencing is appropriating land in this area at an unprecedented and accelerating speed and scale.

Using mapped series of multispectral satellite imagery, researchers found that in the conservancies with the most fences, areal cover of fenced areas has increased by more than 20 per cent since 2010.

“This has resulted in a situation where fencing is rapidly increasing across the Greater Mara, threatening to lead to the collapse of the entire ecosystem in the near future. Our results suggest that fencing is currently instantiating itself as a new permanent self-reinforcing process and is about to reach a critical point after which it is likely to amplify at an even quicker pace, incompatible with the region’s role in the great wildebeest migration, wildlife generally, as well as traditional Maasai pastoralism,” the study notes.

The Greater Mara is a 668,500-hectare large area in southwestern Kenya. Masai Mara refers to a gazetted national reserve managed by the Narok County Government situated within this area. The remaining Greater Mara comprises smaller administrative areas, including wildlife conservancies, conservation areas and settlement areas.

A wildlife conservancy describes land set aside by an individual landowner, body corporate, group of owners or a community for purposes of wildlife conservation in accordance with the provisions of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act in Masai Mara.

The whole report is published here:click

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The number of tree species currently known to science is 60,065, representing 20 percent of all angiosperm and gymnosperm plant species, according to a study published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

The paper, based of a list of trees prepared by Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), for the first time presents an overview of all known tree species by scientific name and country level distribution, and describes an online database – GlobalTreeSearch -- that provides access to this information.

Nearly half of all tree species (45 per cent) are found in just ten families, with the three most tree-rich families being Leguminosae, Rubiaceae, and Myrtaceae. Geographically, Brazil, Colombia, and Indonesia are the countries with the most tree species.

The countries with the most country-endemic tree species reflect broader plant diversity trends (Brazil, Australia, China) or islands where isolation has resulted in speciation (Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia). Nearly 58 per cent of all tree species are single country-endemics.

The GlobalTreeSearch can be used as a tool for monitoring and managing tree species diversity, forests, and carbon stocks on a global, regional, and/or national level. It will also be used as the basis of the Global Tree Assessment, which aims to assess the conservation status of all of the world’s tree species by 2020.

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The tiny bee has become a defender of farmers living next to Tsavo East National Park in Kenya against the marauding elephants that devour their crops.

The findings of a research unveiled on 21 February 2017 show that ‘beehive fences’ successfully defended 10 small-scale farms on the front line of elephant incursions from Kenya’s largest elephant population in Tsavo.

Over three and a half years, 253 elephants entered the farming area of Mwakoma village, usually when crops were ripening. Eighty per cent of the of the time, the elephants were turned away by the beehive fences, and the success has resulted in a rapid uptake of beehive fences by other farmers in the community.

Elephants are in peril across most of their African range. Poaching for ivory is an acute, high-profile issue, but incidents of conflict between humans and elephants are increasing. When elephants come raiding, small-scale farmers can lose the food that was to support their families for the season, and their revenge can be fatal.

‘Beehive fences’ are a novel solution that has proven to be astonishingly successful, as described in the new paper, published in the journal Conservation Biology. Elephants detest bees and will run away at just the sound of the angry buzzing emitted from a disturbed hive to avoid being stung around the sensitive eyes, mouth and trunk.

This novel and natural inter-species behaviour has been adapted to provide 10 farmers next to Tsavo East National Park with income-generating beehive fences that links one beehive to another around the outer side of their farms to keep the elephants at bay.

In the 3.5-year collaborative study conducted by Save the Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service and Mwakoma Community, not only did the beehive fences keep 80 per cent of elephants out of the trial farms, but the guardian bees provided the farmer with pollination services for their crops. Additionally 228kg of delicious ‘Elephant-Friendly’ Honey was produced for sale generating over $3,300 in gross income.

The research was designed and led by Lucy King from Save the Elephants who has spent over 10 years exploring the use of honey bees as a natural deterrent for crop-raiding elephants.

“We had 253 elephants visit our ten beehive fence protected farms over a 3.5-year period and only 20 per cent of them managed to break the fence to access the crops,” said Dr King, “With 80 per cent of the elephants successfully turning away from the farms, the 10 pilot farmers have been so enthusiastic about the fences that a further 12 farmers from the community asked to join the project by the end of our trial.”

Over 24 farms are now using beehive fences in the Sagalla area and the beehive fence concept has spread to three other communities next to Tsavo East in the past 18 months.

“These results are very encouraging and will contribute to the ongoing conservation and management strategy for elephants in Kenya,” said Fredrick Lala of Kenya Wildlife Service who co-authored the paper.

Said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants: “The beehive fence is a natural, sweet solution to diminish conflict between man and elephants.”

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