Conservation

FENCES: FRIENDS OR FOE?

Posted on the 30th June 2014

(This article first appeared in the June 2014 E-newsletter of BirdLife South Africa. - Ed.)
Many birds are killed each year when they collide with fences. These species are also often of conservation concern, for example the Secretarybird and Blue Crane. We suspect many bird species, and even bats, come to a cruel end when they are caught in fences and succumb to their injuries or from dehydration.
BirdLife South Africa has initiated a project to determine the extent of the problem, and to influence the future erection of fences through a best-practice document. Although there is some information available about this problem, most of it is based on anecdotal evidence or studies outside of South Africa. In order to make appropriate proposals, it is important to obtain a better understanding of this situation in South Africa. Some of the questions that need answers are the following:
• Which bird species are killed through collisions with fences?
• Why do these species collide with fences? The reason might be linked to their behaviour; for example, nocturnal species might be more affected than diurnal birds.
• What type of fence poses the biggest risk to birds? Anecdotal evidence and studies suggest that barbed-wire fences are the biggest problem, but this needs to be confirmed.
• What environmental factors contribute to collisions? For example, a fence over a wetland might be more of a risk than one near a homestead. BirdLife South Africa would like to request members of the general public and birders to submit
information about birds caught in fences. These records can include historical sightings going back many years.

The data can be submitted in two ways: 1) information about the incident can be submitted by e-mail to Ernst Retief (ernst. retief@birdlife.org.za), or 2) complete the online form on the BirdLife South Africa website: www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/
important-bird-areas/fence-mitigation-project.
A photo of the incident would be especially valuable.
Based on the data collected during this project, solutions will be developed and a document published with the aim of lessening the impacts of fences on wildlife in general and birds in particular.

Ernst Retief, Regional Conservation Manager: Gauteng, Limpopo and North West, ernst.retief@birdlife.org.za


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