As nature lovers, we all understand that when predators kill for food, it is part of a natural process. We may not like to see it, but we know why it happens. However, when animals die because of what human beings do, like put up fences on which birds can become entangled or get stuck, we should be angry and sad because they die a horrible, painful death through starvation, thirst and exhaustion. A few years ago BirdLife South Africa started looking at ways to mitigate this threat and asked the general public to submit records of birds killed on fences.
Sightings of 23 species that died in this way were received. Some of the species, such as the African Grass Owl, Secretarybird, Blue Crane, Black Stork, Greater Flamingo and Southern Ground-Hornbill, are endangered, but more common birds such as Crowned Lapwings, Laughing Doves and Southern Red Bishops, as well as Marsh Owl, Cape Eagle-Owl and Western Barn Owl suffered the same fate. Nor is it only birds that are affected; we received records of small and large mammals that were killed on fences or became entangled in them.
With the information received we could determine that it was the top strand of a barbed-wire fence that was responsible for the deaths and that larger birds become entangled when the top two strands are not taut due to lack of maintenance. It is believed that both these issues can be mitigated relatively easily. In the year ahead we will discuss mitigation methods with fencing companies and publish a report. We will then launch a campaign based on this report, aiming it at landowners. The campaign will highlight the impact of fences on birds and other animals and propose mitigation methods.
Please submit any records of birds killed on fences by e-mail to Ernst Retief or online at www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-projects/fence-mitigation-project
Ernst Retief, Regional Conservation Manager: Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State, email@example.com