08 Apr 2014:
'Living Fences' Dramatically
Cut Livestock and Lion Killings in Tanzania
Afr. People & Wildlife Fund
A Masai villager installs a living fence.
A novel, low-tech idea is helping Tanzania's lion population rebound: So-called "living fences" — which enclose livestock and are constructed of actively growing trees and chain-link fencing — have cut lion attacks and retaliatory killings by more than 85 percent in the areas they've been installed, the Guardian reports
. Traditionally, the Masai have built livestock enclosures out of thorny acacia trees, but those fences are relatively fragile. Chain-link fencing alone is more durable, but leopards and small lions can scale the fences, and hyenas can tunnel in below. By interweaving actively growing African myrrh trees with the chain link fencing, the Masai have created a barrier that lions can't climb over, and their root systems prevent predators from digging under the fence. Because livestock predation has been sharply reduced, communities that had been killing six or seven lions annually now kill, on average, less than one. Said one researcher, "We've documented in our camera trap data larger prides of females, more cubs and sub-adults, healthier and bigger lions — all signs that lion numbers are beginning to rebound."