Fencing Africa?s National Parks.
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Do fences make good neighbors? One of the most surprising aspects of African national parks is that many of them have an electrified fence that traces the perimeter of the park. Some countries, including Kenya, have introduced plans to enclose more of their national parks with electrified fences, while in South Africa the government is tearing down their fences to create transfrontier parks that cross over international boundaries. Though biological and environmental issues have addressed the possible effects of fencing, no study has yet been conducted on the social impacts of fencing these protected areas. My research this summer examined the validity of my thesis that human communities are better off without fencing if ecosystem conservation can be incorporated into a communities? way of life. I traveled to Africa for nine weeks during the summer of 2004 to carry out a comparative study on the possible benefits and drawbacks of fencing on communities in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. I learned, most importantly, that legally protected game parks cannot be relied on to save the last of the continent?s endangered species?including the cheetah. Fencing African National Parks is a reaction to the economic, social, environmental, and educational problems of Africa. Saving the ecosystems of Africa begins with incorporating conservation into a communities? way of life as a value, but even this cannot be done unless the country is economically stable enough to have time for conservation.