Pangolin friendly farm fencing

One of the biggest threats facing pangolins in southern Africa is their accidental electrocution on electrified fences. Studies have found that as many as 1,000 pangolins may be killed on these fences every year in South Africa alone, probably overshadowing the illegal wildlife trade as a threat to pangolins in the region.

Electrified fences are prevalent on game reserves, private game farms, nature reserves and commercial livestock farms across southern Africa. They are a popular choice for the control of animal movement, ensuring livestock and wildlife stay in the confines of the farm and unwanted predators and people are kept out. While economical and effective, electrified fences also result in the electrocution of non-target species.

When a pangolin encounters an electrified fence its head or unprotected underbelly usually receives the initial shock. The result is that the pangolin will adopt its natural defensive position of rolling into a ball and, in doing so, often inadvertently wrapping itself around the electric wire. Each consecutive shock causes the animal to curl even tighter around the wire until the successive electrical pulses – or exposure – ultimately result in death.

With generous funding support from SavePangolins, we have teamed up with the Tikki Hywood Foundation and the Kalahari Wildlife Project to develop, test and implement a ground-breaking new system to significantly reduce – if not entirely prevent – mortalities related to electrified fencing while still maintaining the integrity and primary function of the electrified fences.

The initial pilot phase of the project involves developing, testing and implementing the proposed solution by fitting existing electrified fences with a new energizer design. We are also looking at a second project phase which will include some basic fence design modifications.

Project study sites have already been selected for field trials and these include Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in Limpopo Province, and Glen Lyon Kalahari Nature Reserve and several livestock farms in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. These sites represent the various habitats and land uses present in South Africa and are thus ideal for testing the new system. Installation has already taken place at most of the sites and monitoring of these systems has begun.

The development and roll-out of this project are made possible through funding and support from Save Pangolins, Stafix Electric Fence and Security Centre and JVA Technologies (Australia). The project team is also grateful to installation partners Maclin Power Fencing, and Stafix Kimberley and Stafix Polokwane for funding installation costs and generally providing support and advice to the project.  We also recognise security engineering company Protoclea for initially conceptualising this potential fence solution.

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