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"What is this Infamous 'Wildlife / Livestock Interface?' -
A Review of Current Knowledge on the Subject"

Richard Kock

With the exponential growth of human populations in Africa over the last century, the inevitable decline in wildlife habitat and populations has been rapid. The loss has been primarily in areas of human settlement and agriculture, as here, the habitat loss is extreme. Wildlife survives increasingly in pockets of land peripheral to these areas as a result of the establishment of protected area systems (parks, reserves and sanctuaries) or in the remaining forests, wetlands and vast arid rangelands of Africa, which have not been settled or exploited. Africa is now a mosaic from developed landscapes to relatively unchanged habitats, which recall pre-ice age communities. Probably the most stable systems over the last centuries, where the habitats have remained relatively intact, are the dry rangelands. These areas are less attractive to human settlement as the environment and climate are harsh and agriculture is limited by low rainfall and nutrient-poor soils. Consequently, these are areas with a lower human density and the livelihoods are often based on pastoral livestock and now rarely, hunter-gatherer systems. Ironically, due to lack of political empowerment and cash poverty, these traditional communities are considered backward and unproductive by urban society whereas they should be praised for their more environmentally sustainable land-use practices, and means sought to enhance their incomes without destroying their way of life.

When considering the “Wildlife/Livestock Interface,” the understanding for this paper is that the wildlife component comprises the large mammals, which in one way or another interact with the livestock population and more specifically, herbivores. It is here in particular that the scene is changing and novel problems are arising. This does not mean the remaining animals—carnivores, reptiles and so on—are not important. The impact of predation and the prevalence of snakebites on livestock might be examples! These subjects are best dealt with in other fora.

A major impact of the changing landscape has been increasing competition for the finite resources and it is here that the interface has become more apparent and contact more frequent. In summary, the “Wildlife/Livestock Interface” has become more intense in certain areas, whilst it is no longer an issue in many others.

The interface can present itself in many different ways and a better definition of the interface is needed where it has a real impact economically or in terms of health on either the livestock or wildlife populations. This will help in clarifying the issues and focusing research and management efforts appropriately. The subject is large and this paper will only review the more important animal health issues at the interface:

• Diseases of importance that pass between wild and domestic animals at the physical interface with a focus on infections impacting trade in animals.

• Diseases that are transmitted through vectors between livestock and wildlife and the influence each community has on the overall prevalence and impact of the disease.

• Contact rates in relation to the competition for the resources shared between wildlife and livestock – forage and water.

richard kock

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Biography for
Richard Kock

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