UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Veterinary Fence

In most parts of Africa the national parks and game reserves have never been fenced, and yet seek to maintain and support wildlife populations. Only in southern Africa, and South Africa in particular, does fencing playa large role in the wildlife and conservation industry. The legal requirements stipulated for such fences are described in various acts, for example the Animal Diseases Act 35 of 1984 and the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity (NEMBA) Act 10 of 2004 (Chapter 11).

In southern Africa, the use of fencing (and other disease control measures such as proclamation of animal disease control zones, and permit requirements) to strictly control the movement of wildlife and livestock has enabled access to beef and other livestock markets in Europe and elsewhere in the developed world. Directly contagious diseases such as rinderpest, foot-and-mouthdisease (FMD) and malignant catarrhal fever as well as diseases transmitted by flightless vectors such as African swine fever and corridor disease (theileriosis) can be effectively managed by barrier fencing. By 2011 controls to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease between SA, Mozambique and Swaziland had crumbled, posing devastating risks to SA’s feedlot industry. There were no longer adequate controls to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. Cloven-hoofed animals could have direct contact in some cases through an inadequate single fence and in others through porous fences that allowed for the free movement of cattle across the boundaries, without any checks.

A "red-line" veterinary fence had existed a few kilometers south of the border to prevent infected cattle from moving south into KwaZulu-Natal. It was partially damaged in the 2000 floods and had never been repaired. According to the Democratic Alliance’s KwaZulu-Natal spokes-man on conservation and environmental affairs, Radley Keys, "In 2007 the government voted R27m for the reconstruction of this boundary. Yet, when questioned, neither national nor provincial officials could say what had happened to this money."

As a result of South Africa having lost its International Office of Epizootics [OIE] recognised FMD free status, all exports of cloven hoofed animals and their products, which have not been treated to inactivate the FMD virus, have had to be suspended. South Africa will be in a position to negotiate with its trading partners once a nationwide sero-surveillance for FMD has been concluded, indicating that the rest of the country is free of infection. Some neighboring countries, such as Botswana and Namibia, had stringent measures to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease, and these countries were exporting to major markets such as the US and Europe.

In South Africa, stock farming is the only viable agricultural activity in a large part of the country. Approximately 69% of South African agricultural land is used for extensive grazing. Cattle production have increased by nearly 1 million heads from 12.6 million in 1994 to 13.5 million in 2004 and areas for grazing declined owing to expanding human settlements and other activities such as mining, crops, forestry and conservation. Beef cattle producers vary from highly sophisticated commercial (who rely on high technology) to communal subsistence producers (who rely on indigenous knowledge and appropriate technology).

Three major groups of beef cattle farmers co-exist in South Africa. The commercial beef producer (mostly white farmers) where production is relatively high and comparable to developed countries. Their production is generally based on synthetic breeds and/or crossbreeding, using Indicus / Sanga types and their crosses as dams. The emerging black beef cattle farmer who own or lease land (LRAD beneficiaries). Their cattle generally consist of indigenous crossbred or exotic type of animals. The communal beef cattle farmer who farm on communal grazing land. Their cattle are mostly of indigenous types. Some 60% of the 14.1 million cattle available in South Africa are owned by commercial farmers and 40% by emerging and communal farmers.

Wildlife and livestock can have the same diseases. Contact with wildlife (wild animals) can be dangerous to the health of livestock. They are a source of some diseases that can seriously affect the productivity of livestock and even lead to death. Livestock may be infected when they come into contact with wildlife. Insects carry some diseases from wild animals to livestock. Livestock can also infect wild animals with some diseases.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) affects all cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. African buffaloes in the Kruger Park are the maintenance hosts, but do not show signs of disease. FMD does not cause death except for low mortalities mainly in calves, but it results in economic loss for the farmer as well as for the country. Infected cattle cannot eat or walk effectively for several days, causing lactating cows to dry up and beef animals to lose weight. Also during outbreaks in cattle export of certain agricultural products are banned. FMD-free areas preferably are separated from FMD areas by fences. Any breaches in the fences should be reported to the Directorate Veterinary Services of the Department of Agriculture. Separation of these areas could also be by roads, rivers or farm boundaries.

Botswana is particularly paranoid about foot and mouth disease. The government built a 3500km long fence long ago stretching across the country to prevent animals migrating between the two sides. Their thought was that if a foot and mouth disease outbreak did occur, it would be possible to confine it to half of the country only. The Botswana-South Africa border fence extends to the center of the Notwane River, about 500 meters below the Notwane Dam. The construction of a R2 million fence protecting South Africa from diseases north of the country was expected to begin in February 1998, according to national deputy director of animal health, Dr Johan Krige. He said the fence had to be erected, despite concerns from environmentalists, as animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease north of the Limpopo River, threatened South Africa92s annual R17 billion import and export industry.

In line with creating an enabling environment for sustainable agricultural production, the Department of Agriculture focused on supporting production priorities identified by provinces relating to: key soil conservation infrastructure;groundwater development for stock watering and food security garden development; and the construction of the disease control border fence. Expenditure on infrastructure fluctuates considerably between 2004/05 and 2008/09, increasing sharply by 51,5 per cent from 2004/05 to 2005/06, and declining substantially by 21 per cent in 2006/07. The change in expenditure was due to project specific allocations, such as for a 350km elephant proof fence along the foot and mouth disease border fence in 2005/06.

The Kruger National Park and the surrounding areas, as well as the northern borders of country are a declared Foot-and-mouth disease [FMD] controlled area in terms of the Animal Diseases Act. The Kruger National Park (a national game reserve) is the FMD Infected Zone. The Park is about 350 km long and 60 to 80 km wide, fenced off by a 2.4 m electrified fence and situated in the north-eastern part of South Africa.

Staff of the Department of Agriculture and Veterinary Services assist in the maintenance, repair and construction of international border disease control fences between South Africa and Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. They Supervise Tradesman Aid in the maintenance, repair and construction of the border disease control fences and patrol roads along South African borders as well as related personnel administrative duties. Contractors order fencing equipment and material for fence maintenance. Assist incompiling the national budget for the maintenance and repairs of theanimal disease fences and patrol roads as well as construction of newfences. Assist with tenders, contracts and specifications for fencemaintenance, construction and repairs as well as build and upgradepatrol roads. Assist in the co-ordination and implementation of technical disease control measures/actions and campaigns in South Africa where infectious animal disease outbreaks occurred. Liaise with animal disease fence personnel, local farmers, SAPS, SANDF, cross-border farmers and security forces as well as the engineering section andperform related administrative duties

The border fence between Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal had fallen into considerable disrepair, while the inland foot-and-mouth fence was also in a poor state despite the huge budgetary allocations to maintain it. The foot-and-mouth disease was detected in Southern Mozambique in December 2010, where 179 animals tested positively. Swaziland took immediate steps to prevent it from entering their territory, while the South African Department of Agriculture did not take any action, resulting in the World Health Organization for Animal Health’s, OIE, foot-and-mouth-free status being withdrawn. The main stumbling block appeared to lie in the lack of capacity and knowledge of the control systems in government, as there were 184 vacant veterinary posts in the border and control staff of the department as of early 2011. There was also lack of proper control of the borders. Farmers will, as a result of the closure of South Africa's borders for exporting livestock and agricultural products, suffer significant losses and some farmers may even become bankrupt.

It had been proposed – subject to improved fencing and surveillance – to rezone the lowveld ranches in terms of their FMD status. Instead of having a wildlife zone, vaccinated zone, a buffer zone, and a clear zone, this would be streamlined to a wildlife zone, a surveillance zone, and an uninfected zone. The overall impact of this would be to increase the area of the lowveld from which beef exports to the EU were permitted (beef going for export reaches much higher prices). €10 million had been committed to the veterinary fence by the EU, although it was put on hold due to the political instabilities and donor concerns.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list