Stories and Traveltips

ID #5010

One thing leads to another, Etosha National Park, Northern Namibia.

That ecological systems are complex and poorly understood is a cliché.  I learned one example during a trip to Etosha National Park in Namibia several years ago. We were travelling in the park when we came upon the carcass of an elephant that had died. Enquiring as to the reason (mature elephants either die of old age or unnatural causes – they have few predators other than humans of course) I was told that, like many others, it had died of anthrax.  Apparently zebra and wildebeest populations in the reserve had also crashed. The reason is what caught my attention.

The water table beneath this enormous flat expanse lies just below the surface. To build roads, soil was excavated from pits and used to build up the surface. These pits subsequently filled with the brackish water underlying the pan, creating ideal conditions for survival of anthrax bacteria.  Anthrax has since become endemic in the park, threatening the survival of the large herds that once roamed the area. 

So the apparently innocent act of building a road led to a dramatic collapse in the wildlife populations. Chaos theory at its best (or worst). Alan McIver ASOne


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Last update: 2014-05-14 01:45
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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