Noise pollution is a phenomenon that is least understood by lay persons because human beings have a higher tolerance for noise than animals. What may be normal to a human being may be discomfort for animals in the wild, which is why we need to raise awareness to noise pollution vis-a-vis wildlife.
Swaziland has a number of game and nature reserves spread throughout the country. These reserves are home to a variety of animal species, which if left unprotected would be under threat of extinction from hunting and disease. In and around the reserves, there are road signs that caution drivers against travelling in high speed, honking the horn, and playing loud music amongst other things. These signs are obviously there to limit the amount of unnatural noises that emanate from human beings.
It is unfortunate that many times it is only tourists who heed the caution and observe the stipulated road rules, local motorists are notorious for not adhering to the signage. One then assumes that this may stem from ignorance as to the effect of noise on wild animals. Since it is beyond the scope of game and nature reserves to educate people on noise pollution, the government department needs to step in and lead campaign on the exposure of wild animals to elevated anthropogenic noise.
Recent research shows that noise affect animals from the foetal stage, this in turn has an adverse effect on the DNA integrity of the animals concerned. Noise also has negative behavioral effects on animals, such that their reproductive patterns, foraging and survival skills are compromised.
The Royal Swaziland Police must also be involved in policing speed limits around the reserves. This must however be supported by an appropriate legal framework and clear cut rules. A countrywide awareness campaign in noise pollution would also be helpful in ensuring that motorists understand why anthropogenic noise must be kept at a minimum in and around wildlife sanctuaries.
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