Chancing across a steenbok on your farm can lead to a sense of mystery and fascination. You feel honoured, a witness to a world that passes unseen by humanity’s schedules and timetables.
The presence of wildlife on farms is not always as discreet or innocent. The costs of livestock losses to predators could exceed R1 billion per year.
One farmer believes that the situation is out of control. He faces a cunning adversary, an enemy who adapts to his every device! Another farmer selects a combination of the control measures available and believes that losses are limited to acceptable levels. There are many differing theories and beliefs on this topic – and a lot of emotion!
While we look for solutions, let us spare a thought for the many “discreet” wild animals (rabbits, aardvark, bat eared foxes, buck, pangolins) poisoned or maimed inadvertently in a battle that has very little to do with them.
2. Wildlife-human conflict
The website of the Predation Management Forum (PMF) is a first stop for anyone. See www.pmfsa.co.za. The “predator identification” option provides notes on the usual suspects, the black-backed jackal and caracal, and also on leopard, crows, hyena, stray dogs and baboons. For other resources, refer to heading 7.
- Economic impacts of predation may be relatively small in terms of GDP, but high at the individual farmer scale, with impacts on the rural economy, employment and food security.
- Commercial and communal livestock farmers face similar predation challenges.
- There is no simple solution to managing livestock predation, therefore there is no silver bullet solution.
Source: Kerley, G et al. (eds). 2018. Livestock Predation and its Management in South Africa: A Scientific Assessment.
3. Predation: control methods
Find the “Detection & Prevention” option at www.pmfsa.co.za.
Anger at livestock losses can lead to knee-jerk measures which do not solve the problem.
Haphazard measures are not worth it, because animals avoid or escape from poorly set traps and controls and this will often make matters worse. Damage causing animals get to know the devices and tricks used by farmers, so after a while even the best trapper may have declining success with a method in a particular area, whilst the same method applied by the same trapper may be highly successful elsewhere.
There are many control methods to choose from with a clear distinction between those which are lethal i.e. they kill animals; and non-lethal i.e. those which control by prevention, protection and aversion. The control equipment should be seen as a toolbox from which the correct tool is selected for the varying applications.
Alpacas have a strong herding instinct and will run an intruder down. Alpacas are 24-hour watch guards and are of particular value around lambing season provided they are introduced 6-8 weeks prior to lambing. Find contacts in the “Speciality fibre production” chapter.
Anatolian Shepherd Dogs
This method is vouched for by many, but issues relating to Anatolians have been raised. Consult a role player or a farming colleague with experience in working with guarding dogs before taking on a puppy.
|Christian Findlay (right) from Ficksburg has only praise for his Anatolian. See the blog "Rustler's Valley (part VIII): view from a neighbour".|
Role players include:
- The Cheetah Outreach runs an Anatolian Shepherd programme. Find the notes on www.cheetah.co.za or call 021 851 6850.
- The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre – 012 504 9906 www.dewildt.co.za
- Landmark Foundation – 083 324 3344, www.landmarkfoundation.org.za
- Roux de Waal – 082 927 9493
- Jan van Biljon – 056 343 1093 / 082 781 5210
- Marieta Pieterse – 083 656 0994
- Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute (GADI) – 049 842 1113, http://gadi.agric.za
- The EWT’s Carnivore Conservation Programme (EWT-CCP) – 011 372 3600 www.ewt.org.za
- Ramsem 051 412 6327 / 082 900 3903 www.ramsem.com/asdog.php
- Namaqua National Park, Elanza van Lente 027 672 1948 elanza.vanlente [at] sanparks.org
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