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 (Van Niekerk, 2010).
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.
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 the “Websites & publications” heading.
- 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.
Predation: control methodsFind 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. Lashing out in the past has resulted in unintended vulture poisonings and a very unsympathetic public.
Nor are haphazard measures worth it: animals avoid or escape from poorly set traps and controls and this 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. Indeed, a combination of methods works best (Viljoen, 2018).
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
Like most suggested “solutions”, this has also been disputed. The idea though is to encourage indigenous prey species like springbok and guinea fowl. Their presence acts as a “buffer” between your livestock and predators, since they are a preferred snack.
Related to this is the caution to interfere as little as possible with the biodiversity on the farm. Interfering in one part has knock-on effects throughout. Removing the largest predator (say leopards), for example, would encourage smaller ones like caracals. If you were to remove all predators, a gradual abundance of rodents would be one result.
Cage traps / Live traps
As a management intervention, lives traps are devices that merely contain animals without causing any major injuries. This is the recommended way of removing any animal from an area –traps have been designed and developed by Mr Jaco van Deventer of CapeNature‘s Porterville office. Many leopards, caracals and other species have been captured unharmed using these. Call 022 931 2900.
Live traps have been effective tools for research projects. They enable tracking via GPS collars facilitating groundbreaking research into the management of livestock by their owners. Landmark Foundation Leopard and Caracal Trap Designs are available from the Landmark Foundation.
Unfortunately, many animals die of thirst and starvation in these traps since they are not always monitored.
- Johan Strydom – 082 378 4460
- Peter Schneekluth www.peterspredatorcontrol.com
People making use of cage traps/live traps should be aware of the Animals Protection Act no 71 of 1962. Included in its provision is the following:
- All trapped animals must not be confined in conditions to cause them unnecessary suffering.
- All trapped animals must not be confined for extended periods without access to food and water.
- Traps must be inspected and cleared at least once daily.
Call and shoot
The advantage is that it is target species specific, and certainly recommended above the more indiscriminate methods like traps and poison. There is no guarantee that you will get the particular individual who has caused the livestock depredation, of course, and innocents like bat-eared fox, aardwolves and others are shot by mistake. Skilled people like Gary Laubscher make the call and shoot method a highly effective, humane option though.
- Gary Laubscher – 082 485 3885 www.africanpredator.com
Collars and technology
- Agri-Alert Tel: 018 293 1291 http://agri-alert.co.za/ Collars and GPS monitoring
- “Dead Stop Collar” – Klaas Louw at 072 424 7752
- FARM Ranger Tel: 028 212 3346 www.farmranger.co.za Livestock security collars (GPS alarm on your cellphone).
- “King Collar” – Nick King, 072 379 8067
- Call HOTSURE for livestock monitors and track collars, alarm monitors, guard monitors and trackers etc. Visit www.hotsure.co.za.
- Peter Schneekluth Tel: 023 541 1360 www.peterspredatorcontrol.com
- Protect-A-Lamb – Eddie Steenkamp at 023 418 1676 www.protect-a-lamb.com
- Poisonous collars and bell collars, Eddie Steenkamp – 082 778 7775
- e-Shepherd collar, 082 376 0768 www.eshepherd.biz
- Desmond Schmidt – 082 414 3242
This is when the young are removed from dens. A problem here is that removing the young causes the mother animal to come into oestrus again, and she will replace the lost litter shortly.
Donkeys can be very effective at chasing away predators and other intruders. Refer to the “Donkeys” page.
By building predator-proof fences, the predators are kept apart from livestock. This works best for an enclosure close to the farm house. Here, fencing is cheaper than potential continued losses. Objections to fencing include:
- an insecure enclosure may allow predator access, which can result in livestock being trapped and more than one animal being killed;
- the maintenance of fencing can be expensive and a constant use of man hours;
- fences interfere with biodiversity. Animals are cut off from food, shelter, breeding partners;
- thousands of innocent animals like tortoises, pangolins and Cape monitors (likkewaans) are electrocuted against the electric fences every year. Fences should be equipped with alarms so that an immediate intervention can be made when the alarm is triggered.
Fencing role players can advise on where fences would be most effective. Find contact details on the “Fencing” page.
A very workable option is the small, movable camps with electric fences, suggested on www.pmfsa.co.za. The PMF also arranges special prices on galvanised jackal-proof fencing with role players like The Co-op (see www.humkoop.co.za for contact details).
A plan for a Game Proof Predator Fence is also obtainable from Dr Bool Smuts, Tel: 083 324 3344.
Find the article “How to reduce tortoise electrocution mortalities” at www.farmersweekly.co.za.
- HOSBOR 011 822 7014 / 082 920 5331 Jakalskrik is an audio visual device that randomly barks and makes human noises and flashes a light at night, designed by two farmers.
- Night Eye Protector www.nighteye.co.za Flashing lights which can be attached to horns of livestock or on perimetre poles/fencing
Farmers can work on a combination of their own to frighten and confuse predators away from kraals at night. Possible negatives include predators becoming accustomed to the stimulus (if these devices are used frequently), and attracting thieves.
A diligent and well-trained herder can prove to be invaluable in detecting and preventing potential problems before they take place. This method has the potential to create hundreds (thousands?) of jobs, with great socio-economic benefits.
- Landmark Foundation runs a Shepherding Back Biodiversity Project. Call 083 324 3344 or visit www.landmarkfoundation.org.za
This is touted as the major issue by some role players i.e. that livestock management should be the focus, not predator management.
Livestock/herd management includes lambing co-ordination, using lambing pastures and stock rotation, as well as obvious steps such as avoiding marginal areas where exposure to certain predators is greater e.g. if you are a cattle farmer near the Wilderness, don’t put the cows in the paddocks on the border of the forest during calving season.
In South Africa some aspects of herd management become difficult because of the size of farming operations and a small workforce that has become possible thanks to technology.
Leg-hold devices/gin traps
These are strongly discouraged because of the unacceptably high number of non-target eliminations. This is especially true when traps are not regularly inspected. The PMF website suggests covering the trap’s jaws with rubber tube so that animals caught are not maimed.
Ostriches have been reported to provide protection (see the “Ostrich” page).
It is important to note that agricultural poisons may only be used as prescribed on the label. No poisoned bait may be used in South Africa. There is a significant fine – even a jail sentence – for using poisons to kill predators.
When poison targets only the damage causing individual, says Thys de Wet (Animal Damage Control Institute) “we are making tremendous progress”. Sodiummonofluoroacetate may be used selectively to get rid of predators. No other pesticide may be used in toxic collars (see earlier collars heading).
- Peter Schneekluth Tel: 023 541 1360 www.peterspredatorcontrol.com Toxic collars and poisons (no secondary poisoning effect)
On lethal control
Before using lethal control options legislation should be checked with the local authority regarding possible restrictions which may include or require:
- permit needed
- proof of damage
- proof that non lethal control options have failed
- only qualified professionals used to target problem individuals
- no payment / bounty system – hunters should not be paid per head of jackal killed
- record to be kept by department in authority.
Notes on the legality of all measures can be found on www.pmfsa.co.za.
International business environment
Human-predator conflict is not unique to South Africa.
The wild cheetah population in Africa today is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN’s Red Data List. Africa’s most threatened ‘big cat’, the cheetah is protected by law in Botswana and internationally, by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Namibia has the largest remaining population of free-ranging Cheetah in the world, estimated at 2 500. Ninety percent of Namibia’s Cheetah live outside of protected reserves, primarily on commercial livestock farmlands.
- The Africat Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Namibia – www.africat.org
- Cheetah Conservation Botswana – www.cheetahconservationbotswana.org
- Cheetah Conservation Fund Namibia – http://cheetah.org
- Defenders of Wildlife (USA) – www.defenders.org
- Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) https://eia-international.org Protecting pangolins
- www.iucn.org – International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN Species Programme produces, maintains and manages The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. It implements global species conservation initiatives, including Red List Biodiversity Assessment projects to assess the status of species for the IUCN Red List. See also www.catsg.org, website of the Cat Specialist Group linked to the IUCN.
- The Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST) in Namibia – www.restnamibia.org
- The Species Survival Network (SSN) co-ordinates the activities of conservation, environmental and animal protection organisations around the world to secure CITES protection for plants and animals affected by international trade. Visit www.ssn.org.
National strategy and government contact
See Notice 512 of 2016 by the then Department of Environmental Affairs – National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, (10/2004): Norms and Standards for the Management of Damage-Causing Animals in South Africa. Find it at www.environment.gov.za or www.pmg.org.za.
The Livestock Predation and its Management in South Africa: a Scientific Assessment, a historic first (nationally and globally) by the Nelson Mandela University, has an important chapter on policy and recommendations to Government.
Conservancies and stewardshipsSee the “Conservancies and farming” page.
National Association of Conservancies and Stewardships of South Africa (NACSSA) Tel: 016 590 4228 www.nacsa.org.za
NACSSA supports the agricultural industry with best land management practices, recognising that farmers possess a wealth of stored knowledge of great importance which assists those working in the field of nature conservation. NACSSA is opposed to the illegal use of poisons to control any problem species.
The Predation Management Forum (PMF) is representative of all industries affected by predation, namely the National Woolgrowers’ Association (NWGA), Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO), SA Mohair Growers’ Association (SAMGA) and Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA). Visit www.pmfsa.co.za.
Find details of other conservation bodies on the biodiversity page.
The black-backed jackal, mainly a scavenger, is responsible for 68% of losses. The preferred prey base in this case is smaller types of lambs up to 30 kg. The caracal, a bigger predator that does not like to scavenge, will go for a bigger prey base, mostly heavier than 30 kg, like lambs that have already been weaned and fully grown ewes (Viljoen, 2018).
Black-backed jackal and caracal programmes
University of the Free State
Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences
Canis-Caracal Programme dewaalho [at] ufs.ac.za
Rob Harrison-White info [at] jackalconnect.com
The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre
Mainly active in the Limpopo and North West Provinces, they specialise in cheetahs but also have the expertise to assist with leopard, brown hyena and other smaller predators.
An organisation in the Western Cape focusing on educating the farming community about predators, it especially highlights the plight of the cheetah and promotes the use of Anatolian shepherd dogs.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) runs the Cheetah Metapopulation Project as part of the Carnivore Conservation Project. See www.cheetahpopulation.org.za.
Landmark Foundation www.landmarkfoundation.org.za
The Cape Leopard Trust www.capeleopard.org.za
African Pangolin Working Group www.africanpangolin.org
Currently the Ground Pangolin, found throughout the African continent, and South Africa’s only Pangolin species, is under threat by poaching for bush meat, scale and muthi trade, and as a result of electrocution on electric fences.
Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)
Tel: 011 372 3600 www.ewt.org.za
Tel: 082 808 5113 www.vulpro.com
Programmes by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) Tel: 011 372 3600 www.ewt.org.za
The work of the Wildlife Conflict Prevention Programme (WCPG) has been incorporated into other programmes e.g. the Birds of Prey Programme (EWT-BoP) addresses poisoning of birds of prey, cranes, storks, game birds, waterfowl and the detrimental environmental impacts of certain herbicides and their applications, while the Carnivore Conservation Programme (EWT-CCP) includes measures such as the placement of Anatolian Shepherd dogs on farms to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
Other Programmes of relevance to this article are:
- The Source to Sea Programme aims to conserve river ecosystems.
- The Threatened Grassland Species Programme (EWT-TGSP) incorporates a focus on the Oribi, now one of South Africa’s most threatened antelope.
- The Riverine Rabbit Programme (EWT-RRP) aims to ensure the survival of the Critically Endangered endemic Riverine Rabbit
Wildlife rehabilitation centres
- African Bird of Prey Sanctuary Tel: 031 785 4382 www.africanraptor.co.za
- African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary Tel: 042 286 0710 www.africandawnwildlifesanctuary.com
- Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital Tel: 012 529 8105 www.birdandexotic.co.za Based at Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital
- Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (CARE) Tel: 015 769 6251 www.primatecare.org.za Specialises in the care of baboons
- The Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) Tel: 031 462 1127 www.crowkzn.co.za
- Daktari Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage Tel: 082 656 2969 www.daktaribushschool.org Limpopo-based
- FreeMe KZN Tel: 033 330 3036 http://freemekzn.co.za [website not working, May 2019]
- Friends of Free Wildlife http://friendsoffreewildlife.co.za Rehabilitation of urban wildlife around Johannesburg
- HART Wildlife Sanctuary (Helping Animals Recover from Trauma) Tel: 082 448 7860 / 072 623 5359 Located near Kroonstad in the Free State
- Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital Tel: 071 248 1514 www.johannesburgwildlifevet.com
- Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary Tel: 044 534 8409 www.jukani.co.za
- Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary www.lionwhisperer.co.za
- Moholoholo Wildlife Rehab Centre Tel: 015 795 5236 www.moholoholo.co.za
- National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) Wildlife Unit Tel: 011 907 3591 www.nspca.co.za
- Sanwild Wildlife Trust Tel: 015 383 9958 / 083 310 3882 www.sanwild.org
- Tenikwa Rehabilitation Centre Tel: 044 534 8170 www.tenikwa.com
Training and researchFind research options under “Knowledge Library” at www.pmfsa.co.za.
Africa Land-Use Training
Animal Damage Control Institute (ADCI)
Tel: 076 129 0889
Thys de Wet is a predator expert. Training courses offered cover the whole field of animal damage control, including ecological aspects, principles and numerous alternatives and the practical applications.
Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild)
Tel: 021 650 3645
Max van der Merwe
Tel: 073 207 0834 (Mpumalanga)
National Wool Growers Association (NWGA)
Tel: 041 365 5030 www.nwga.co.za
Part of the NWGA’s strategy to improve predation management in South Africa is training farmers and farmworkers in predation management and using so-called monitor farms where best practice predation management is demonstrated.
Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
Centre for African Conservation Ecology Tel: 041 504 2308 / 16
The NMU completed the first scientific assessment for livestock predation and its management in South Africa (see https://predsa.mandela.ac.za).
Tel: 023 541 1360
Potchefstroom College of Agriculture
Tel: 018 299 6739 / 6636 / 6608
Red Meat Research & Development South Africa
CCS (Cattle & small stock) Focus Area 6 is Predation Management.
Wildlife and Reserve Management
Tel: 046 603 8530
Southern African Wildlife College
Tel: 015 793 7300
Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology Tel: 021 808 3728
Tshwane University of Technology
Department Nature Conservation
Tel: 012 382 3825 www.tut.ac.za
University of Cape Town
Baboon Research Unit Tel: 021 650 3645
University of Free State
Predation Management Information Centre
Tel: 051 401 2210
PredationMC [at] ufs.ac.za
A partnership between the PMF and the UFS.
African Large Predator Research Unit (ALPRU)
Tel: 051 401 2210 www.ufs.ac.za/alpru
Department Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences
Prof GN Smit Tel: 051 401 2125
University of Pretoria
Centre of Wildlife Management
Tel: 012 420 2627 / 569
Tel: 011 591 0665
Online courses include Human-Wildlife Conflict and Predator Management on Livestock Farms.
Wildlife Poisoning Prevention
Tel: 082 802 6223
Wildlife conflict resolution courses offered.
Other role playersFind the many suppliers of collars, Anatolian dogs etc under the “Predation: control methods” heading.
- African Predator www.africanpredator.com Professional predator callers, trappers and certified hunters
- African Snakebite Institute www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com Offerings include training and resources like posters and an app.
- Fair Game is a consumer campaign to reward farmers who run predator-friendly farms. See www.fairgame.org.za.
- Francois Ferreira Tel: 084 513 8159 / 042 283 0325 A licensed jackal hunter in the Eastern Cape
- Karoo Pred-A-Tours/Cat Conservation Trust www.predatours.co.za A guest farm offering a different wildlife experience
- Poisons Information Helpline 0861 555 777 www.afritox.co.za
- South African Vaccine Producers www.savp.co.za Manufacturers of antivenoms for the treatment of snake, spider and scorpion bites
- Andre Theron Tel: 083 338 2025 Jackal hunter (uses sounds and lights)
- Tygerberg hospital poison hotline Tel: 021 913 2010 A snake bite crisis?
- Dr Gerhard Verdoorn Tel: 082 446 8946 nesher [at] tiscali.co.za Independent consultant for farmers with predation problems
Find the “Predation Management Experts / Equipment” at www.pmfsa.co.za/home/contact-us/predation-management-experts-equipment which lists suppliers of anti-predator equipment and services.
Websites and publications
Visit the websites mentioned earlier on this page.
- The PMFSA has a Predation Management Manual available for download on www.pmfsa.co.za in both English and Afrikaans.
- Kerley, G.I.H., Wilson, S.L. & Balfour, D. (Eds). 2018. Livestock Predation and its Management in South Africa: a Scientific Assessment. Port Elizabeth: Nelson Mandela University (see note under Nelson Mandela University (NMU), previous heading). Available at https://predsa.mandela.ac.za/Scientific-Assessment-Publication
- The Predation Management Guidelines from the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) can be found here.
- Contact Cape Wools about the DVD on predator management. Call 041 484 4301.
- Predation expert, Niel Viljoen, runs a website with advice and news about training and research. Go to http://nielviljoen.co.za.
- Information leaflets for farmers about predation and its management are available from the Predation Management Centre website at www.ufs.ac.za.
- Wildlife on farms, specifically predators, is a frequent topic in the agricultural weeklies, Landbouweekblad and Farmer’s Weekly. Find “Help save the African pangolin” and “Roofdiere woon lekker op plase, sê navorser“, for example.
- Published by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and available in English, Afrikaans and isiZulu, Predators and Farmers describes the various predators, lists benefits and conservation status and indicates their potential impact to farms. Maps, photographs and pictures of spoor make it an attractive read. The reader is made aware of what the law is, and offered alternatives. Place orders with the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
- Predators and Associated Wildlife – Livestock, Game farms and Protected Areas – a detailed and photographic analysis of most predators co-habiting farming enterprises is presented. Animal behaviour, killing patterns, feeding patterns, non lethal as well as lethal controls are discussed. This manual is seen as a practical and informative tool to be used by farmers, conservationists and the like. An earlier Predators on Livestock Farms – a Practical Farmers’ Manual for Non-lethal, Holistic, Ecologically Acceptable and Ethical Management can be downloaded at www.landmarkfoundation.org.za/research/.
- The Best practice reference manual for wool sheep farming in South Africa, brought out by the National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) includes useful notes on predator control. Find the document on www.nwga.co.za or contact 041 365 5030.
- “Best Management Practices: Human-Wildlife Conflict Prevention and Management” – a working document with inputs from Cheetah Outreach, De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust, NSPCA and Cape Nature.
- Find downloads like A brief history of predators, sheep farmers and government in the Western Cape, South Africa on www.wrsa.co.za, website of Wildlife Ranching SA.
- Rob Harrison White has also been working on a publication, a predator manual for farmers. Write to him at info [at] jackalconnect.com.
- Birjalal, A. 2019, May 22. “WATCH: Two South African filmmakers are on a mission to save pangolins”. IOL. Available at www.iol.co.za/entertainment/tv/watch-two-south-african-filmmakers-are-on-a-mission-to-save-pangolins-23670454
- Publications from CapeNature like Factsheet: Dangerous snakes of South Africa can be found under “Conservation guidelines” at www.conservationatwork.co.za.
- Wildcare: The Story of Karen Trendler and Her African Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre Mike Cadman (International Fund for Animal Welfare) Published by Jacana Media, 2003 ISBN 1919931538, 9781919931531.
Material for this chapter has been merged from many contributors and sources, including PMF newsletters; Tim Snow, Yolan Friedmann and Deon Cilliers (Endangered Wildlife Trust); Dr Bool Smuts (Landmark Foundation); Thys de Wet (Animal Damage Control Institute – ADCI); Prof HO De Waal, African Large Predator Research Unit (ALPRU) and the ALPRU pages at www.ufs.ac.za; Rob Harrison-White (Jackal Connect).
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