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.
- Financial losses owing to predation is still a worrying factor for the South African livestock industry.
- Finding the correct predation management programme is unique to each individual farm.
- Predation loss is manageable and the sustainability of the management programme is totally dependent on the farmer’s management abilities.
Source: Wolboer/Wool Farmer, Vol 3 No 6 2016
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. In 2014, after losing 54 sheep to stray dogs, an Eastern Cape farmer put out poisoned carcasses – which lead to the unintentional deaths of 46 Cape vultures, a R10 000 fine, suspended jail sentence and a lot of negative publicity for agriculture! You could kill 10 jackal in one night without getting rid of the actual culprit causing the damage. Success will be measured by reduced losses and increased profits, not by numbers of predator skins in the shed.
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.
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 / 083 892 0515, www.dewildt.co.za
- Landmark Foundation – 083 324 3344, www.landmarkfoundation.org.za
- Nic Slabber – 082 603 2229
- 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 Wildife Conflict Mitigation Programme – 011 372 3600 / 072 640 9388 / 082 853 1068, www.ewt.org.za
- Ramsem 051 412 6327 / 082 900 3903 www.ramsem.com/asdog.php
- Namaqua National Park, Elanza van Lente, elanza.vanlente [at] sanparks.org
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