Wildlife losses studied

07 May 2020 | Environment

Farmers in Namibia’s eastern communal conservancies lose an average 8% of their livestock to predators a year – equal to an annual estimated cost of U$2 848 (more than N$53 000) per farmer.
This calculation is based on a comprehensive assessment of conflict with farmers in that area that was carried out by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) as part of a long-term integrative management plan.
The CCF says that this amount is high compared to other areas across sub-Saharan Africa and highlights the severity of the human-wildlife conflict.
The CCF study, “Assessing human conflicts with carnivores in Namibia’s eastern communal conservancies”, was recently published in the journal Human Dimensions of Wildlife, and is authored by Stijn Verschueren, Willem D. Briers-Louw, Carolina Torres-Uribe, Annetjie Siyaya and Laurie Marker of CCF.
Livestock depredation causes severe economic costs for farmers across Africa, which motivates retaliatory killings of predators, which is why CCF’s teams conduct research and work closely with farmers to reduce carnivore conflict.
The new study also determined that variability in livestock losses is high between farmers, with some farmers losing up to 50 head of stock or more, while others did not lose livestock at all. This information helps identify areas where CCF and other organisations should prioritize mitigation efforts, because the territory being studied is an extremely large area.

Other predators
CCF researchers also found that the canids in this area, i.e. the African wild dog and the black-backed jackal, are responsible for the majority of reported livestock attacks. Jackals are opportunistic hunters and often prey upon small stock, while African wild dogs prefer cattle when wild prey is scarce.
In addition to research activities concerning the biology and conservation of cheetahs, CCF’s team is putting considerable effort into understanding and protecting African wild dogs in the eastern communal conservancies, as they have long been understudied and heavily persecuted.
“CCF’s approach in this area targets both the wellbeing of local people and the survival of predators in this ecosystem. We have been organising conservation-based workshops with a focus on rangeland management, livestock husbandry and the value of carnivores within the ecosystem. Preliminary results show that these workshops are very effective in reducing conflict,” said Dr Laurie Marker, CCF Founder and Executive Director.
“Furthermore, we operate a permanent hotline (+264 81 227 5139) to quickly respond to conflict situations and we offer free veterinary services for domestic and livestock animals when in the villages. Recently, we also completed a biodiversity survey to estimate abundance and distribution of carnivores and other wildlife in the area. Additional research will inform us how habitat characteristics and human activities shape their distributions, which will be important for future restoration efforts.”