The inadequacy of research is not limited to South Africa but an international phenomenon. Regarding predation management there is a paucity of relevant scientific publications on predation in southern Africa, particularly for the medium-sized predators: only 36 articles have been published on the ecology of the black-backed jackal (derived from 27 separate studies). Most articles (23) were published before 2000, only 13 have been published since 2001 of which four (4) were published between 2006 and 2010. The list of scientific articles on caracal is even shorter and outdated.
In the past, it was officially recognised that predators / damage causing animals impacted on livestock and official systems were used to control predators. From the 1960’s to mid-1990’s hunting clubs were actively controlling damage causing animals in parts of South Africa. When official predator control systems were stopped in the 1990s, the official recording of predator control activities also became virtually non-existent. Some isolated private predator control initiatives continued, because it offers business opportunities for the individuals. As a result, institutional memory has been lost and currently, reliable information on the impact of predation on livestock is not readily available.
Predation by black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) and caracal (Caracal caracal), two medium-sized predator species, occur widely and is believed to be increasing. Losses of sheep and goats are also caused by vagrant domesticated dogs (Canis familiaris), especially near cities and towns. Compared to the losses caused by these three species, predation by leopard (Panthera pardus), brown hyaena (Parahyaena brunnea) and cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) also occur, but in relatively isolated cases and on a smaller scale.
The direct cost of predation on sheep and goats in the 5 major small livestock producing provinces was estimated to be R 1.4 billion. Feedback suggests that cattle are also increasingly impacted by predation and estimated to be R 383 million. Predators do not distinguish between owners of livestock or the scale of operations and it is suspected that small-scale farmers in communal farming areas are particularly affected by predation. Fragmented efforts to manage predators contribute to the current untenable situation in South Africa. It calls for an urgent and coordinated approach to manage predation and reduce its impact on the livestock industries. Unless the negative impact of predation is substantially reduced, it has serious consequences for food security and continued employment in rural South Africa.
Lessons can be learnt from a similar scenario in the USA where predation is ostensibly handled professionally and competently by the Wildlife Services of the USDA-APHIS. South Africa needs an official system of coordinated predation management which will provide the necessary framework and capacity for building institutional memory, thus fulfilling the roles and functions of setting policy, coordination, training, extension, research, and monitoring. These activities will inform the development of Best Management Practices (BMP) for wider application. Livestock farmers and wildlife ranchers must participate as equal partners in a joint initiative of coordinated predation management by accepting responsibility to safeguard their animals and control predators. The envisaged system of coordinated predation management will render official support to farmers and ranchers with appropriate training and extension.
*Orange text in all focus areas relates to predation management.
FOCUS AREA 6 COMPONENT NUMBERS
A - Scientific assessment (Institutional memory, which is best contained in a national system of coordinated predation management)
B - Best Management Practices (BMP) Lessons learnt from predation management activities should be incorporated in BMP for implementation over a wider scale
C - Predation management methods and equipment
D - Appropriate content and methodology for training
E - Appropriate content and methodology for extension