The Cape Leopard Trust - Using research as a tool for conservation & finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict

Human-wildlife conflict

leopard caught
 

The Cape Leopard Trust recognises that farmer-predator conflict remains a highly emotive issue – both for those who lose livestock as well as for those of us who are wholly opposed to the destructive and indiscriminate methods of predator control. The Cape Leopard Trust is committed to reducing human-wildlife conflict wherever possible.

In seeking solutions, The Cape Leopard Trust has always been committed to establishing sustainable long-term strategies to human-wildlife conflict, based on scientific fact rather than emotional conjecture. To achieve this, we employ two simple methodologies:

  1. We rely on rigorous scientific studies to back up our research findings.
  2. We employ constructive solution-seeking strategies that include farmers and other affected parties, as opposed to berating and alienating them.

We do not engage in attacks on those with a different viewpoint, as this compromises our integrity. Instead, we urge all stakeholders to redirect their efforts towards constructive collaboration with the Cape Leopard Trust, with farmers and with statutory organisations, based on tried and tested methods.

The Cape Leopard Trust is however sensitive to the reality of what is happening in certain farming areas in which we are working. On a regular basis we bear witness to the fact that farmers are often pushed to a point of absolute desperation due to pervasive livestock-predator conflict. We are also aware that there are many farmers who have tried various options and methods in an attempt to manage their predator problems in a more humane way, sometimes with mixed success. The fact remains though that there is a perception by the farming induxtry that over R1 billion per annum livestock losses are due to “problem” animals.

This inappropriate title is applied to a damage-causing animal, especially in cases of livestock depredation. The culprit (often misidentified on an individual or even species basis) is a wild animal doing what it is programmed to do – survive. In some cases leopards, caracals and jackals will prey on unattended and vulnerable livestock. It is expected of predators to kill. From the Cape Leopard Trust’s standpoint, we prefer to work with farmers to pre-empt these conflict situations by applying alternative…
Where leopards come into conflict with farmers by killing livestock, at least three outcomes present themselves: (i) the farmer wants the leopard killed; (ii) the farmer wants the leopard removed from his property, but not killed and (iii) the farmer does not mind having the leopard on his property. Our predator research attempts to understand the ecology of these animals in order to mitigate the conflict in question. Understanding predator movement, behaviour, diet preferences and activity can give us insight…
In addition to the "hard science" research component, the Cape Leopard Trust is also actively involved in the training and empowering of local community residents as well as working with farming communities to find ways to minimize depredation of livestock by the Cape's threatened and persecuted predator population. The objective of finding solutions for farmers who encounter problems with wildlife in their area includes encouraging the view that the tourism and conservation value of wildlife may in certain circumstances exceed…
Apart from the stance we take on outlawing gin traps in South Africa, and the success we have had with this initiative in the Cederberg Conservancy, the Cape Leopard Trust has in the past also promoted the use of Anatolian Shepard dogs or livestock guardian dogs to reduce livestock depredation. Publicity created in this regard has significantly altered the views and perceptions of other farmers and landowners in the existing study area.
As an organisation committed to predator research and wildlife conservation, The Cape Leopard Trust welcomes feedback from the public – especially constructive input and any questions – please do not hesitate to contact us should you require more detail or if you wish to assist us in some respect.
If you are interested in reading more about human-wildlife conflict, we have provided two excellent academic articles that support the Cape Leopard Trust's stance on the issues. Treves, A. & Ullas Karanth, K. (2003). Human-carnivore conflict and perspectives on carnivore management worldwide. Conservation Biology, 1491-1499. Athreya, V. (2006). Is relocation a viable management option for unwanted animals? - The case of the leopard in   India. Conservation and Society 4(3).

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