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 livestock management practices. Given that different areas present different challenges, it does take time and a certain amount of experimentation to find sustainable working solutions. In many instances though, the simple solution from the farmer’s perspective is to eliminate the problem.
And herein lies a particular conundrum that livestock farmers often find difficult to understand. It is an established fact that in many cases the removal (killing or relocation) of an individual predator may in fact exacerbate the problem at hand. In fact, a farmer’s resident predators can be his best ally (provided he manages his stock properly), because dominant territorial predators actually prevent outsiders and (sometimes) other predators from entering and operating in their territories. Once again, our research shows that in areas where a dominant predator prevails, and where such an animal has not developed a stock habit, there is the lowest incidence of predation because other more opportune predators are limited territorially. Stable predator population densities should be lower and more manageable than ones where predators are persecuted.
To read one of the Cape Leopard Trust’s case studies on ‘problem animals’, click here.