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 the perceived threat to livestock.
With possibly 80% of South Africa's most threatened biodiversity occurring on private or community land, we recognise the fact that farmers and rural communities are integral to the protection of our natural heritage. It is therefore imperative that we are able to work on their land, so as to find solutions to the ongoing problems. Our experience in working proactively with rural communities and with farmers in many parts of the Western and Northern Cape proves that viable solutions can be implemented.
There are a number of effective and acceptable strategies that farmers can deploy to safeguard their stock and reduce losses. However, it takes time and considerable patience to change mindsets and convention – a process that is only achieved via incremental steps and lots of positive reinforcement. Our experience shows that solutions to farmer-predator conflict lie first and foremost in establishing successful partnerships with all stakeholders including farmers, statutory agencies (e.g. Cape Nature) and NGO's such as the Cape Leopard Trust – and that positive results are directly proportional to the levels of co-operation, patience, trust and mutual respect among all parties.
Human-wildlife problems will not be solved overnight, but we can attempt to reduce the number of animals being injured or killed injudiciously by having farmers use more humane methods of control, rather than poisons, snares and gin traps.