Community Kraal Reinforcement Project Begins in Kleinvlei

Community Kraal Reinforcement Project Begins in Kleinvlei
Published: 29 July 2019

Worldwide, conflict with humans is one of the major threats to the survival of leopards and other wildlife. Leopards are often killed in retaliation for livestock losses, and it’s easy to understand why this happens. After all, leopards are predators, and communities living in and around the Cederberg wilderness area have experience of losing more than 18 sheep in one night. These tiny, hamlet communities are mostly subsistence farmers and therefore these losses can be devastating. Livestock not only provides food but also acts as a “bank” and as their financial security - currency to be used for emergencies or major expenses. It is to reduce such conflict between livestock farmers and leopards and to mediate where livestock has been lost, that I was appointed as Community Outreach Officer at the Cape Leopard Trust in April.

The first project I encountered was already underway when I joined.
It was an initiative to help communities keep livestock “off the menu” for leopards by making kraals predator-proof. Most livestock are kept in a kraal at night, but sometimes a leopard will enter the kraal and can often be bold enough to kill more than one animal, even when the kraals are close to family homes.

My very first day on the job involved meeting some of the trainee Verification Officers (VOs) in the outer Wupperthal communities. I would be responsible for supporting and developing their roles. The VOs help our work by identifying the guilty predator species when livestock are killed, and recording such events. They are also the first line of contact between the Cape Leopard Trust and communities. The community of Kleinvlei was very interested in the predator-proof kraal concept, having already lost livestock to leopards last year. Frank Scheepers, our VO in Kleinvlei, identified those individuals for whom predator proofing was of the greatest priority and encouraged them to participate. Each farmer was asked to make a small financial contribution to enable us to get the required tools and materials together.

On Wednesday, 15 May I visited the communities and measured the kraals to determine how much fencing material each person would require. Plans were then drawn up to see how the reinforcement could create a kraal that would be more resistant to predators.

It was on Saturday, May 25th that we finally delivered the fencing material to Kleinvlei. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve kindly provided us with a vehicle large enough to transport the wire fencing from where it had been stored, at Driehoek Farm. We left early in the morning to make our slow and careful journey over the rough roads to Kleinvlei.

At last, the real work could begin... First, the materials were distributed to each person according to the plans drawn up. Each farmer was supposed to be responsible for building his own kraal. However, it was soon clear that “many hands make light work” and everyone worked together, taking turns to predator-proof each kraal, one after the other. The work was only interrupted for a funeral, or for having to rebuild the road to Kleinvlei after some rains.

Eight kraals in Kleinvlei and the neighbouring communities of Agterstevlei and Grasvlei were made predator-proof by mid-June. By being able to better protect their livestock, the major source of conflict with leopards has been alleviated. A number of community members commented that now they can sleep better at night without lying awake worrying about the safety of their livestock. The small hamlet of Kleinvlei is the trailblazer for the kraal-strengthening project, and it will be replicated elsewhere as the project goes forward.

A special word of thanks to Cederberg Wines for sponsoring the wire fencing, Driehoek Farm for storing the material, and Bushmans Kloof, who donated their time and a robust vehicle to transport everything over the rough roads to the communities where it was needed. From myself, as well as on behalf of Cape Leopard Trust, the community of Kleinvlei and the leopards, thank you!

- Chavoux Luyt, Community Outreach Officer

Clement Zimri, showing how easily a leopard could enter his kraal.
With his sheep safe in their new predator-proof kraal, Clement Zimri can sleep peacefully at night