Awareness of the importance of carnivores needs to be raised in order to ensure a sustainable future for the Kalahari region. In particular, the methods of livestock farming utilised by rural communities must be improved, by encouraging the use of effective management and non-lethal methods of carnivore control.
This project runs research, community outreach and education programmes, which work with communities living with carnivores. Activities include site visits, farmer support, farmer training courses, mobile workshops, livestock guarding dog network, school visits, youth bush camps, teacher training workshops, awareness-raising events, conflict mitigation and research studies. Improvements in livestock and carnivore conflict management.
Researcher: Rebecca Klein
Region: The Kalahari region of Botswana
Due to habitat loss, human persecution and illegal trade, the cheetah is Africa’s most endangered cat. Botswana is home to the largest remaining populations of free-ranging cheetah in the world, estimated at around 2 500. However, populations within national parks cannot be relied upon, as they can be out-competed by stronger predators.
Outside protected areas, cheetah come into conflict with rural farming communities. Their survival is now dependent on conservation management of these areas and the attitudes of the communities that live in and around them. Currently, these areas are becoming increasingly overgrazed, bush encroached and badly managed. Livestock production is not effective and wildlife populations continue to suffer and gradually decline.
Alongside this, predator conflict increases. As more land is utilised for livestock operations, the likelihood of predators encountering livestock increases. As prey populations decrease, predators are more likely to seek out alternative food sources. Eventually, conflict will reach such levels that coexistence will be increasingly difficult.
However, there are alternatives to this scenario. Effective farm management can ensure the maintenance of prey populations. Proper livestock management can ensure good fertility and returns, while maintaining adequate grazing and reducing predator conflict. This can potentially benefit not only farming communities, but also the youth through education, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks through training, as well as cheetah and carnivore populations from reduced retaliatory killings and improved habitat.
Objective 1: Promotion of best practices in farm management
To promote effective methods of livestock management and non-lethal carnivore control which facilitates coexistence with cheetah and other carnivores. Encouraging communities and government to integrate such methods into their farm management and policies. This will take place through farm support visits, surveys, community meetings, mobile workshops, on-site residential farmer training workshops at the Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB) Ghanzi base, livestock guarding dog network and veterinary clinics, and distribution of resources.
Objective 2: Awareness raising for carnivore conservation
To conduct education programmes aimed at building awareness among educators, students and general public of the plight of cheetah and all carnivore species and their role in healthy ecosystems. This will take place through school talks, residential school visits to the CCB Ghanzi base Education Centre, attendance at public events and engagement with the local media.
Site visits are made to farms, cattle posts and villages throughout Botswana. Information on effective range/livestock management and non-lethal carnivore control is distributed to communities during all visits, workshops and via farmers’ associations and village networks.
Workshops at relevant centres are scheduled regularly to bring farmers and relevant stakeholders together to discuss techniques and methods, including how to identify carnivores and ways to reduce carnivore conflict. A mobile workshops is taken into villages and remote settlements. Research is currently being undertaken in one of the communities in the Ghanzi region to test the conflict mitigation methods of kraaling, herding and livestock guarding dogs and assess their effect on conflict levels over three years.
In addition, CCB runs an education centre where residential workshops are held for farmers, teachers and school groups. Here, effective conflict mitigation techniques are demonstrated. CCB also runs a nationwide Livestock Guarding Dog Network to promote the use of livestock guarding dogs. Members receive support and training on the proper use of the technique and free veterinary care including vaccinations, sterilisation and general medical care. Competitions are held annually for the “best” farmer, herder or livestock guarding dog in Botswana which raises significant awareness amongst farmers and the general public.
Education and awareness raising:
This is done through direct visits to schools for educational activities and residential youth bush camps at the CCB education centre. These provide students and teachers with resources and training to infuse environmental education into the curriculum, using conservation as a learning tool.
CCB has a regular presence at farmers’ days, agricultural shows and livestock auctions. Participation in local radio and televisions also generates greater awareness amongst the wider community. During all these activities, structured materials are distributed on the importance of carnivores in healthy ecosystems, correct identification of carnivores, methods of range management, livestock husbandry, and non-lethal carnivore control to minimise conflict and opportunities for potential livelihood diversification.
November 2015 – Final report
Site visits conducted
Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB) visited 16 farmers experiencing carnivore conflict issues, and provided them with potential solutions including appropriate livestock management and non-lethal options for carnivore control. Seven of these farmers were provided with livestock guarding dogs (LSGDs).
Some 458 farmers were reached through multiple workshops helping to increase knowledge of carnivore species, their behaviours and how to identify them. Farmers were also taught how to accurately assess livestock losses, some practical methods to reduce losses, and best-practice livestock husbandry and health.
Post-workshop evaluations show that 89% farmers were 100% satisfied with the training. Seventy-five percent stated that they intend to implement improvements to their management methods, particularly through kraal improvements, herding, LSGDs and breeding seasons.
Livestock Guarding Dog (LSGD) programme
• CCB maintained a network of 149 LSGD users that receive support and training.
• 15 dogs have been vaccinated and sterilised through the support programme.
• 13 puppies have been trained at the CCB demo farm and placed with farmers experiencing conflict.
• 26 farmers have received improved kraals, 36 farmers have received LSGDs since 2013; monitoring is ongoing.
• CCB’s demonstration herd has experienced no losses to carnivores despite cheetah, leopard, brown hyaena and jackal regularly visiting the area.
Carnivore awareness-raising programme
CCB aims to raise awareness about the importance of carnivores and reasons to coexist among the farming community and greater public. Since October, 2014, CCB’s programme has included the following:
• Seven awareness-raising stalls at agricultural shows and related events.
• Six talks and phone-ins on a nationwide radio station.
• Nine articles in relevant national publications.
Direct school visits, bush camps, and student outreach
• 402 students learned about the importance of conservation, the role of carnivores in healthy ecosystems and responsible farming techniques.
• 165 students participated in our bush camps, learning about cheetah ecology, evolution, adaptations, and conservation challenges; carnivore-friendly farming; water and waste management; they also participated in fun activities such as sports, bush walks and game drives.
• 205 students from five schools participated in our after-school conservation education programme that unites environmental education with fun sporting activities.
• 83% of the schools are actively using resources provided in their lesson plans six months after CCBs involvement – while longer term monitoring is ongoing.
• 55 students were engaged to develop an environmental park (a pilot programme with Lekgolobotlo Primary School) which will feature indigenous trees, a vegetable garden, use of waste water, information about local natural resources, a cultural hut, and an outdoor teaching area.
• 345 students were involved in the school art competition and exhibition events promoting ‘Harmonious coexistence with carnivores’.
Below is some feedback from the monitoring of the improved kraals and LSGDs, which have been monitored for two years:
“The kraal makes me happy. It seems like it is indeed carnivore-proof, that nothing can enter the kraal. Other farmers are admiring the project kraal very much.”
“I believe the kraal is a perfect initiative because once cattle are in, they are in, they cannot come out and be killed by carnivores, nor can carnivores come in and kill the cattle.”
“Ever since we owned a LSGD, carnivores have moved far away from our kraals.”
“The LSGD has been of benefit to me since I have not lost even one goat since owning it. Having an LSGD helps a lot, I have experienced the benefits, and it is worthwhile because livestock is guarded against carnivores.”
Many thanks to Wilderness Wildlife Trust for supporting our work to conserve cheetah and other carnivores in the Kalahari!