Researcher: Lorraine Boast
Habitat loss and the lethal removal of predators due to human-wildlife conflict are the biggest threats to the long-term survival of large carnivores in Africa. Game ranching is promoted as a land use that is potentially more profitable and less damaging to the environment than traditional livestock farming. However, it may pose a greater threat to the survival of large predators as the farmers’ livelihood – the stocked game – is the predators’ natural prey. Therefore, depredation can be substantial, difficult to prevent and may result in a negative perception of predators and promote their indiscriminate removal. The relationship between game ranches and free-ranging large predators is relatively unstudied and was highlighted in a recent worldwide review of human-felid conflict as a ‘gap in knowledge’.
Botswana is one of the last strongholds for predator populations, including cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and African wild dogs Lycaon pictus, with overlapping resident populations in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Due to their low population densities and large home ranges, the long-term survival of cheetah and wild dog is dependent upon their survival in non-protected areas such as farmland. However, cheetah are believed to cause the most economic losses on Botswana game ranches and are rarely tolerated. The number of game ranches in Botswana has dramatically increased in the last 15 years, generating an urgent need to mitigate conflict and encourage coexistence between ranchers and large predators.
This project will conduct interviews to discuss the major issues affecting large predator conservation on private ranch land. The potential solutions, such as game management techniques, the utilisation of predators in ecotourism and trophy hunting, and the effectiveness of the translocation of problem cheetah will be discussed. Predator conservation and the commercial farming industry will benefit from the research.
Location: Commercial Farmland in Botswana. Fieldwork will focus on the largest commercial farming area in Botswana; the Ghanzi farmlands.
Partner Organisations: Research conducted in association with Cheetah Conservation Botswana. Research is supported by the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association and the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
The aim of this study is to determine the drivers of human-predator conflict on game ranches and find potential solutions to reduce stock losses and increase the benefits associated with predators, thereby enabling coexistence between game ranchers and predators in Botswana.
1. To determine the intensity of human-predator conflict on commercial game farmland compared with cattle farmland. (Methods: interviews, diary of stock losses)
2. To determine the drivers of human-predator conflict on commercial farmland and whether stock loss is the primary cause of conflict. (Methods: interviews, diary of stock losses)
3. To determine current use and effectiveness of mitigation methods that aim to reduce human-predator conflict and to determine the obstacles preventing the implementation of these mitigation methods. (Method: interviews)
4. To examine the role of predators in photographic ecotourism and predator trophy hunting in Botswana and how these incentives could be enhanced to promote ranchers’ coexistence with predators. (Methods: interviews, examination of government PAC and predator death records)
5. To determine the effectiveness of the translocation of problem cheetah as a conflict mitigation tool and its effect upon ranchers’ toleration of predators on farmland. (Methods: interviews, examination of results of cheetah translocations conducted by Cheetah Conservation Botswana)
Drivers and solutions to human-predator conflict
Interviews will be conducted with ~100 game ranchers, at regional meetings or during farm visits. For comparative purposes, interviews will be conducted with ~30 commercial cattle farmers and will be combined with a larger dataset of ~100 interviews available from Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB).
Incidence of stock loss
Data on stock losses will be collected fortnightly from ~100 game and cattle farmers via email to develop an annual record. Estimates on the intensity of conflict in Botswana are currently based on government problem animal control records, however many commercial farmers do not report their losses. The records will improve this estimate of stock losses and will determine if stock losses are the primary cause of conflict between predators and farmers.
Effect of predator trophy hunting on farmers’ tolerance of predators
Government problem animal and predator death records from 2000 to current will be analysed in relation to the moratorium placed on lion hunting and changes to leopard trophy hunting rules and quotas.
Effectiveness of predator translocation as a mitigation tool
Interview data will determine farmers’ experience and attitudes to predator translocations. Data from 12 GPS-collared cheetah translocated from farmland from 2005 to current will determine survival rates and post translocation movements.
Findings will be disseminated to the farming community; regional and national government departments; range-wide programme for cheetah and wild dog conservation; IUCN reintroduction specialist group and the wider scientific community and conservationists.
The long-term outcomes of the project will be monitored during future outreach and research programmes by CCB. A cooperative relationship between the farmers and CCB will be maintained and subsequent surveys will investigate if attitudes and tolerance towards predators have changed.
The project’s findings will contribute to the development of national and regional predator management policies and to community outreach programmes. Predator density estimates and survival data from the translocation of problem cheetah have already been incorporated into the Botswana DWNP National Predator Strategy and informally in the department’s policy on predator translocation.
Subsequent findings from the project will contribute to:
- the Botswana National Predator Strategy due for revision in 2014
- Botswana government policies on problem predator translocation and predator trophy hunting
- the Southern Africa regional cheetah and wild dog conservation plan
- Mammal Map, a Southern Africa database of mammal distribution
- the IUCN cheetah reintroduction guidelines due for completion by the reintroduction specialist group in 2012
- the adaptation or development of education and community outreach campaigns to promote coexistence between farmers and predators organized by DWNP and CCB
- scientific knowledge of human-predator conflict through the publication of a PhD thesis and at least 5 peer-reviewed articles