The Karoo Predator Project
The Karoo Predator Project is a unique multi-disciplinary study of the social, economic and ecological drivers of human-wildlife conflict in the Karoo. It draws together farmers, researchers from the social and biological sciences and officials from the Department of Land Care. The objective is to understand the ecology and political-economy of predation and to explore ways of protecting biodiversity whilst ensuring sustainable livelihoods.
The biological research is being conducted by Marine Drouilly under the supervision of Prof Justin O’Riain (Biological Sciences), and Professors Nicoli Nattrass and Beatrice Conradie from the Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR). Marine has conducted a camera trap survey of bio-diversity on farms and in the nearby reserve of Anysberg. She has also collected jackal and caracal scat and has been capturing and radio-collaring predators. We currently have five radio-collared caracals (Sunshine, Big Paw, Ginger, Lucky and Marina) and four jackals (LeRoy, Rain, Mr Fox and Roocky). LeRoy, to the great interest of farmers, travelled over 1,600 klms in four months!
Beatrice Conradie has been interviewing farmers to learn more about their operations and the problems posed by predation. She and Nicoli Nattrass have written papers about rival 'jackal narratives' concerning predator ecology and lethal control and have been analysed data on the relationship between culling predators and subsequent stock losses. Their preliminary findings suggest that killing caracals is probably counter-productive for farmers as it is associated with an increase in lambs lost the following year (but this is not true for jackals). Nattrass and Conradie have also shown that a farmer-managed public works program (to build jackal-proof fences in the area) was appropriately targeted on the poor.
Funding for the project comes from the The Nedbank Green Trust (managed by the World Wildlife Fund, UCT, and the Wool Growers Association. Research outputs are available on: http://www.cssr.uct.ac.za/ssu/projects/karoo
Ginger the caracal being inspected by a vet (and the farming family on whose land she resides) before being released. She now has a GPS radio collar bearing reflective strips that will hopefully prevent farmers and professional hunters from killing her during night hunts.
Sheep with collars to protect against predation (the sheep in the background was previously injured by a jackal).