The cost of predation on small livestock in South Africa by medium-sized predators
Van Niekerk, Hermias Nieuwoudt
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Farmers have been protecting their livestock for centuries by fencing and kraaling to prevent the risk of losses due to predators. The black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) and the caracal (Caracal caracal) are two important medium-sized predator species among the South African wildlife, but they have a negative impact on the livestock industry in South Africa, especially among sheep and goats. A small number of studies have been done to estimate losses due to predators. Local producer organisations estimated a loss of 8% of small livestock per year. However, no countrywide study has been done to quantify the monetary impact of predation on the livestock industry. Predation losses are not the only direct economic losses because there are also additional direct and indirect costs involved. The primary objective of this study was to quantify the economic losses due to predation on small livestock and further to analyse the effect of various managerial aspects on the occurrence and level of predation on small livestock farms. The five major small livestock producing provinces (Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State, Western Cape and Mpumalanga) were used to collect primary data on predation. Telephonic interviews were used to collect data from 1 424 farmers in the five major small livestock producing provinces. The questionnaire included questions on farm name, location and size, flock size, topography, surrounding land uses, livestock losses due to predators, predator control and various managerial aspects. The majority of losses in these five provinces were small livestock younger than one month, where the black-backed jackal was responsible for the majority of the predation. Losses due to caracal were not as high compared with black-backed jackal. This is mainly ascribed to lower population levels of caracals and also that these damage-causing animals are not found in every region within a province. Losses due to caracal were associated with lambs or kids older than a month, as well as older small livestock. Predation losses due to predators was estimated at R 1 390 453 062 when extrapolating predation losses for the five provinces to the rest of South Africa. The Northern Cape Province reported the highest predation losses, namely R 540 847 496. The reported predation losses for the other four provinces were R 412 810 143 for the EC province, R 247 141 016 for the FS province, R 84 673 440 for the MP province and R 104 980 967 for the WC province. The physical monetary value attached to predation in this study was only the direct cost of predation and do not include indirect cost of controlling damage-causing animals. The monetary losses as presented previously were based on biological information provided by respondents for the five major small livestock producing provinces. For example in the NC province 426 farmers were surveyed, representing 6.9% of commercial farmers in the province. These farmers were farming on 3 290 790 ha and lost on average 6.14% of their total small livestock and 13% of production animals (lambs between 0 – 6 months). The majority of losses were associated with predation by the black-backed jackal (65%) and to a lesser extent predation by the caracal (30%). Other losses experienced on farms were attributed to stock theft (3%) and vagrant dogs (1%). There are a number of variables affecting predation in small livestock producing areas in South Africa. These variables differ between provinces according to the main agricultural practices in the area and the management practices used. It was hypothesised that the variables affecting the occurrence of predation and the variables that affected the level of predation was not the same, therefore, it was necessary to use the Probit and Truncated regression models. It was assumed that factors affecting the occurrence of predation are usually associated with management aspects and normally will be negatively correlated with predation losses. Variables affecting the level of predation can be seen as factors reducing the level of predation and these factors will usually include non-lethal and lethal control methods. The non-lethal control methods usually do not stop predation, but will reduce the level of predation on a farm. However, when success is associated with a certain control method, this variable will be significant in effecting the occurrence of predation on a farm and at a specific point in time. The information collected in this study showed that predation is a serious problem for the South African small livestock sector and there is also no indication that the level of predation is decreasing. This study does not answer all questions on predation, but provides valuable information in understanding the magnitude or extent of predation and some of the factors influencing predation on farms. The information collected can be used to select, evaluate and focus intensively on smaller areas in their efforts to manage predation and develop strategies to reduce the impact.
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