A global first livestock predation assessment in SA

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On Friday, 16 November 2018, the much-anticipated publication, Livestock Predation and its Management in South Africa: A Scientific Assessment (PredSA), was launched as a first of its kind globally at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth.

Background

For the past six years Professor Graham Kerley (Zoology professor and director of the Centre of African Conservation Ecology, NMU) has been the driving force of a national collaborative assessment on predation, with the assistance of 43 authors from 22 different institutes.

Initially, a proposal was developed by the Centre of African Conservation Ecology to fund and conduct a scientific assessment of the nature and extent of the problem and the existing knowledge around predation on livestock in South Africa. Development funding for this was provided by Woolworths.

They also partnered with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (through the Red Meat Research Development Planning Committee, and the National Wool Growers Association) Cape Wools and the Mohair Trust.

A better understanding of predation

“This is our understanding of the predation, and these are the implications of how to handle it.” – Prof. G Kerley.

The study dealt with all livestock predators, covering the history of the problem, ethics, economics and law, as well as the biology of predators and the problem of managing them. It is the first ever scientific assessment of livestock predation in South Africa and is believed to be an invaluable resource for livestock farmers and managers, conservationists, government policy makers and researchers.

A costly challenge

At the launch of the publication, Prof. Kerley took the assembly through the processes that lead to the assessment, stating that one might ask why an assessment on livestock predation was needed.

He said: “To start with, predation is a very tough problem in South Africa. It costs the livestock industry more than R1 billion per year, being carried by the individual livestock producers. It may also have ripple effects throughout the livestock-based value chain and accordingly affect food security as well as the sustainability of livestock-dependent economic activities such as fibre production.”

Moving onto the next point, he continued: “The current management approaches are contentious, and these are often raised in terms of animal welfare issues and also in terms of effectiveness. There are some systems that don’t work and some that may work. But how on earth is a farmer going to be guided into using the most effective system to help him achieve the desired objectives?”

Prof. Kerley further explained that the overall aim of the scientific assessment is to help people gain a better understanding of predation and implementing the best methods to manage it by taking into consideration the conservation of biodiversity and livestock wellbeing and production. “After all, animal conservation is about recognising the incredible splendour of wildlife. It is our responsibility to look after it,” he said.

The event was concluded with a light lunch.

For enquiries, please send an email to Prof. Graham Kerley on Graham.Kerley@nmmu.ac.za. To learn more about the Scientific Assessment on Livestock Predation in South Africa (PredSA), please visit the website on predsa.mandela.ac.za. – Carin Venter, AgriOrbit