Culling recolonizing mesopredators increases livestock losses: Evidence from the South African Karoo
Populations of adaptable mesopredators are expanding globally where passive rewilding and natural recolonization are taking place, increasing the risk of conflict with remaining livestock farmers. We analysed data from two social surveys of farmers in the Karoo, South Africa, where black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) and caracals (Caracal caracal) have re-emerged as a threat to sheep farms in the context of falling agricultural employment and the expansion of natural areas. We show that irrespective of measurement approach, lethal control of mesopredators in this fragmented socio-economic landscape was associated with increased livestock losses the following year. Terrain ruggedness was positively, and number of farmworkers negatively, associated with livestock losses. Our study provides further evidence that lethal control of mesopredators in this context is probably counter-productive and supports calls to develop, share and financially support a range of non-lethal methods to protect livestock, especially where natural recolonization of mesopredators is occurring. A graphical abstract can be found in Electronic supplementary material.
KeywordsBlack-backed jackal Caracal Human–wildlife conflict Lethal control Mesopredators Small-livestock farming
Funding for the panel survey of sheep farmers was provided by the Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR) at the University of Cape Town and the Red Meat Research and Development South Africa (RMRD SA) under UCT Grant No. 1182704. Funding for the 2014 survey by Marine Drouilly was provided by the CSSR and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust under Grant No. GT 2251. We would like to thank Prof M.J. O'Riain for his insightful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts.
All procedures performed in this study involving animals and human subjects were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Cape Town. Ethical approval was obtained from the Commerce Faculty Ethics Committee (UCT/COM/012/2012) and the Science Faculty Animal Ethics Committee (2013V20JOR).
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