The aridity that typifies much of the west coast and western interior of South Africa has precluded extensive cultivation and spared much of the natural habitat and associated biodiversity from the devastating effects of the plough. Dry lands are used primarily for low density livestock farming, which is a land use that allows indigenous wildlife to persist including predators such as leopard, jackal and caracal. The spatial overlap of domestic livestock and predators has produced one of the most pervasive and complex conservation conflicts in South Africa. It threatens the sustainability of this agricultural sector, impacts adversely on wildlife welfare and fuels conflict between government, NGOs, society and academics on both the causes of, and appropriate management responses to, predation in arid farmlands.
iCWild have established a national reputation for applied multidisciplinary research in the dry lands, specifically within the Karoo. This research thrust was initiated by Associate Professor Beatrice Conradie (CSSR) who uses questionnaires and hunt club data to explore the sustainability of small livestock farming including the impacts of predators and predator management on livestock losses. This research was complimented by a historical and socioeconomic review of small livestock farming and predators (Professor Nicoli Natrass, CSSR) and ongoing field research on how wildlife diversity and abundance in general and predators in particular vary with land use in the Karoo (PhD candidates Marine Drouilly, Zoe Woodgate and MSc candidates Storme Viljoen and Nadine Hassan, Post-doctoral student Dr Marion Tafani and academics Dr Gary Bronner and Professor Justin O’Riain).
This research involves diverse stakeholders including private land owners, Professional organisations (e.g., National Woolgrowers Association, the Red Meat Board, Predator Management Forum, Landcare), Government institutions (e.g. CapeNature, SANParks, SANBI, SAEON, NRF, DST) and NGO’s (e.g., EWT, CLT) and includes both the BIOGapsproject that aims to provide foundational biodiversity information prior to any exploitation of shale biogas in the Karoo and the SKA project which aims to document how land use change from farmland to special nature reserve affects mammalian biodiversity (PhD candidate Michelle Blanckenberg).
ICWild is also collaborating with farmers, Conservation South Africa, SANParks and the Cape Leopard Trust in Namaqualand through the research efforts of PhD candidate Kristine Teichman (University of British Columbia, supervisor A/Prof Karen Hodges) and Postdoctoral student Dr Bogdan Cristescu (University of Cape Town).