Human-Carnivore conflict in South Africa

Project Details


Human-wildlife conflict has a direct threat to carnivore populations and has an impact of human economy. Reducing human-carnivore conflict may provide conservation, social andeconomic benefits, but designing suitable approaches, such aa information and mitigation activities requires information regarding the underlying species ecology and population regulators, levels of conflict and response to conflict, anthropogenic and environmental determinants of conflict occurrence and drivers behind human attitudes.

This study has predominately focused on the carnivore species that are typically scavengers in South Africa: the brown hyena and the black-backed jackal. In human-dominated landscapes carnivores regularly come into conflict with humans and persecution can lead to population decline. Scavengers play a vital role in the environment by maintaining the balance of ecosystems through their specialised feeding habits hence conflict can lead to disruption in ecosystems. Around the globe, conflict between humans and wildlife is growing due to increased pressure on land use and resources. It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,700 brown hyenas left in South Africa, and black-backed jackals are the most persecuted carnivore in the region.

The project aims were to:

•design a rapid assessment method for surveying carnivores at multiple spatial scales.
•assess and compare presence, abundance, density, diet and habitat use of carnivore scavengers within areas of different levels of protection and land use.
•assess population size and trend, relative abundance and distribution of scavengers and what factors are affecting this.
•determine threats to livestock from carnivores, both actual and perceived.
•determine levels and types of scavenger management/control by landowners and •investigate attitude and drivers behind attitude which may lead to conflict.
•investigate the impact of land management such as supplementary feeding and control on carnivore communities.
•using an ecosystem services approach, assess the value of scavengers in South African communities.
•promote human-wildlife coexistence through training, educational support and publicity.

Research team: Dr Dawn Scott, Dr Richard Yarnell (Nottingham Trent University), Dr Anja Rott, Dr Andrew Overall, Dr Bryony Tolhurst, Professor Andrew Church, Lynne McTavish; PhD students (UOB): Michelle Thorn, Robert James, Niall Walkden; PhD students (NTU): Louisa Richmond-Coggan, Louis Phipps.

Partners: Mankwe Wildlife Reserve, Northwest Parks, South Africa, Endangered Wildlife Trust South Africa, Earthwatch Institute, University of Pretoria, South Africa, Rhodes University, South Africa.

Key findings

We have designed and evaluated survey methods for carnivores in the region which have been used by other surveyors (Thorn et al 2009, Thorn et al 2010, Thorn et al, 2011).

We have produced distribution maps for carnivores with the region and produced new density estimates (Thorn et al 2011) and this information has been passed onto IUCN for species status assessments and integrated into national distribution maps.

We have produced several publications on the ecology of carnivore species, their abundance, density, diet and habitat use within areas of different levels of protection and land use, and supported two PhD student theses on several aspects of this (Van der Merwe, 2009, Yarnell et al 2013, Richmond-Coggan, PhD thesis 2014 & James PhD thesis 2015).

We have determined levels and types of scavenger management/control by landowners and investigated attitude and drivers behind attitude which may lead to conflict. This information can be utilised to target awareness and reducing conflict (Thorn et al, 2012; Thorn et al 2013, Thorn et al 2014)

We have investigated the impact of land management such as supplementary feeding and control on carnivore communities (Yarnell et al., 2014; James PhD thesis 2015). This will provide a greater understanding of the ecological consequences and effectiveness of land management including unregulated predator control in order to more accurately inform the management process of this species.

Overall we have worked with over 4000 children locally to provide education on valuing ecosystems

The data informs future management and conservation of the species. This and our educational activities will hopefully help to reduce human-carnivore conflict in South Africa.

1) Yarnell, R.W. Phipps, W.L., Dell, S., MacTavish, L.M. and D.M. Scott. (2014). Evidence that vulture restaurants increase the local abundance of mammalian carnivores in South Africa. African Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/aje.12178

2) Thorn, M. Green, M., Davies-MostertH., Marnewick, K and Scott D.M (2014) Determinants of attitudes to carnivores: implications for mitigating human-carnivore conflict in South African farmland. Oryx. DOI: 10.1017/S0030605313000744.

3) Thorn, M. Green, M., Scott D.M and K. Marnewick (2013) Characteristics and determinants of human-carnivore conflict in South African farmland. Biodiversity and Conservation 22 (8).

4) Yarnell, R.W. Phipps, W.L., Burgess, L.P., Ellis, J., Harrison, S.W.R., Dell, S., MacTavish, L.M. and D.M. Scott. (2013). The influence of large predators on the feeding ecology of two African mesocarnivores: the black backed jackal and the brown hyena. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 43 (2): 155-166.

5) Thorn, M. Green, M. Dalerum, F., Bateman, P.W. and Scott D.M. (2012) What drives human –carnivore conflict in the North West Province of South Africa. Biological Conservation, Vol. 150 pp23-32.

6) Thorn, M. Green, M. Keith, M., Marnewick, K., Bateman, P.W., Cameron, E. Z. and Scott D.M. (2011). Distribution patterns and implications for the status of carnivore populations in northern South Africa. Oryx, Issue 45, Vol 4.: pp 579-586.

7) Thorn, M., Green, M. Bateman, P.W., Waite, S. and Scott, D.M.(2011) Brown hyaenas on roads: Estimating carnivore occupancy and population size using spatially auto-correlated sign survey replicates. Biological Conservation, Vol 144 (6): 1799-1807.

8) Thorn, M., Green M., Bateman, P., Cameron, E., Yarnell. R and Scott D.M. (2010) Comparative efficacy of sign surveys, spotlighting and audio playbacks in a landscape-scale carnivore survey. South African Journal of Wildlife Research Vol 10:1 pp 77-96.

9) Van der Merwe, I., TamblingC., Thorn, M., Scott, D., Yarnell, R., Green, M., Cameron , E. & Bateman, P. (2009) An assessment of diet overlap of two mesocarnivores in the North West Province. African Zoology. 44 (2):288-291.

10) Thorn M., Scott, D.M., Green, M., Bateman, P., Cameron, E. (2009) Estimating brown hyaena occupancy using baited camera traps. South African Journal of Wildlife Management. 39 (1): 1-10.
Effective start/end date1/01/0931/12/16


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