Predator debate continues

Many readers responded to the predator debate contained in the articles by Arthur Rudman (16 November, pg 38) and Dr Dan Parker (23 November, pg 40):

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Coming from a farm in the Glenconner district, I do understand the problems farmers face losing livestock to predators. We too had this problem and placed bells, as well as king collars, on our animals with great success. Our neighbours constantly set traps and numerous animals are caught on a daily basis. But from what I have seen, there has never been a jackal or caracal in the traps. Aardwolf (which eat insects), domestic cats, porcupine, grysbok, tortoises and monkeys are usually the victims of these traps.

These animals are often left there for days, and suffer a terrible death. If we find them we immediately free them. I take offence at Mr Rudman’s comment that scientist are misleading farmers. Farming is a science. As a scientist with a farming background, it is not a matter of misleading, but rather trying to find what is best for all, particularly the animals, be they domestic or wild. My Facebook page has a photo folder entitled ‘Stop trapping’, which shows evidence of the animals being caught. Please take a look.

Janet Jooste, by email

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I would like to highlight the following important points in response to Dr Dan Parker’s article:

  1.  Dr Parker has researched the effects of large herbivores on natural habitat in enclosed or fenced reserves and therefore understands the implications of restricting the natural movements that lead to habitat fragmentation. Predator populations are affected in much the same way by habitat fragmentation, bearing in mind that fences aren’t the only factors responsible for habitat fragmentation. Human developments such as settlements, roads, and canals all contribute to habitat fragmentation. Management of these fragmented populations is thus imperative.
  2. Between 1950 and 1990, predator populations were successfully controlled through an integrated approach in our region, leading to viable small-stock operations during that period. Records of this confirm that this is not a baseless statement. 
  3. With all due respect, the rhetoric that after more than 200 years farmers are still battling the predator problem is rather shallow, as we are still battling the issue of crime with similar methods used 200 years ago too.
  4. Farmers don’t simply believe that killing predators is the ‘only’ way to stop them, but rather that it is one of the methods employed as a comprehensive plan to manage the negative effects of them. Most commercial farmers understand the importance of ecosystem functioning, but the need for a functioning and viable rural economy is just as important.

Eardley Rudman, Grassridge District Collective Predator Management Initiative

Farms are not nature reserves, they are businesses. All landowners may have a certain responsibility towards maintaining biodiversity, but to believe that commercial farms must become what academics call ‘fully functioning ecosystems’, and that farmers need to be held accountable for every living creature on their farm without compensation, is totally unrealistic.
Controlling damage-causing animals is the farmers’ responsibility.

With well maintained ‘jackal-proof’ fences backed by electric fencing to prevent animals challenging the fence, farmers must then use all the ‘tools’ at their disposal. Hiring professional predator callers, training staff to trap selectively and using well-trained hound packs all help to reduce predator numbers. The use of llamas, donkeys, Anatolian shepherds, protective collars and whatever new contraption comes on the market should be embraced and tested to see if it helps the unique situation each farmer finds himself in.

Trevor Filmer, by email

Read Arthur Rudman’s  and  Dr Dan Parker’s article Talk first, shoot later