The Karoo Predator Project invited to a French Festival about predators

Ten days ago in a little French town in the heart of the Jura mountain range was launched a Festival about predators called “Vous avez dit prédateurs?”, organized by the Pôle Grands Prédateurs, a French NGO which main aims are to communicate about the come back of predators to France and help the sheep farmers to protect their flocks with guard dogs.

The Festival happened in Lons-le-Saunier. It is the administrative center of the Jura French Department and is famous for its thermal baths.

Typical Jura landscape. The Lamoura Lake in the Jura mountain range is the highest of the region. With an elevation of 1156 m, its surface area is 4.4 ha.

The Karoo Predator Project was invited to the event to present the situation between sheep farmers and predators in South Africa (mainly the black-backed jackal and the caracal) and to talk about the work Marine is conducting there for her PhD. The conference was illustrated with the beautiful pictures of Nathalie Houdin and Denis Palanque and was followed by questions and an interesting debate.

Festival “Vous avez dit prédateurs?” at the CARCOM in Lons-le-Saunier, Jura.

The Festival was really interesting with the screening of the Pôle Grands Prédateurs new documentary about guard dogs in the Jura “Sentinelles des troupeaux”; the movie of Tommy Gaillard about the challenges of coexistence between humans and predators in the world and the very educational and enlightening conference of the historian Thomas Pfeiffer about the come back of the wolf in France.

The film “Sentinelles des Troupeaux” gives Jura sheep farmers using guard dogs the floor to talk about their experience with them.

Activities for school children, as well as nature photography and slide shows were also presented.

The Festival ended up well with the beautiful movie “La Vallée des Loups” in the presence of its director Jean-Michel Bertrand (right), of Patrice Raydelet (director of the Pôle Grands Prédateurs) (left) and of Gaël Fromentin (director of the library of the Lons-le-Saunier) (middle).

It was interesting to see once again that the “farmer-predator conflict” is a worldwide problem and that many different actors are working towards finding sustainable, ethical and cost-effective solutions to allow coexistence.

Marine with Patrick Boffy, vice-président / pastoralism coordinator at the NGO FERUS, and Ghislaine Letourneur, artist and author, proudly showing the sign against random killings of wolves in the Alps. Real long-term solutions, such as giving guard dogs to sheep farmers, will help in the protection of the farmers’ livelihoods and their livestock in the French mountains. For more info, see the page of the  CAP loup community.

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Urban caracal diet

Dear readers,

It’s early winter in South Africa and Cape Town has been particularly warm and dry. So dry that the City implemented restrictions on water usage. We are all concerned and even with last week big storm the dam levels haven’t increased much. The animals seem to be able to find enough water in the mountains though. I keep being amazed by how adaptable the species living on the urban edge are. One such example is the caracal. Urban caracals in Cape Town have been studied for two years now by my friend and colleague Dr. Laurel Serieys. Check out her website for more info, she has a great introduction video to her work:

Talking about urban caracals, I thought I’d share the blog of a colleague who is studying the diet of those cats in the city of Cape Town under Laurel’s guidance (her supervisors being Justin and Jacqui). Gabi Leighton is an MSc student at UCT who started her project in 2016. Justin had asked me to teach her how to prepare scats in the lab to analyse their content and Gabi found really interesting stuff! What amazed me the most is to see how different the Cape Town caracals are from the Karoo caracals, while they are only separated by a few hundreds of kilometers. To find out what urban caracals eat and learn more about Gabi’s work, visit her blog:


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Two days with CapeNature

Last week, Marion and Marine were invited by Dr.AnneLise Schutte-Vlok (again!) to present their research at the CapeNature Quarterly Meeting in Oudtshoorn.

It was good to see Marius Brand (manager of Anysberg Nature Reserve) and Theresa van der Westhuizen (Conservation Services Manager) again and to discuss our results with new people.

Marion presenting her work on Karoo baboons to the CapeNature Quarterly Meeting in Oudtshoorn in the presence of Mr. Mbulelo Jacobs, CapeNature Garden Route area manager

The previous day, Marion and Marine stayed in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and had the opportunity to see some of its amazing rock art in the company of Tom Barry (manager of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve), Johan Huisamen (ecological coordinator for CapeNature) and Natacha and Annelise, two CapeNature interns.

Bibrons Thicktoe Gecko (Chondrodactylus bibronii), our night friend in the cottage in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Marion, Johan, Annelise, Natacha and Tom in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Discovering some rock art in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Rock art in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

A special thank you to Dr. Annelise Schutte-Vlok to make it possible and organizing our venue to this far side of the Karoo, from fuel to accommodation; thanks to Tom for showing us around the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and to CapeNature for their assistance with our research.

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Presentation at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve Forum

Last Tuesday, Marion and I (Marine) woke up at 4 am to leave Cape Town and drive to the Oudtshoorn Experimental Farm in the Karoo. We were invited by Dr. AnneLise Schutte-Vlok to give presentations at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) Forum.

Marion talked about the conflict between Karoo baboons and sheep farmers, and particularly about her recent findings about baboon diet through isotope analysis. I presented the new iCWild Institute at UCT (of which the Karoo Predator Project is now part) and shared some of the results from my PhD about biodiversity on farms and protected area, diet and spatial ecology of mesocarnivores.

The meeting went really well and was interesting with the audience asking lots of questions and sharing their experience about predators.

The GCBR is a non-profit organization of citizens who are dedicated to the conservation of the Klein Karoo biodiversity and the socioeconomic development of its people. The UNESCO has recognized the region as a place of major biodiversity significance for the planet. To learn more about the GCBR and their activities, visit their website:

The Karoo Predator Project wants to thank all the actors of the GCBR Forum and in particular Dr. AnneLise Schutte-Vlok for inviting us to share our research.

Marion presenting her work at the GCBR Forum in Oudtshoorn

Marion and Marine after their talks at the GCBR Forum. Photo Tisha Steyn.

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Author Workshop for Scientific Assessment on Livestock and Predation

Last Thursday and Friday, Justin, Nicoli, Marion and Marine were invited to Port Elizabeth to attend the author workshop for the Scientific Assessment on Livestock and Predation in South Africa (to learn more about the project, see previous post or click here).

The workshop was the opportunity to facilitate collaborative interactions between the different author teams looking at various strategic issues of the Scientific Assessment.

Nicoli is a co-author on the chapter of Jane Carruthers about the History of predator-stock conflict in South Africa.

Justin is a co-author on the chapter entitled “Review of international management practices of predation of livestock: Lessons for South Africa” led by Phil Richardson.

Marion joined Jurie du Plessis on the chapter entitled “Review of past and current management of predators”.

Marine is part of the same chapter as Justin, in addition to two other chapters led by Craig Tambling about the “Role of meso-predators in functioning ecosystems and the potential effects of managing their populations on these ecosystems and on regional and local biodiversity”; and led by Liaan Minnie about the “Biology/ecology of jackal and caracal and their interactions with livestock”.


The workshop was a good opportunity to meet – sometimes for the first time – coauthors and to see colleagues such as Niel Viljoen who assisted us with the trapping of jackals and caracals for collaring and who was also present at the workshop.

The final book for the assessment will be available early next year.

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Second year of good exchange with the Conservation Biology MSc students

For the second consecutive year, the Karoo Predator Project was invited to lecture the conservation biology MSc students at UCT.

The first day, Beatrice talked about her research and Nicoli presented the jackal narratives. On the second day, Marine gave a talk about her PhD journey, the creation of the Karoo Predator Project, the different methods she employed in the field to answer her scientific questions and the challenges she encountered along the way. She also gave some results from her research.

The students paid close attention to the talks and asked interesting questions, making it a real interaction that the three lecturers enjoyed a lot.

The Karoo Predator Project wishes all the students from the course success with their studies and in their future conservation career.


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Congratulations to Storme Viljoen!

The Karoo Predator Project is very proud of their M.Sc. student Storme Viljoen for handing in her Master thesis “Wildlife health in human-modified landscapes: epidemiology of tick-borne pathogens affecting black-backed jackals and caracals” on Monday at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The last past weeks have been extremely tough and busy for Storme who was a bit deprived of sleep (as you can see on the picture below). Congratulations Storme, we are very proud of you!

Storme Viljoen, exhausted after handing in her M.Sc. thesis at the University of Cape Town, having a little nap in the lab.

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