Culling recolonizing mesopredators increases livestock losses

Dear readers,

The Karoo Predator Project has recently published a new peer-reviewed paper in the international, multi-disciplinary journal Ambio. The paper, titled “Culling recolonizing mesopredators increases livestock losses: Evidence from the South African Karoo” shows that, by using two different measures of livestock losses, lethal control of black-backed jackals and caracals on small-livestock farms in the Central Karoo of South Africa was associated with increased livestock losses the following year. Interestingly, terrain ruggedness (that is, a measure of the ground unevenness) was also positively associated with livestock losses. On the contrary, the more farmworkers there were on a farm, the less livestock losses we recorded. The full paper can be requested here.

The abstract of the paper:

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.

Graphical abstract showing that culling recolonizing mesopredators increases livestock losses the following year on South African Karoo sheep farms.

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New publication for the Karoo Predator Project

Dear readers,

Despite her commitments in France with Eurasian lynx, Marine has finally found some time to publish her research on black-backed jackal and caracal diet through the investigation of GPS location clusters that she compared with scat analysis. The article was published in the Journal of Zoology. She found that the GPS location cluster technique was suitable to study caracal diet on Karoo farmland but that it was not detecting the small prey components in jackal diet. So it’s better to collect and analyze scats as well if the goal is to get a full image of what jackals eat in this region. A finding that farmers know already was that both jackals and caracals on farms were found to kill livestock and not simply to scavenge on it. Interestingly though, that was not the case of jackals living in Anysberg Nature Reserve, even when those jackals explored the surrounding farmland! Anysberg jackals were not killing livestock when they left the protected area. We are not sure why it is the case but we hypothesized that these jackals might not readily consider livestock as a prey species. We know from a previous study we conducted on their diet through scat analysis that jackals eat a lot of small rodents and berries in Anysberg Nature Reserve (see that study here). Once they are on neighboring farmland, they might look for these same types of prey to feed on rather than for sheep. They also do not spend a lot of time on farmland. More research would need to be conducted to validate or invalidate this hypothesis though, and to study how long it would take for jackals to start eating sheep on those farms if they were staying there for a longer time. Regarding caracals on farmland, we found that adult males were preying more on livestock than young individuals or females.

Here is the abstract of the paper:

Studying the feeding ecology of mesopredators living on or adjacent to farmland is important as livestock predation fuels conflict between farmers and predators and between diverse stakeholders on how to best manage this conflict. Most dietary studies on elusive and heavily persecuted predators rely on indirect methods such as scat analysis, because direct observations of predation events are rare. Consequently, the proportion of livestock and other prey that was actively hunted vs. scavenged remains largely unknown. We used data from global positioning system collars affixed to black‐backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) and caracal (Caracal caracal) to locate potential feeding sites on farmland and a protected area and to attempt to determine whether prey had been killed or scavenged. We compared dietary estimates from prey items found at global positioning system location clusters (GLCs) with those obtained from scat analysis and investigated whether GLC analysis is a suitable method to determine mesocarnivore diet. The success rate of finding a kill site when investigating GLCs was significantly higher for caracal than for jackal. Only 16.2% and 4.7% of jackal and caracal GLCs, respectively, were classified as scavenging events. Livestock was the most frequently detected prey in both scats and GLCs on farmland but GLCs provided a higher estimate of sheep biomass than scats. Caracal GLCs revealed prey ranging in size from small to large, whereas jackal GLCs were only for medium and large prey categories. Adult male caracals predated significantly more on livestock than females and younger individuals. Collared jackals residing in the protected area never formed GLCs containing livestock remains on neighbouring farms. Together, GLCs and scat analyses provide a more complete understanding of mesopredators feeding ecology on farmland. We recommend that both methods are applied, particularly in regions where livestock predation and lethal management of predators are driving conflict between stakeholders.

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Insights into the genetic population structure of black-backed jackal and caracal in South Africa

Hi everyone,

With our colleagues from the University of Johannesburg, we have published a short communication on the genetic population structure of black-backed jackal and caracal in South Africa.

Although we did not have a very large sample size, based on our results it seems like dispersal and population admixture occur frequently enough to avoid genetic differentiation in jackals and caracals in South Africa.

In the future, it would be interesting to get more samples to be able to detect finer population structure at a smaller-scale resolution.

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Karoo mesopredator GPS data used on a collaborative project

Data from the GPS collars we fitted on jackals and caracals in the Karoo have been integrated into analyses led by the Department of Wildlife Sciences at the University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany and the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography at the Bangor University, Bangor, United Kingdom. You can find the full length article here. Otherwise, here is the abstract.

Right on track? Performance of satellite telemetry in terrestrial wildlife research


Satellite telemetry is an increasingly utilized technology in wildlife research, and current devices can track individual animal movements at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. However, as we enter the golden age of satellite telemetry, we need an in-depth understanding of the main technological, species-specific and environmental factors that determine the success and failure of satellite tracking devices across species and habitats. Here, we assess the relative influence of such factors on the ability of satellite telemetry units to provide the expected amount and quality of data by analyzing data from over 3,000 devices deployed on 62 terrestrial species in 167 projects worldwide. We evaluate the success rate in obtaining GPS fixes as well as in transferring these fixes to the user and we evaluate failure rates. Average fix success and data transfer rates were high and were generally better predicted by species and unit characteristics, while environmental characteristics influenced the variability of performance. However, 48% of the unit deployments ended prematurely, half of them due to technical failure. Nonetheless, this study shows that the performance of satellite telemetry applications has shown improvements over time, and based on our findings, we provide further recommendations for both users and manufacturers.

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A new paper and a collaboration with Australian and South African colleagues for the Karoo Predator Project

Dear readers,

The Karoo Predator Project is glad to announce the publication of its new paper regarding the “wildlife winners and losers of entensive small-livestock farming in the Karoo”.

Wildlife winners and losers of extensive small-livestock farming: a case study in the South African Karoo


Extensive farming is an important source of food and fibre and often the only viable land use in the more arid regions of the globe. Yet, land use transformation for livestock grazing can lead to natural habitat degradation and fragmentation, identified as the main threats to biodiversity worldwide. Understanding which species are “winners” (i.e. species with a higher relative abundance index on farmland than protected area) and “losers” (i.e. species that have been extirpated or have a lower relative abundance index on farmland) in farming landscapes is crucial for the global sustainability of food production and biodiversity conservation. We used camera traps across 332 locations, over 23,796 trap nights to compare species richness and several aspects of community diversity (evenness, dominance, functional diversity and community structure) on 22 extensive small-livestock farms and a nearby protected area in the semi-arid region of the Karoo, South Africa. Species richness was not significantly different between the two land uses, but there were important differences in community structure and composition. Large carnivores were the “losers” of extensive livestock farming. Farmland displayed a lower effective number of species and functional diversity and a higher dominance than the protected area. The latter had a positive influence on the presence of large mammals and on the relative abundance of the region’s main mesopredator, the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas). Contrary to consensus, extensive small-livestock farming may be beneficial to some species and may therefore represent an important opportunity for biodiversity conservation outside of formally protected areas.

The Karoo Predator Project has also participated in a collaborative paper about the animal welfare considerations for using large carnivores and guardian dogs as vertebrate biocontrol tools against other animals, led by Benjamin L. Allen from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia and the Centre for Invasion Biology, South Africa.

Animal welfare considerations for using large carnivores and guardian dogs as vertebrate biocontrol tools against other animals


Introducing consumptive and non-consumptive effects into food webs can have profound effects on individuals, populations and communities. This knowledge has led to the deliberate use of predation and/or fear of predation as an emerging technique for controlling wildlife. Many now advocate for the intentional use of large carnivores and livestock guardian dogs as more desirable alternatives to traditional wildlife control approaches like fencing, shooting, trapping, or poisoning. However, there has been very little consideration of the animal welfare implications of deliberately using predation as a wildlife management tool. We assess the animal welfare impacts of using dingoes, leopards and guardian dogs as biocontrol tools against wildlife in Australia and South Africa following the ‘Five Domains’ model commonly used to assess other wildlife management tools. Application of this model indicates that large carnivores and guardian dogs cause considerable lethal and non-lethal animal welfare impacts to the individual animals they are intended to control. These impacts are likely similar across different predator-prey systems, but are dependent on specific predator-prey combinations; combinations that result in short chases and quick kills will be rated as less harmful than those that result in long chases and protracted kills. Moreover, these impacts are typically rated greater than those caused by traditional wildlife control techniques. The intentional lethal and non-lethal harms caused by large carnivores and guardian dogs should not be ignored or dismissively assumed to be negligible. A greater understanding of the impacts they impose would benefit from empirical studies of the animal welfare outcomes arising from their use in different contexts.


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The KPP at the 2nd International Jackal Symposium

From the 31st of October to the 2nd of November, the Second International Jackal Symposium (2IJS) was taking place in Marathon Bay, Greece. A great opportunity for both Marine and Nicoli to present their research on jackals. Marine gave a presentation about some of her PhD work based on the questionnaires she conducted with farmers. She talked about the re-emergence of black-backed jackals in the Central Karoo, farmers’ attitudes towards jackals and their strategies to limit their predation on livestock. Nicoli talked about her paper on the jackal narratives, livestock losses due to jackals and the use of poison on farmland.

Entrance to the conference hall in Marathon Bay, Greece.

The conference gathered researchers from Europe, India, Australia, North America and Africa and the subjects were very diverse: from taxonomy and sustainable hunting to scientific monitoring of jackals. Seven species were highlighted during this conference: the golden jackal (Canis aureus), the side-striped jackal (Canis adustus), the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), the coyote (Canis latrans), the African wolf (Canis anthus), the Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) and the most endangered canid species in the world, the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis).

The conference edited a book with the scientific papers of the participating scientists, available here.

Nicoli giving her talk “What does science and history tell us about black-backed jackals and their conflict with sheep farmers in South Africa? ” at the 2IJS.

Marine’s presentation at the 2IJS in Greece.



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New paper published about the conflict between predators and small-livestock farmers in the Karoo

Dear readers,

The Karoo Predator Project is happy to announce the publication of its recent research in a special issue (“Karoo Special Issue: Trajectories of Change in the Anthropocene”) of the African Journal of Range and Forage Science, titled “Spatial, temporal and attitudinal dimensions of conflict between predators and small-livestock farmers in the Central Karoo”. The paper, written by Marine, Marion, Nicoli and Justin, uses some of the questionnaire data collected by Marine in 2014 and 2015 during the interviews she conducted with small-livestock farmers in the Central Karoo. The paper can be downloaded from this page (restricted access) or be sent upon request. The abstract of the paper can be found below.

Conflict between predators and small-livestock farmers is a global phenomenon adversely impacting the preservation of wildlife, the well-being of livestock and human livelihoods. Such conflict is pervasive in the Karoo region of South Africa but its contemporary history and various causes remain poorly understood. In this study, we interviewed 77 small-livestock farmers in the Central Karoo between July 2014 and March 2015 to (1) assess the spatio-temporal distribution and severity of the reported predation problems with the main regional predators of livestock (black-backed jackal, caracal and baboon) and (2) describe the perceived reasons for changes in predator numbers. Farmers reported that serious predation problems have increased since the 1990s for all three predators. Jackal predation appears to have re-emerged, particularly since the 2000s, while baboon predation seems to have escalated rapidly since 2014 for select farmers. Farms with more rugged terrain were more likely to experience serious problems with baboons and caracal but ruggedness did not predict the year of onset of problems. Farmers perceive predator numbers to be increasing and attribute this trend to declining government support for predator management, changes in farming practices and the associated increase in suitable predator habitat, from which they can recolonise commercial farms.

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