we hope this blog post finds you well and healthy.
We, at the Karoo Predator Project, are glad to present you with our latest research on the relationships between Karoo mesocarnivores and small-livestock farmers. We used qualitative and quantitative methods to explore these relationships. Livestock predators such as jackal and caracal are often described and perceived negatively by farmers but our aim was to explore in greater depth how farmers perceive these mesopredators and if positive perceptions (such as perceiving the animal as “beautiful”) were linked to greater tolerance of them. We tested four hypotheses and concluded that aesthetic appreciation of predators needs to be further explored in the studies of human-wildlife interactions as this could encourage more positive attitudes towards predators and promote coexistence.
To download and read the full text, please visit https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0248977
Various species of wild, adaptable, medium-sized carnivores occur outside of protected areas, often coming into contact with people and their domestic animals. Negative human-carnivore interactions can lead to antagonistic attitudes and behavior directed at such species. In the South African Karoo, a semi-arid rangeland, the predation of small-livestock by mesopredators is common and farmers typically use a combination of non-lethal and lethal methods to try and prevent livestock losses. We used ethnographic field observations and semi-structured interviews as part of a mixed methods approach, including the quantitative and qualitative analysis of farmers’ narratives to illustrate the nuanced ways in which sheep farmers relate to the two mesopredators that consume the most livestock on their farms; black-backed jackal and caracal. Overall, farmers attributed negative characteristics to jackal and caracal but farmers’ narratives provided evidence of complex perceptions in that the animals were admired as well as disliked. Both species were seen as charismatic due to traits such as their physical appearance, their “cunning” nature and their remarkable adaptability to human activities, including lethal control. Aesthetic appreciation was an important predictor of tolerance towards both species whereas negative attitudes were associated with the perception that mesopredators should only occur within protected areas. Attitudes towards jackals also appeared to have been affected by cultural representations of them as “thieves”. We showed that perceiving mesopredators as beautiful increased the average marginal probability of a farmer tolerating them, and that this strong relationship held when controlling for other covariates such as livestock predation. We advocate the importance of understanding the cultural and aesthetic aspects of predators and considering existing positive dimensions of human-wildlife relationships that may encourage increased farmers’ tolerance, which might promote coexistence.
We thank the farmers who were involved in this study, as well as Nathalie Houdin and Denis Palanque for providing the great pictures illustrating our paper.