Predation is one of the greatest threats to the economic survival of new, emerging as well as commercial livestock farmers. It is also one of the biggest reasons why many farmers are moving away from livestock production.
Farmers are faced with a tricky dilemma when it comes to predation management: On the one hand, they have a constitutional right and responsibility to protect their property, which in this case also implies their livestock. At the same time, however, they are seen as custodians of the land, and have a responsibility to take care of and protect the biodiversity that comes with this.
To complicate matters even more, the legal framework for the management and control of predators is not very clear and there is an abundance of national and provincial, often conflicting or dated, legislation and policies that vary from one province to another. Livestock producers with land stretching over various provinces, may in effect not be allowed to use the same kind of control methods on different parts of their farm.
The best way to overcome this uncertainty and ensure they do not break the law when taking remedial actions, farmers should build a relationship and consult their provincial Nature Conservation Offices or the Predation Management Forum for advice. The Predation Management Forum also offers regular training to empower farmers with an arsenal of tools to manage predation more effectively.
The two most important Acts to consider in predation management are the National Environment Management Biodiversity Act and the Animal Protection Act.
The National Environment Management Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004) is aimed at protecting South African biodiversity and ecosystems. The killing and hunting of listed threatened or protected species are prohibited unless the animal is specifically regarded as a damage causing animal by the authorities.
Action may only be taken after a permit has been issued to take remedial steps. The authorities specify the remedial steps that are allowed with specific target animals as well as the steps to be taken if an animal is caught – for example, if the animal needs to be relocated, the where, how and by whom this should be done.
Based on this Act, farmers should rather use a holistic management approach to protect their livestock from predation and targeted remedial steps to prevent unintended animals from getting harmed. A farmer is allowed to kill a protected animal in self-defence, but this should be reported as soon as possible to the relevant Conservation Office, which will then investigate the matter.
Humane Management Practices
According to the Animal Protection Act (Act 71 of 1962), no control method may be used in a way that causes pain and suffering to animals. Farmers should, therefore, stay away from control measures that may cause any bodily harm, such as gin traps, snares, leg-hold devices or poison. Besides being cruel, these methods also are indiscriminate and often affect non-targeted animals.
The use of soft traps is controversial, as it can turn into a murder weapon that traps and mutilates all kinds of animals when left in inexperienced hands. The trick is to set a trap in a way that only the target animal will be caught and without it getting injured.
The use of hunting dogs is also frowned upon, as these dogs often cause damage to smaller mammals when not managed properly. According to the Animal Protection Act, only trained dogs may be used and they may only be used for tracking predators. The dogs may not kill or get into any physical contact with the predator and the dogs should be well-looked after.