With an increasing number of Namibian farmers seeking alternative “non-lethal” solutions to human-carnivore conflict on commercial freehold properties N/a’an ku sê Foundation’s research team have responded by creating a dedicated “Rapid Response Unit”.
When Namibian landowners, usually livestock farmers, who have trapped large carnivore species such as leopard (Panthera pardus), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and brown hyena (Hyena brunnea) in capture cages call to inform us of the capture the team will endeavour to respond in less than 24 hours where the animal can be immobilized by trained professionals and fitted with a GPS tracking collar. The animal is then immediately released back into its existing territory for intensive monitoring.
Every day the team downloads the information from the GPS collars and updates the associated landowners with detailed data on the animals’ movements and any behavioural interpretations that can be inferred from the data. For example it is often possible to identify fresh kill sites – this can then be sent to the landowner who can investigate the location to identify the prey species i.e. whether it is livestock or natural game species.
In this way farmers can have much more knowledge, and a measure of control, of their environment and the resident large carnivores; knowing the patterns of large carnivores on their land can help them institute better livestock protection programmes by avoiding areas in which carnivores are more active.
One of our longest running study animals, a female leopard called “Lightning”, has been monitored in the wild since 2009 making her the longest continuously monitored leopard in the World. In this time she has successfully raised 3 litters of cubs and has never once been responsible for the depredation of any livestock: known prey species for this amazing girl include kudu, zebra, springbok, warthog and baboon.
This level of cooperation and knowledge sharing is helping to change long-held, and often incorrect, perceptions of large carnivores and will with continued dedication, allow us to achieve our mission to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the need for removal of carnivores from their natural habitats; either into captivity or translocation to novel environments therefore maintaining the natural ecological balance of carnivore populations in the Namibian landscape.