Shepherding and predator losses
Friday, 3rd February 2023
Shepherding is not a shot in the dark: evidence of low predation losses from the Northern Cape province of South Africa
Hawkings,H.J., Minnie, L., van Niekerk, H.N., de Waal, H.O., Balfour, D., Kerley, G.I.H.
African Journal of Range and Forage Science 2023
Predation threatens the viability of livestock farming, while lethal predator management can negatively influence
wildlife ecology. There is renewed interest in non-lethal vs lethal methods of livestock protection, but a systematic
comparison is lacking. Using multivariate models, we explored how predator management (shepherd, no
shepherd), land tenure, flock characteristics, and environmental factors drive losses of small livestock across
the Northern Cape, South Africa. Black-backed jackal and caracal were the dominant livestock predators in both
management groups. Predation of small livestock was five-fold lower in the shepherd (1.29% ± 0.38) compared to
the non-shepherd group (6.09% ± 0.51; p < 0.0001), with a seven-fold lower-level of lamb predation (1.67% ± 0.51 vs.
11.52% ± 0.99; p < 0.0001). Predator management, livestock type, and flock size (but not land tenure or environmental
factors) were predictor variables in a best-fit linear mixed effects model describing small livestock losses (p <
0.0001). We interpret our findings with caution because we could not control for predator and prey abundances, and
the non-herder group could have inflated their predation estimates. While the efficacy of shepherding requires more
research, we suggest that it is a viable predation management approach in South Africa and beyond.