A Hostile Environment

A Hostile Environment

Get Out !…Get Out ! Cried the farmer, as he sees a troop of baboons in his newly sprouting vegetable field. He grabs his rifle out of the cupboard and hurries onto the patio, slamming the door with rage. He takes aim and starts shooting. Out of the 15 in the troop, 6 are dead, lying  on the ground, the other  9 baboons have retreated to the safety of the nearby trees. Let that be a lesson the farmer mutters under his breath, knowing all too well that they will be back in a couple of days or weeks. Enough is enough he tells his wife who was watching from the safety of the house. Tomorrow I’m laying out poison.   This is an all too common seen, not just regarding baboons and vegatables but all different types of wildlife, from predators and livestock to elephants and vegetable patches.

The term conflict is considered as “a state of opposition or hostilities”, “a fight or a struggle” and “a clashing of opposed principles”. These definitions therefore suggest an action between two or more opposes.

Depredation of livestock is a primary cause of human– wildlife conflict. It incurs high costs for farmers and brings both retaliatory and preventative killing of predators, which may hinder their survival locally or globally. Farmers in the Serengeti have reported that the cost of depredation amounts to 19% of their annual cash income, and in Bhutan attacks on livestock by predators cost farmers over two-thirds of their annual cash income, on average. In the USA the yearly cost of depredation to the livestock industry is USD 40 million. Even higher losses are reported in South Africa, where a survey in 2010 estimated that the yearly cost of depredation to the livestock industry is USD 171 million, although a 2007 census estimated the cost to be USD 22 million. The disparity between these two estimates raises uncertainty as to their accuracy but both reveal a perception that losses to predators are large. Ideally tools for lowering depredation should help both farmers and wildlife conservationists. Traditionally farmers have tried to prevent depredation, or retaliate, by killing predators, often with decreased effects on predator populations. In South Africa, supported by the government, farmers have utilized lethal control of predators, using tools such as gin-traps (leg-hold traps), gun-traps, poison and hunting, with and without hounds, to get rid of carnivores and other problem animals.


Unfortunately this is the harsh reality. This type of control does not fix the problem.


Even with these measures, depredation is still a problem in the livestock farming sector, with indications that losses are growing. Lethal control is often considered the cheapest and best method of reducing depredation but it is not without problems: it may miss problem individuals. It is commonly un-selective and there is little evidence of cost-effective reduction of livestock losses, as predators learn to avoid control efforts. Strategies such as leg-hold traps, snaring and poisoning are very indiscriminate and often kill non-target animals; in South Africa, this includes threatened species like the Cape vultures (Gyps coprotheres).  Outcomes of removing territorial predator species can include an increase of replacement individuals, potentially increasing the local predator population and the risk of depredation even further.


Many other un-selective animals are caught as a consequence of gin traps.

The short comings of lethal control strategies have turned attention on possible non-lethal interventions. Possible non-lethal routes include corralling livestock during periods of susceptibility, utilizing predator-proof fencing around small vulnerable areas, using shepherds, installing fladry, trans locating species, odour, chemical, visual or acoustic repellents. Guardian animals, particularly livestock guardian dogs, are another popular strategy and have been found to decrease depredation by 10–100% on ranches in the USA. They have also proved useful in southern Africa: in Namibia, 73% of farmers who used guardian dogs reported a high decline in livestock depredation.

Other guardian species that behave aggressively towards stock-predators are donkeys (Equus africanus asinus), alpacas (Lama pacos) and llamas (Lama glama). These nonlethal efforts may be more beneficial with conservation objectives however, some methods can have negative effects: from the early 1900s to the 1960s most farms in South Africa were fenced to inhibit depredation, however fencing large areas may limit the movement of wildlife. Livestock guardian dogs may attack wildlife if not properly trained and managed. Nonlethal mitigation techniques are sometimes considered more expensive and less long-lasting than lethal predator control.


Alpacas are used to drive predators away from farms. Once they are introduce to a flock of sheep, they become like their family and will protect them no mater what.


A more focused example on wildlife conflict can be seen in Kenya. Large predators in Africa have decreased in recent years, mainly due to human impacts. African lion (Panthera leo) populations have declined by 70% from an estimated 100 000 in the 1960s and suffered an 83% decrease in land availability. The quickest declines have occurred where there is a large amount of pastoralism or agriculture and little financial value to be acquired from wildlife. Sustaining lion populations in pastoralist regions is difficult because lions cause large economic damage through livestock depredation, injure or kill people and are often killed in retaliation, commonly through spearing or poison. Productive lion conservation outside of protected areas is concentrated around limiting or managing this conflict. A key strategy to protecting lions is the formation and effective management of conservation areas. However, increased human population growth has led to an increase in human activities in areas bordering many reserves, thereby reducing their efficacy for conservation. Providing cultural and economic motivation for coexisting with lions is critical to their conservation in human-dominated areas. Such motives may be best acquired through community-based conservancies which include local people in tourism and wildlife management. However, these areas support pastoralism, and so offer potential for conflict between wildlife and humans. Conflict mitigation strategies such as compensation schemes have been put in place, so if a lion attacks a domestic animal the farmer will be compensated in full, lion monitors have been employed by which they track the lions movements and warn farmers when the lions are in the area.

Local perceptions of the impact that carnivores have on people’s lives and livelihood resources are critical drivers of conflicts. These perceptions are made by many factors including the physical and behavioral characteristics of an animal along with knowledge and understanding of an animal. They are also shaped by beliefs and attitudes towards wildlife that have deep social and cultural roots. We must  remember that farming is a job  and if a sheep gets killed that’s a lot of money out of the bank. I think we would all be pretty angry if someone came in the middle of the night and made a small withdrawal out of our bank account.

Opposition to animal control often starts from changing societal attitudes toward animals and from concerns that commonly used control methods are inhumane, ineffective, or not linked to scientific evidence. Along with this, many areas have limited regulatory oversight of wildlife control strategies, including those used by the public and by commercial pest control operators. Given this situation, it is now largely acknowledgment for ethical and evidence-based strategies to wildlife control. For over many years, governments, academics, and animal protection organizations have put forward approaches to maintain ethical decision making in wildlife control. However, the different approaches, plus a lack of standards in many areas, show a clear need for broadly based guidance that includes international perspectives.

White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are apex predators that are subject to lethal control as a consequence of infrequent, fatal attacks on people. In the period from 1839 – 2010 there have been a total of 346 unprovoked white shark attacks (102 fatalities) recorded globally (an average of less than two attacks per year). Unprovoked attacks relate to those in which people are bitten due to crossover with sharks in their natural environment, with no initial  provocation of the shark, whereas provoked attacks are those in which people try to touch or handle sharks (such as during scuba diving or hook removal from fishing) and are subsequently bitten. The low-probability, high consequence nature of unprovoked shark attacks skew humans risk perception, and these occurrences have been shown to lead to overreaction by the public and policy makers. A number of locations with sustained high levels of shark attacks have led to lethal control strategies to lower the risk of people-shark conflict and bring back public confidence in beach safety. These strategies are varied, and range from short-term shark hunts, to long-term control methods, including the use of permanently or semi-permanently deployed fishing gear such as large-mesh gill nets and baited drum lines. There is a large debate as to the effectiveness of lethal control measures, and a number of studies have shown that short-term, concentrated hunts are mainly ineffective at limiting the risk of shark bites from large, wide ranging species such as white sharks. However, long-term shark control programs, such as those currently implemented at a number of popular beaches in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, and in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, have been shown to successfully decrease the amount of shark occurrences in these areas. Unfortunately, these methods are costly in terms of their environmental impacts. Not only do shark nets and drum lines reduce the numbers of a protected apex predator, nets in particular are also highly unselective, resulting in the by-catch of many other species such as cetaceans, rays, turtles and a number of harmless shark species.


Net protecting the swimmers from the sharks .


Alternative, non-lethal strategies that can be put in place on a long-term basis are therefore needed to mitigate conflict between water users and sharks. In False Bay, South Africa, a small community initiative, Shark Spotters, has been put in place as an alternative to lethal methods. The location of mountains to a number of popular beaches provides look out  points from which trained shark spotters can alert the public to the presence of white sharks in, or close to, the surf zone using a combination of auditory (a siren) and visual (flags) warnings . Shark Spotters aims to balance the needs of recreational water users in Cape Town with the conservation of white sharks by actively decreasing crossover between humans and sharks in the inshore zone and hence limiting potential conflict. However, the success of the program relies mainly upon the cooperation and compliance of water users with warnings issued by spotters in the occurrence of a shark sighting.


Wildlife conflict will become more and more of an issue as the human population grows and spreads across the land.  The animals also have just as much right to live and thrive on this planet just as much as us. Many conflict problems are being resolved with simple but effective methods such as the shark spotters and Alpacas looking after the livestock. Living and working around wildlife should be incorporated into more agricultural programmes to ensure peace between humans and animals.


Alexander, J., Chen, P., Damerell, P., Youkui, W., Hughes, J., Shi, K. & Riordan, P. 2015. Human wildlife conflict involving large carnivores in Qilianshan, China and the minimal paw-print of snow leopards. Biological Conservation, (187): 1–9.

Mcmanus J.S., Dickman, A.J., Gaynor, D., Smuts B.H. & Macdonald, D.W. 2014. Dead or alive? Comparing costs and benefits of lethal and non-lethal human–wildlife conflict mitigation on livestock farms. Oryx: 1–9.

Blackburn, S., Hopcraft, J.G.C., Ogutu, J.O., Matthiopoulos, J. & Frank, L. 2016. Human – wildlife conflict, benefit sharing and the survival of lions in pastoralist community-based conservancies. : Journal of Applied Ecology (53), 1195–1205.

Dubois, S., Fenwick, N., Ryan, E.A., Baker, L., Baker, S.E., Beausoleil, N.J., Carter, S., Cartwright, B., Costa, F., Draper, C., Griffin, J., Grogan, A., Howald, G., Jones, B., Littin, K.E., Lombard, A.T., Mellor, D.J., Ramp, D., Schuppli, C.A. & Fraser, D. 2017. International consensus principles for ethical wildlife control. Conservation Biology, 31(4): 753–760.

Engelbrecht, T., Kock, A., Waries, S. & Riain, M.J.O. 2017. Shark Spotters : Successfully reducing spatial overlap between white sharks (Carcharodon archeries) and recreational water users in False Bay, South Africa. PLOS ONE: 12 (9) 1–15.

Redpath, S, M., Bhatia, S., Young, J. 2015. Tilting at wildlife: reconsidering human-wildlife conflict. Oryx, 49 (2). 222-225.

Photo credits

Mother nature network


India Today


Research Gate


4 thoughts on “A Hostile Environment

  1. Hi there i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anyplace, when i read this piece of writing i thought
    i could also make comment due to this sensible paragraph.

Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.