Words by Jess Fogarty Pictures by Steve Newbould
Conserving wildlife in the Karoo with the Anatolian Shepherd dog
Every year, in South Africa, farmers lose precious livestock to predators; but, when a farmer retaliates, by hunting or trapping these predators, no one is happy. Most farmers try to eradicate these killers because the loss of livestock results in large income losses, which is a heavy blow to the farmers – especially in Namaqualand where most of them are subsistence farmers.
The aggression felt towards the trespassing predators is understandable, but the number of local leopard, jackal, caracal and other such predators killed each year is unsettling and heart-rending. Farmers will set traps for jackals and caracals, the main suspects, but more often than not these will catch an unsuspecting cheetah, aardwolf, mongoose, or even a tortoise.
This rivalry is age-old and has been seen all over the world, and, without a solution, one side will eventually come off second best. However, in the lists we now have the Anatolian Guard Dog Project, run by Namaqua National Park, which offers the possibility of allowing the farmers to win without having to destroy the enemy. This project breeds Anatolian Shepherd Dogs, which are then sold to farmers to protect their herds and flocks, and to ward off predators.
The purpose of the project is to breed and train the Anatolian Shepherd dogs and offer them at an affordable price to farmers who cannot afford to pay the full market price for the dog. This is in an effort to protect both the farmers’ livestock, and the wildlife in the vicinity.
The negative impact of humans on wildlife can be seen by the large difference between the number of animals found inside, and those found outside, of the Namaqua National Park, but this project has been a pivotal turning point in this negative cycle, as it provides a non-lethal means for farmers to protect their livestock from predators. As a result, there is an obvious reduction in conflict between the farmers who use the Anatolian Shepherd dogs and the predators.
From a conservation perspective, using the dog instead of traps increases the chance of survival of small mammals on private land. This is good for the species gene pool, as the animals will migrate across land borders and breed. Fewer small mammals are now being killed in these predator traps, benefiting the whole of the Succulent Karoo biodiversity hotspot in the long run.