Predators Do Play a Role in Ecosystem


By Kuvee Kangueehi Okakarara Officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Otjozondjupa Conservancy say many farmers still fail to acknowledge the role that predators play in the ecosystem. The officials said that while most farmers welcome game species such as eland, kudu, gemsbok, springbok and hartebeest, due to their perceived economic value, large and small predators are mostly unwelcome and persecuted whether or not conflict occurs. The officials made the remarks at an information-sharing meeting with communal farmers at the Otjozondjupa Regional Show. Chairperson of the Otjozondjupa Conservancy, Ambrosias Mundjindiri, said Africa’s predators and prey species evolved together and thus resulted in the abundance and diversity of game present in Namibia today. He said with sound livestock and wildlife management, predators can be incorporated and play the key role for which they have evolved. “Communities can also then benefit from both components, which is livestock and predators.” Mundjindiri said in most cases when farmers lose their livestock to predators, it is a question of poor management. He said sheep, goats and cattle, compared to game, are slow, clumsy, not very alert and not very clever and are thus more vulnerable to predators. “It is very important that any farming operation takes into account and ensures that livestock are protected, whether in kraals or in the veld.” He warned that once a predator has learned to take livestock and becomes a problem, it is very difficult for the farmer to target and deal with the animal. “Prevention of the ‘problem predator’ developing in the first place, is thus a better option.” Siegfried Tjitjo, also from the Ministry of Environment, explained to the communal farmers the different types of predators known for killing livestock. He said the lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, jackal and the spotted hyena are the most common. He said that in the past, thorn branch kraals and fires burning at night were used to deter lions. However, the use of donkeys has proved quite successful in protecting livestock. He said in areas where cattle are kept in fenced-off camps, only one or two donkeys are needed per head of cattle. Tjitjo said the donkeys are naturally more alert and aware of predators, more so than cattle, and will find predators and chase them away. He added that donkeys, being herd animals, if there is only one or two of them, will instinctively gravitate towards and remain with a cattle herd for security. Tjitjo further noted that snakes may also cause livestock mortalities, but the incidence is most likely exaggerated. He said puff adders are responsible for the most livestock and human bites as they have excellent camouflage, and livestock frequently step on them as a result. “Snakes such as the black mamba cause destruction to the central nervous system and the venom results in loss of muscle control and difficulty in breathing, and is often fatal.” The official said spitting cobras sometimes affect livestock by spraying venom in the eyes which crystallizes, and eye damage is often so severe that it results in blindness.