A systems-thinking based evaluation of predator conflict management on selected South African farms.
Snow, Timothy V.
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The backbone of this study was a systems thinking based analysis of the management and control of predators as practiced in South Africa since the advent of Europeans in 1652. The first bounties were introduced for a variety of animal species in 1656. Many species became labeled as vermin and were persecuted, often with the intention of eradication. A variety of controls have been applied, of which many have not kept pace with contemporary thinking or technology, and which by simply killing predators fail to address the crux of the issue of predator – livestock conflict. Many of the methods used cannot be applied to specifically remove an individual damage-causing animal. Considerable collateral ecological damage is inflicted by the killing of animals regarded as innocent bystanders. The objective of the analysis was to highlight the futility of temporary solutions which fail to resolve the conflict in the long term. These quick fixes frequently perpetuate an ecological imbalance which exacerbates the predator – livestock conflict. The analysis used raw data from a questionnaire survey conducted by the Poison Working Group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT-PWG) (2003). The EWT-PWG intended to assess pesticide abuse as toxicant for predators by farmers, and to identify all control methods used. The data forthcoming was Cartesian in nature and a fixed snap-shot in time. This study sought to identify the root cause of the conflict by applying systems thinking which added the dimension of cause and effect interrogation. The study categorised and described predator conflict management methods as lethal or preventative, and assessed each category in archetypal terms from a systems thinking perspective. It also sought to identify leverage points, or small changes which have profound effects, to stimulate a change in approach to humanpredator conflict management. In order to assess and illustrate the positive change brought about by application of preventative methods, a small group of farmers who had initiated changes in their predator conflict management over the five years subsequent to the EWTPWG survey were selected from the original group for reassessment. Through evaluation of predator conflict management methods from a systems thinking perspective, and by probing learning processes, the shortcomings or failure of inappropriate management responses to conflict situations were shown to exacerbate conflicts. Contrarily, it was illustrated that application of systems thinking and a process of addressing the root cause of conflict issues in predator conflict management, was a longer term solution. The study illustrated that application of long term proactive prevention and conflict avoidance principles, can offer long term solutions for predator conflict managers.
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