Characterisation of determinants of predation of goats in communal production systems.
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Predation is challenge in communal goat production systems. The broad objective of the study was to explore determinants of goat predation in communal production systems. A survey was conducted in 195 households in flat and mountainous terrains of Bergville local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, using pre-tested semi-structured questionnaires to determine the effect of genotype and topography on the incidence of predation of goats. An average of eight goats was reported per household. Diseases and thefts, followed by predation were ranked as the major causes of goat losses in both areas. Jackals (Canis aureus L.), caracal (Felis caracal), wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) and leopards (Panthera pardus) were the common predators during the hot wet season. There were no leopards and caracal in the hot dry season in the flat environments. Farmers reported no leopards in the flat terrains in the cool dry season. Farmers owning non-descript goat genotypes were five times more likely to experience predation problems than farmers owning the indigenous Nguni goats. Farmers staying in mountainous environs were 2.3 times more likely to experience predation challenges than farmers in the flat land. Kids were the major class of goat targeted by predators. Predation largely occurred in the veld and drinking areas. The major finding from the survey was that the Nguni goat genotype is less likely to be lost to predators. Assessing goat vigilance behaviour in predation risk areas is important in understanding determinants of goat predation. The second objective of the study was to assess the vigilance of free grazing Nguni goats in different flock sizes and ages in flat and mountainous terrains. Vigilance behaviour was categorized into antipredator or social vigilance and further distinguished into vigilance with or without chewing. Goats spent more time (P< 0.05) in antipredator vigilance than social vigilance. In the flat terrains, does in large flocks spent 2.5 times more time in antipredator vigilance with chewing than does in small flocks. A similar pattern was observed in the mountainous environments. For large flocks, does in flat terrain spent 1.9 times more time in antipredator vigilance with chewing than does in mountainous areas. For large flocks, kids in flat terrain spent 2.7times more time than in mountainous areas in antipredator vigilance with chewing. In the flat terrain, does in large flocks spent five times more time in antipredator vigilance without chewing than does in small flock sizes. In mountainous areas, does in large flocks spent twice more than the time spent by does in small flock sizes. In flat terrain, kids in large flocks spent seven times more time in antipredator vigilance without chewing than kids in small flocks. In large flocks in the flat terrain, kids spent more time in antipredator vigilance with chewing than does (P< 0.05). Age of goats had no effect on the vigilance behaviour. It was concluded that, in flat environments, goats exhibit more antipredator vigilance than those in mountainous areas. Goats in larger flocks spent more time in antipredator chewing vigilance behaviour.