Farmer-related threats to cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) survival in Namibia.
This mini-dissertation is a comparison, by repeat survey, of farmer-related threats to cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) survival on specific commercial farms in central Namibia. The research was conducted, to investigate if there had been changes in these threats to cheetah survival over a ten-year period (June 1991 to October 2001). A sub-sample of 31 farmers who were originally interviewed by the Cheetah Conservation Fund in June 1991, were re-interviewed between July and October 2001. These farmers were exposed to the Cheetah Conservation Fund awareness-raising programme. The results of this survey were compared to the results of the original survey of these farmers. This study showed that changes in farmer-related threats to cheetah survival have taken place. These include changes in land use, the attitude and behaviour of farmers towards cheetah, and cattle management practices. The land use changes include an increase in game farming, as a major source of income, by 19% of the farmers, since 1991. This increase in game farming was associated with an increase in game proof fencing and the introduction of alien antelope species into game fenced areas. The attitude of farmers towards the presence of cheetah on their farms was found to have changed significantly (p = 0.024), with 13% more farmers than before 1991 favouring cheetah presence on their farms. The behaviour of farmers towards cheetah has also changed in favour of cheetah survival. During the ten-year period from 1991 to 2001, 23% of the farmers removed no cheetah, compared to 10% for the ten-year period before 1991. Thirteen percent of the farmers were found to remove cheetah by trophy hunting only, as opposed to none prior to 1991. During the ten-year period from 1991 to 2001, the number of cheetah removed by the same farmers had declined by 243 (55%) cheetah when compared to the previous ten-year period. Game farmers were found to remove on average 3.75 times more cheetah than livestock farmers. Five game farmers were responsible for removing 92 cheetah, representing 47% of the total number of cheetahs removed. The majority (88%) of cattle farmers experienced calf losses to cheetah predation. In contrast to this, only 44% of smallstock farmers experienced losses to cheetah predation. The mean loss of livestock to predation by cheetah was found to be low, less than one animal per year for both calves and smallstock. The majority (73%) of cattle farmers implement only one livestock management strategy to prevent predation on calves by cheetah. The majority (88%) of smallstock farmers implemented more than one strategy to prevent predation. Changes in management practices to protect calves from cheetah predation since 1991 included a 14% decline in farmers using a technique known as 'calving camps' and an increase of 42% in the number of farmers monitoring their cows during the calving season. In conclusion, during the ten-year period from 1991 to 2001, both positive and negative changes in farmer-related threats to cheetah survival were recorded amongst the farmers interviewed. The positive changes include changes in the attitude and behaviour of farmers in favour of cheetah survival. However, this progress was tempered by change in land use from livestock to game farming, since game farmers pose a greater threat to cheetah survival than livestock farmers.
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