By Gabriela Fleury (Human Dimensions Research Manager at Cheetah Conservation Fund)
The Cheetah Conservation Fund’s Human Dimensions Research team, consisting of a conservation biologist, a veterinarian and CCF’s smallstock manager, travelled to Otjituuo Conservancy in the Eastern Communal Conservancies of Namibia on the 22nd January to deploy an innovative new predator deterrent. E-Shepherd collars, made in South Africa, are a relatively inexpensive at N$1359 (£82) per unit and are a new method of preventing livestock losses to carnivores in the field. As most losses to carnivores occur while livestock are out grazing, the E-Shepherd collar could be an invaluable solution for farmers who are unable to hire full-time herders.
The E-Shepherd collar goes around the neck of a goat, sheep or calf and when a predator chases the animals in a herd the collar is triggered to emit a high-pitched sound alarm to deter the attacking animal. E-Shepherd collars are used in a ratio of 1 collar per 10 livestock, so they are best used in small herds. The first study of its kind in Namibia, the collars will stay in place from January 2018 to January 2019 – the collars have an average battery life of 15 months and come with the battery in place. The team at CCF are testing how well the collars work to prevent livestock losses to carnivores, and will follow up with farmers every four months during the study period, as well as with their neighbours who do not have the collars, to do questionnaires to record livestock losses to predation.
All of the farmers were very excited to receive their E-Shepherd collars and their packages containing material on integrated livestock and predator management in the local language of Otjiherero. Over the course of two days, the CCF team deployed twenty-five smallstock collars among five different farmers, as well as four foxlight systems with two farmers who were losing livestock in their kraal (livestock enclosure).
These solar-powered foxlight systems are turned on in the enclosures at night, when most losses occur, and they flash in a randomised pattern which mimics a person walking around the kraal with a torch. The CCF team are excited to get an idea of how well both of these deterrents work in Otjituuo Conservancy to better assist farmers in preventing livestock losses using nonlethal deterrents. Tools for reducing livestock losses to carnivores should benefit both conservation and farmers and will ensure the safeguarding of farmer livelihoods as well as the future of vulnerable wildlife and the ecosystems that they support.
With thanks to The Tusk Trust, who are funding this project.