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Scientific Assessment on Livestock Predation in South Africa

Background

The issue of predation on livestock in South Africa is complex and contentious. Thus, despite many years of ongoing predator management and research into the issue, the problem persists, leading to extensive loss of livestock, the costs of which may exceed R1 billion per annum. These costs are carried by the livestock producers, but may have ripple effects throughout the livestock-based value chain, and accordingly affect food security as well as the sustainability of livestock dependent economic activities such as fibre production. Predator management raises concerns around biodiversity conservation and animal welfare. The complex and contentious nature of the issue hinders the development of policy and legislation. An approach to such problems is to undertake a formal Scientific Assessment of what is agreed as being known, not known and needs to be known in terms of the issue at hand and then to use this to inform policy and decision makers.

Accordingly, a proposal was developed by the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE) at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to fund and conduct a Scientific Assessment of the nature and extent of the problem and the existing knowledge around the issue of predation on livestock in South Africa. Development funding for this was provided by Woolworths.

ACE, has thus partnered with the Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (through the Red Meat Research Development Planning Committee, and the National Wool Growers Association), Cape Wools and the Mohair Trust and initiated the process of undertaking a Scientific Assessment (SA) on the issue of predation on livestock in South Africa (hereafter PredSA). The PredSA was formally launched on 2 June 2016 by the Deputy Director General on behalf of the Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs at the 87th Annual Congress of the National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) in Port Elizabeth. 

PredSA will be conducted as an independent, science-based assessment, along the lines of the Elephant Management Assessment1The ‘philosophy’ of the SA is based on global best practice in SA theory and implementation. The ‘scientific assessment process’ will be grounded in transparency and participatory processes; in order to satisfy the principles of legitimacy, saliency and credibility.

1Scholes, R.J. & Mennell, K.G. 2008. Elephant Management: a scientific assessment for South Africa. WITS University Press, Johannesburg.

Objectives

The objective of the SA is to inform decision maker’s (in this case the South African government departments, and specifically the Ministers of Environmental Affairs and of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) understanding of the issues around predation of livestock, based on the evaluation by acknowledged experts of the best available information. It will translate available scientific and “grey literature” as well as personal knowledge from South Africa into a form usable by policymakers. It will be characterized by an extensive, transparent (i.e. in the public domain once the reviews have been received and the responses made) review process by both experts and stakeholders. 

The SA will consider both the commercial and environmental issues, as well as ethical, social and legal considerations.  The key outputs from the SA will be a scientifically reviewed document detailing the current state of our knowledge as well as a summary for policy makers which will be policy neutral.  It is key to understand that the outputs will not be policy prescriptive.
 

Spatial extent of the Assessment

Spatially PredSA will extend across the whole of South Africa.  It will consider commercial and non-commercial land-use as well as private, communal and state land tenure systems.