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BE PARTNER │ PSA


How does this reflect on common misconceptions about predator species?


People are quick to target predators. Our association with these large and intriguing animals goes back millennium - as primates we are both the hunters and the hunted. So we fear large carnivores - competitors and potential killers of man and his livestock. But it is all to easy to blame predators as wanton killers when in fact they an important part of natural ecosystems helping to keep prey populations healthy and in check. Ensuring wild carnivores have adequate natural prey to focus their attentions on is half the battle. But when natural prey is removed or becomes scarce it is only natural that predators turn their attention to livestock.


The old idea of predators decimating prey populations just does not stand up to scrutiny. In most cases it is feast or famine for predators - so when they get the chance to kill they sometimes take more than might seem natural. But nothing goes to waste and the vultures, birds of prey, hyenas and jackals soon capitalize on any surplus. And a pack of wild dogs that kills more than one prey can never be sure it will not lose one - or both - of its kills to hyenas or lions.


The chance to kill more than is necessary is not a common occurrence in the wild.


In 2012 where should predator preservation efforts focus their priorities?


People get very caught up over the numbers game; we all like to hear 'how many are there' answered with estimates of predator populations. I remember in the 1980s when people were trying to assess the African leopard population and came up with a figure of around 700,000 based on a computer simulation that relied on feeding data in to a computer on rainfall patterns and then extrapolating herbivore numbers - and then estimating leopard numbers. The study was partially funded - or prompted by requests to down grade the leopard's status as an endangered species by the hunting industry.


No one is sure how many lions, leopards or cheetahs remain in Africa - but what we do know is that huge areas of wild habitat has been taken over by Africa's burgeoning human population.


So in terms of loss of suitable wild habitat with sufficient natural prey to sustain large predators the decline has been on a grand scale. We believe that the focus should be on preserving habitat and keeping big cats in the wild - and addressing as a matter of urgency all aspects of human/ wildlife conflict so as to come up with innovative solutions that help to promote the needs of local communities while helping to conserve wildlife.


Enrolling young people in this effort is essential and we would love to see more emphasis on providing schools with stimulating programs in their school curriculum that enrolls them in realizing the importance of our environment.


This is something that Angie is passionate about. As Nobel Laurette Prof Wangari Maathai maintained it is in our interests to conserve the environment - otherwise our precious natural resources will become the battlefield over which the next wars are fought.


It is very important that the various organization involved in science and conservation keep their lines of communication open - and that the work of scientists in the field benefits management of wildlife areas. To often people do not share their work effectively and we are always keen to publicize the work of scientists to the widest audience possible.


We love learning knew things about how wild animals live and behave - but ultimately funding is needed to protect wild habitat - this has to be the priority.


Long term studies can be of great benefit in answering important questions about wild animal populations.


Monitoring population changes and environmental changes is also hugely important - knowing the biological inventory. Modern techniques of data storage are a huge bonus in this. We can now access all manner of data online and make it available to a wide audience. The use of Social Media and good PR is very important in getting our message across to as wide a circulation as possible.


We subscribe to a publication called Cat News and they have a huge archive online of articles written about the cat family - both large and small.


Check out Cat News online - it is the newsletter of the Cat Specialist group and is published twice a year and available to members and the Friends of the Cat Group. www.catsg.org/catnews


What are your thoughts on the CCF's approach to conservation?


CCF have done a great job in raising awareness of the cheetah in Namibia and throughout the world. The CCF interpretation center and their education program is a very strong component of their work which we love.


And of course the work Laurie has done in addressing the issue of dealing with the powerful Namibian ranching community to try and promote better conservation measures with regard to cheetahs and livestock issues has been a conservation landmark - as has the use of Anatolian guarding dogs to help reduce livestock loses due to predation.


Education and hands on conservation is the way forward. And the importance of working with local communities to try and help them reach their own development goals - and to enroll them in good environmental practice - is vital.


Join the Scott’s in supporting the Cheetah Conservation Fund www.cheetah.org


Illustration by Angela Scott from the book “The Marsh Lions”


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