“The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have.
That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility.
In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.”
– Sir David Attenborough
And so, with this philosophy firmly in their minds, The AfriCat Foundation seeks to take this responsibility seriously and do what it can to conserve large carnivores in Namibia.
This large country, situated along the SW coast of Africa, covers 824,300km2 (321,500 Miles2) and has a population of only 2.5 million. It is also home to approximately 1000 lions, 25% of the world’s cheetah population (of which 90% live on farmland), and leopard, wild dogs, brown and spotted hyaenas in this large predatory group. To date, low human population and vast open spaces have sustained a relatively healthy equilibrium between animal species. However these factors cannot now be relied upon and intervention is required to guarantee the future of the large carnivores.
Recognising the massive pressures on these animals, and on their ability to live freely in their natural habitat, AfriCat pledges to face these challenges head on in a multi-pronged approach in two distinct geographical areas within Namibia.
Designated areas for AfriCat research, education and conservation activity are Okonjima, a 22,000 Hectare private nature reserve in the centre of the country, and the ‘AfriCat North’ base, bordering the Etosha National Park, which is specifically dedicated to protection of the Namibian lion.
The Challenge facing the Namibian Large Carnivores
- Uncertain weather patterns create unpredictable cycles of rain and drought, which in turn affect farming behaviour.
- Swollen livestock numbers during wetter times result in competition between cattle and prey animals for grassland grazing. This, in turn, results in overgrazed plains and smaller animal loss.
- With this loss of prey comes insufficient food for the big cats…
- This creates pressure on the cats to hunt livestock as an alternative to their natural wild food source.. this, of course, impacts the farming community as their livestock (and, usually, only source of income) are killed.
- Meanwhile, farmers promote minimally-managed, traditional methods with emphasis on free ranging, unrestricted livestock…. creating unprotected targets for hungry large carnivores in times of need.
- Any reduction in livestock numbers present devastating consequences for the already impoverished farming community as they rely on their cattle for income.
- In the natural cycle, as drought replaces the rains, pressure on all lands, animals and farmers is exacerbated, resulting in inevitable conflict between animals and humans.
- In these circumstances, large predatory carnivores are seen as a threat and are shot or poisoned by the local community in an attempt to protect their livelihood.
The AfriCat Pledge and 'Solution'
AfriCat is determined to face the challenges outlined above, and to turn the resultant consequences around. The AfriCat Foundation is committed to the long-term conservation of Namibia’s large Carnivores. Its’ mission is to make a significant contribution to conservation through education. We will continue to strive towards ensuring the long term survival of Namibia’s predators in their natural habitat. In analysing the threats, it recognises that success depends on education, both of the younger and school aged generation, and also of the young farmers whose actions will determine the future of the land on which they live.
At grass roots level, many young farmers (25+ year olds) have dreams of living a productive life on the communal farmlands and are open to improving farming and livestock management methods. Many accept that they share these lands with wildlife, and that they also provide a possible income source through tourism.
To this end, AfriCat has put into place strategies to empower farming communities in carnivore-conflict areas to mitigate conflict, and reduce carnivore persecution by:
- Better management and protection of their livestock
- Education to raise awareness and create greater tolerance towards carnivores
- Encouragement of non-consumer based tourism, such as photographic safari lodges/camp sites, whilst supporting the local farming communities.
Research through, amongst other things, satellite tracking to monitor movement patterns of carnivores, and gathering environmental information.