The effectiveness of livestock guarding dogs for livestock production and conservation in Namibia

12.01.2011 | By , , ,

The use of livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) to mitigate farmer-predator conflict in Namibia was evaluated. As farmer-predator conflict has two sides, LGDs were evaluated in terms of livestock production and conservation. The main objectives in terms of livestock production were to document: 1) the perceived ability of LGDs to reduce livestock losses in a cost-effective manner; 2) the farmers’ satisfaction with LGD performance; and 3) factors influencing LGD behaviour. The main objectives in terms of conservation were to record: 1) predator killing by farmers relative to LGD introduction; 2) direct impacts of LGDs on target (damage-causing) species; and 3) the impact of LGDs on non-target species. This evaluation was conducted on LGDs bred by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and placed on farms in Namibia. The data were collected during face-to-face interviews with farmers using LGDs. Historical data from the CCF programme were used in conjunction with a complete survey of the farmers in the CCF LGD programme during 2009-2010. In terms of livestock production, 91% of the LGDs (n = 65) eliminated or reduced livestock losses. Subsequently, 73% of the farmers perceived their LGDs as economically beneficial, although a cost-benefit analysis showed that only 59% of the LGDs were cost-effective. Farmers were generally satisfied with the performance of their LGDs. However, farmer satisfaction was more closely linked to good LGD behaviour than the perceived reduction in livestock losses. The most commonly-reported LGD behavioural problems (n = 195) were staying at home rather than accompanying the livestock (21%) and chasing wildlife (19%). LGD staying home behaviour was linked to a lack of care on subsistence farms, as high quality dog food was not consistently provided. Care for LGDs declined with LGD age on subsistence, but not commercial, farms. In terms of conservation, predator-killing farmers killed fewer individuals in the year since LGD introduction than previously; this result was only significant for black-backed jackal Canis mesomelas. However, 37 LGDs killed jackals, nine killed baboons Papio ursinus, three killed caracals Caracal caracal and one killed a cheetah Acinonyx jubatus (n = 83). Farmers and LGDs combined killed significantly more jackals in the survey year than the same farmers (n = 36) killed before LGD introduction. Conversely, five farmers killed 3.2 ± 2.01 cheetahs each in the year before LGD introduction, whereas LGDs and these farmers combined killed only 0.2 ± 0.2 cheetahs per farm in the survey year. Only 16 LGDs (n = 83) killed non-target species. The high LGD success rate in terms of livestock production was facilitated by livestock husbandry practices in the study area. In terms of conservation, LGDs were more beneficial for apex predators than for mesopredators and had a minor impact on non-target species.