Managing predator problems
They quietly go about bringing change – through the advancement of medicine, empowering students, saving the environment or helping communities. A pioneering group of Nelson Mandela University academics has been honoured at the institution’s Research, Teaching and Engagement Awards.
Prof Graham Kerley│Managing predator problems
South Africa’s livestock producers fight an ongoing battle against predators – ranging from jackal and caracul to lions, cheetahs, raptors and eagles – which each year costs them about R1.5bn in losses.
To help the country gain a deeper understanding of predation – and the best ways to manage it, in the interests of conserving biodiversity and livestock wellbeing and production – Nelson Mandela University’s Prof Graham Kerley spearheaded a national collaborative assessment on predation, which led to his achieving the university’s top award for Engagement Excellence in the Science, Technology and Engineering category.
Together with 43 authors from 22 different institutes, Kerley produced PredSA, the first scientific assessment of livestock predation in this country and an invaluable resource for government policy makers, livestock managers, conservationists and researchers.
“This project demonstrates the power of science to address a wicked problem recognised by society,” said Prof Kerley, professor of zoology and Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology.
“Our study dealt with all livestock predators and covered the history of the issue, along with ethics, law, economics, the biology of the animals and the management of the problem.”
It was commissioned by two government departments – environmental affairs and agriculture, forestry and fisheries – and sponsored by the government and the livestock industry.
The study identified major gaps within existing legislation.
“We basically want policy makers to know: this is our understanding of the issue of predation, and these are the implications of how you do things,” Kerley said.
Kerley was also instrumental in developing and co-presenting a capacity-building course for elephant decisionmakers across the country, funded by the department of environmental affairs.
“We brought in elephant managers from government departments and conservation agencies from across the country,” he said.
Kerley said South Africa’s elephant regulations were being revised, with culling a key issue.
On campus, Kerley runs the university’s Grysbok Environmental Education Trail, where postgraduate students, trained as trail guides, provide pupils with free environmental education linked to the school curriculum. “We use the university’s nature reserve as an outdoor classroom.”
Kerley said animal conservation was not a “simple passion” for him. “It’s about recognising the incredible splendour of our wildlife and our responsibility to look after it.”