Dogs ease Namibia's cheetah-farmer conflicts

Winding through the parched Namibian farmland, Bonzo, an Anatolian shepherd dog, has a singular focus: protecting his herd of goats from lurking predators.

He pads along, sniffing the air and marking the scrubby landscape, just like a bodyguard ready to ward off any threat to his charges, which he considers family.

"They're not pets. They're not allowed to be pets," said Bonzo's owner farmer Retha Joubert.

The breed descends from ancient livestock dogs used thousands of years ago in what is now central Turkey. And they not only save sheep and goats, but have handed a lifeline to Namibia's decimated cheetah numbers by reducing conflicts between farmers and predators.

"The dogs are protecting the flock in such a way that the farmers don't have to kill predators," said Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) which breeds the dogs near northern city Otjiwarongo.

"It's a non-lethal predator control method so it is green, it's happy, it's win-win."

The concept is simple.

The dogs are placed with a flock when a few weeks old to bond with the livestock. They live permanently with the animals, loyally heading out with them every day to deter hunters, and bedding down with them at night.

Marker's centre started breeding the livestock dogs to promote cheetah-friendly farming after some 10,000 big cats -- the current total worldwide population -- were killed or moved off farms in the 1980s.

Up to 1,000 cheetahs were being killed a year, mostly by farmers who saw them as livestock killers.

But the use of dogs has slashed losses for sheep and goat farmers and led to less retaliation against the vulnerable cheetah.

"We see about 80 to 100 percent decrease of livestock loss from any predator when the farmers have the dogs," said Marker.

In the last 19 years, around 450 dogs have been placed with farmers and more than 3,000 farmers trained.

There is now a two-year waiting list for the dogs -- either stately Anatolian shepherds or Kangals -- and the programme has expanded to other countries with predators.

For Joubert, staying up late at night worrying about her sheep and goats coming home is a thing of the past.

Her farm near Gobabis, east of the capital Windhoek, lost 60 animals in 2008.

But the arrival of Bonzo, her first Anatolian, as a puppy five years ago has slashed losses to just one animal last year.

Joubert is now training four-month-old Kangal !Nussie -- whose name starts with the exclamation point typical of Namibia's Nama people -- to follow in Bonzo's footsteps.

The fluffy-coated pup is learning the ropes by going out with a flock every day on a leash with a human herder and beds down in the animal enclosure at night. She gets half an hour in the evening to play in the yard.

"She must associate herself with the goats, she must be a goat, she's part of a group, that's the main thing I think to make them to protect the animals," said Joubert, who is deeply proud of her dogs.

The dogs' presence and intimidating bark is usually enough to deter predators, who would rather opt for prey that does not have a guardian.

But they will attack if a hunter does not back off.

Bonzo for example, has killed jackals, who attack in packs and a young, weak cheetah.

"If indeed they do come in, the dog could and would fight to the finish," said Marker.

Altercations between the dogs and cheetahs, though, are rare and those who target livestock are usually desperate, such as being wounded.

But working in Namibia's tough landscape takes its toll.

Bonzo has been bitten by snakes, stung by a scorpion, attacked by baboons and now has tongue cancer from exposure to the relentless sun.

Ironically, despite cheetahs being seen as livestock killers, analysis of their droppings has shown only five percent had preyed on farm animals.

"They do occasionally take livestock," said Gail Potgieter, a human-wildlife conflict specialist at the Namibia Nature Foundation.

"But the perception that any cheetah is going to start killing livestock as its main diet is very wrong."

Cheetah numbers hit a low of 2,500 in 1986. But the population has now potentially reached nearly 4,000 -- the biggest wild cheetah population in the world.

Cheetahs still face threats on game ranches, where they eat valuable animals, and on cattle farms where the dogs are not suited.

But for small stock farmers, they have proven their worth.

"For the type of livestock farming that's going on in Namibia, it's definitely one of the most promising solutions that they have," said Potgieter, who used to manage the CCF's dog programme.

In Gobabis, Joubert, needs no convincing.

"I will always have dogs here," she said.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros
    Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros

    The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is calling for the pullout of US Marines who arrived in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last Wednesday to train Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and members of the allied forces. The SAF commandos and the allied forces will secure the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting in this city. Bayan-Negros secretary general Christian Tuayon said the US troops might violate the human rights of activists, especially those …

  • China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral
    China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral

    China is building some “fairly amazing submarines” and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, a top US Navy admiral told US lawmakers on Wednesday, although he said their quality was inferior. Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee that China was also expanding the geographic areas of operation for its submarines, and their length of …

  • Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR
    Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR

    Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to consider a proposed special tax exemption for boxing icon Manny Pacquiao in his much-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday it will have to be discussed by Congress because lawmakers are the ones who enact tax exemptions, special or general. Pacquiao has been dogged by unsettled tax obligations with the BIR. …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • 3 Pinays on Forbes power women list
    3 Pinays on Forbes power women list

    Three Filipina executives, who are all daughters of known business tycoons in the country, made it to Forbes’ list of the 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia. Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairman of SM Investments and chairman of BDO Universal Bank, was included in the list for the fourth year in a row since its inception. “Under her (Sy-Coson) lead SMIC became the largest listed company on the Philippine Stock Exchange by market cap. Also in the 2015 list is 70-year-old Helen Yuchengco-Dee, …

  • Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA
    Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA

    Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday supported proposals to put Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo under house arrest. “Government prosecutors are opposing house arrest for… Enrile. Binay issued the statement after the 91-year-old Enrile was rushed to the Makati Medical Center on Thursday due to pneumonia. House arrest for him would be the compassionate thing to do,” he added. …

  • Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao
    Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao

    An Indonesian cargo vessel that was hijacked a month ago in North Sulawesi, Indonesia has been found stuck in the waters off Mati, Davao Oriental, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported yesterday. PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said the PCG- Southeastern Mindanao district was informed on Feb. 23 that the M/T Rehoboth was found aground off Barangay Cabuaya. Four personnel from the local PCG district office were sent to verify the report. The vessel was reportedly hijacked by …

  • Phl now biggest grower of GM crops
    Phl now biggest grower of GM crops

    The Philippines is now the twelfth biggest grower of genetically modified (GM) crops. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options