When humans overlap predator ranges there is potential for direct or indirect harm to wildlife and/or human livelihoods. High livestock losses by wild predators can affect viability of farming operations whereas predator control methods can be indiscriminate and with largely unquantified effects on ecosystems. Coexistence between predators and humans on shared landscapes is possible with limited ecological impact, but requires adequate conflict mitigation methods that have surprisingly received little scientific testing.

Working in collaboration with the Cape Leopard Trust, Conservation South Africa and South Africa National Parks, our overarching aim for this project is to facilitate coexistence between farmers and predators by providing an ecological evidence-base for various human-predator conflict mitigation methods under scrutiny. For my PhD work I will use empirical data on predator ecology and an experimental approach to test non-lethal conflict mitigation methods as well as relate predator and mammalian prey abundances to biodiversity of lower trophic levels.

Specifically my research objectives are to 1) assess human-induced trophic cascades by comparing mesopredator densities and biodiversity (mammal and vegetation) on farmlands to a protected area, 2) estimate depredation rates across various predator management methods; 3) test predator recognition theory by livestock in response to predation risk and 4) identify changes in behavioural movement patterns of predators in response to ecological intervention.  

With predator-human conflict being prevalent worldwide in situations where predators intersect the interests of humans, this project has broad relevance from an ecological, socio-economical and animal welfare perspective. The adoption of specific mitigation approaches will depend upon evidence of their effectiveness, willingness of stakeholders to implement them and appropriate licensing and legislation. Solution(s) can arise when working together for the common goals of limiting predator-human conflict and enabling biological diversity conservation.

see project website