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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
Predators under threat
The predators of eastern and southern Africa are some of the most iconic species that represent the wealth of biodiversity on the continent. From the majestic lion to the beautiful African wild dog, predators of the savannah’s and bushveld attract millions of tourists to nature reserves and National Parks every year.
Like many of Earth’s creatures, African wildlife are under threat from illegal hunting and human conflict. This is no new story, but evidence suggests that the African apex predators are being increasingly hard hit and wild populations are diminishing.
The bushmeat trade is booming in eastern and southern Africa, as is human population growth. Poor rural areas often turn to illegal bushmeat hunting to earn money and feed their families. Although rarely targeted directly, large predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog are victims to lack of food from overhunting and getting caught in snares.
Legal in specific hunting reserves, however, trophy hunting also occurs illegally in many rural areas and causes the same effects as bushmeat hunting.
Due to imminent rises in human population size more and more natural habitats are being lost and becoming fragmented to livestock and crop farms.
Species such as cheetah and wild dog can occur in areas outside of protected parks and reserves. This leaves them even more vulnerable to snares and conflict with local land owners if their livelihood is threatened.
Researchers and volunteers on the Tuli Conservation Project study predator species in southern Botswana. Earlier this year, they witnessed first hand the devastating effect that human-wildlife conflict can have when several wild dogs were poisoned.
Measures to protect the threatened, vulnerable & endangered
On the IUCN Red List leopard are listed as near threatened, lion and cheetah are listed as vulnerable and wild dog are listed as endangered. To protect such amazing animals from further decline measures for the above issues need to be tackled and implemented by the governments.
In the meantime, conservation efforts through structured projects aim to protect wildlife on the front line. Wildlife rehabilitation centre’s are called out to relocate injured wildlife and nurse them back to health. Captive population management can help with population numbers through viable breeding programmes. With the dedicated help of local breeders, animal care specialists and wildlife vets, programmes have shown many success stories.