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Why we do what we do

QUESTION?

If someone was to pose the question "What is the greatest threat to wildlife? "most of us would probably answer: Man.
And in that answer most of us would probably be fairly close to the truth.  But if man is the greatest threat to wildlife, then what does the rural African consider as one of his greatest threats in trying to carve out a life for himself in deepest darkest Africa? Wildlife.

So it’s a conflict zone with each defending his own territory and occasionally making forays into the other’s.  Thus today the term "problem animal" is out and "Human wildlife conflict (HWC)" is in.  Although many animals can be said to cause HWC the major ones are the large carnivores (lion, leopard, cheetah, hyaena, wild dog) and the elephant.

africat hyeanaafricat cheetahafricat wild dog

BACKGROUND

STOCK FARMERS: Habitat loss is one of the largest threats to the cheetah and leopard populations in Namibia.  Livestock and game farms in Namibia number over 7000 and spread over most of the country - the same areas where the majority of these animals exist. The resulting conflict between these predators and farmers protecting their livelihood reduces the natural habitat areas where the animals can safely exist.

 

GAME FARMERS: With a shift in focus from cattle farming to a livelihood dependent on game for tourism and/or hunting, there has been an increasing trend where the predation of game has become the motivation behind the elimination of cheetahs and leopards. The perceived "problem animals" who in the past were removed for preying on livestock, are now also being captured for hunting one of their natural prey species.

General predator removal is often the "livestock-protection method" utilised by farmers who view all predators as "problem animals" and cheetahs and leopards are trapped, poisoned or shot on sight. In most cases an individual animal is responsible for stock losses and not the species in general and this indiscriminate removal leads to the unnecessary elimination of many innocent animals.

During the 1980’s and 90’s between 600 -1000 cheetahs were destroyed on an annual basis by farmers and hunters, today that number apparently has been reduced to a reported 200 - 300 per year, but not enough research has been conducted to give reliable statistics – the number could be higher?!

The three pillars of conservation, namely ministry, private sector and non-government organisations have joined forces to work together, to increase awareness of the plight of the cheetah and to find solutions to the conflicting interests of farmer and predator.  Research into cheetah numbers, distribution and behaviour, runs parallel with wildlife education for children and workshops for newly emerging farmers on how to coexist with their wild heritage.

acacia bush barrier
Acacia bush barrier to strengthen a kraal.
herdsmen reinstated
Improved livestock protection methods - herdsmen reinstated.
stronger kraals
Improved livestock management - stronger kraals.

OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVES 

Okonjima, Herero for "place of the baboon", is an extensive tract of land nestling amongst the Omboroko Mountains some fifty kilometers south of the small town of Otjiwarongo. 

Historically, the surrounding land would have been home to some of Africa’s finest wildlife, today it is farmland.  For the last 35 years Okonjima has been in the hands of the Hanssen family.  Today, nearly 20 years after Wayne, Donna & Rosalea Hanssen took over a cattle farm from their father, the original farm has grown in size to 20 000 hectares, the cattle have gone, grasslands are returning and the wildlife abounds.

In 1989, Uwe & Tammy continued with livestock farming, suffering high losses to especially spotted hyaena, but aware of the increasing lion conflict along the southern ENP boundary; it was during this time that AfriCat North (then known as The Afri-Leo Foundation) was established, with its mission to finding workable solutions to the lion-farmer conflict.

The key to the Okonjima experience is The AfriCat Foundation, a non- profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores.  With the cheetah, leopard and lion as its flagship, the foundation works alongside the farming community, attempting to help alleviate the livestock losses caused by predators. AfriCat is also home to orphaned, injured and rehabilitated large carnivores.

To observe these magnificent animals in natural surroundings and to witness the rehabilitation efforts to return them to the wild, provides the visitor with the chance to come to know a little more about the story of Africa, its harmonies and its conflicts.
The wheel turns full circle as the traveller leaves Okonjima with the knowledge that through his/her visit, he/she has laid yet another stone in the road to recovery for Africa’s carnivores. 

The corner stone to success of conservation rests on that old adage "If it pays, it stays". Today in Namibia, a significant amount of the money which visitors spend during their time in the country, finds its way back into the programmes which aid in the conservation of the animals living there.  Not only are his loss-costs covered, but also there are opportunities for his wife and children to be employed, and when the lodge makes a profit, he receives a dividend either as a cash hand-out or as a new school or health clinic. This is the Namibia of today.

 

Interview with Tammy about the AfriCat Foundation

Tammy Hoth-Hanssen, Director AfriCat Foundation - is the public face of the Foundation in Namibia and internationally. Tammy’s passion for wildlife and the 'bush' started out on the family farm in the rugged Khomas Hochland (the Highlands south-west of Windhoek) and grew to become a passion when her parents and siblings moved to Okonjima, where AfriCat was born. After studies in Botany, Zoology and a teaching career, she left urban life for the wilderness of Namibia’s north-west where Tammy and her family bought a family livestock farm. Sharing a common border with the Etosha National Park, they found themselves within the human-wildlife conflict zone, losing large numbers of livestock to lions and spotted hyaena. AfriCat North was established, aimed at finding solutions to this farmer-predator stalemate.

 

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