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Conflict threatens wild cats

Tammy Hoth-Hanssen fits a lion with a collar. Carnivores are collared and released in the area they come from. (Photograph courtesy of AfriCat Onkonjima’s Facebook Page)Human-wildlife conflict is the greatest threat to the long term survival of “conflict animals” such as elephants, hippos and crocodiles due to the lack of awareness.
This is according to AfriCat, a non-profit organisation which is involved in the conservation and safe-guarding of Namibia’s carnivores.
“Due to lack of/or sub-standard education, both the adults who live on the land as well as the youth are not informed well enough as to the value of wildlife and the need to sustain it. This is, however, slowly changing in that non-governmental organisations such as AfriCat are dedicated to ‘conservation through education’. We are convinced that only through creating sufficient awareness and understanding of these conflict species, will Namibians tolerate and protect them, thereby ensuring their survival,” said Tammy Hoth-Hanssen, AfriCat’s director.
Hoth-Hanssen says if these conflict animals have no value and the conflicts are not mitigated effectively, most carnivore species will be threatened by persecution which may, in turn, result in their extinction.
“Be it through environmental education, research, human-wildlife conflict mitigation or carnivore care, AfriCat’s programmes emphasise long term conservation and sustainable management,” she said.
In order to address human-wildlife conflict, AfriCat North set out in 1997 to find practical solutions. Various programmes were tried and tested and the Communal Carnivore Conservation project (CCCP) was finally put in place. The CCCP offers expertise and support to farmers and offers improved livestock protection from predators.
Through the project, solar-powered electric fences were put on farmland adjacent to the Etosha National Park. AfriCat also strengthened and heightened nocturnal kraals by packing thorny acacia barriers around the outer kraal base which reduces the chances of lions jumping or climbing over  the fence or hyaenas digging from underneath. Herdsmen have also been reinstated at the farms to drive herds to selected grazing areas during the day as well as to monitor fresh predator tracks whilst in the field.
The rehabilitation of cheetahs and wild dogs which were once kept captive by releasing them into the Onkonjima Reserve is one of the organisation’s main achievements, says Hoth-Hanssen.
Other achievements include the Communal Carnivore Conservation Programme which is sponsored by Okurusu Flourspar, mitigating human-wildlife conflict on communal and freehold farmland, supporting and uplifting communities and AfriCat’s lion research which resulted in three young male lions being rescued off farmland and relocated into Etosha.
“Our conservation through education programme which involves educating Namibia’s youth and encouraging greater understanding and tolerance of wildlife has also been a success. More than 23 000 children have visited both the AfriCat Environmental Education Centres and were educated on carnivores and the need for balance in our environment,” Hoth-Hanssen said.
She says the organisation’s efforts to change farmers’ perception that “problem” animals should be killed as a solution, has still not been successful.
“But organisations such as AfriCat, the Cheetah Conservation Fund and N//aankuse have definitely heightened the awareness about carnivores and their fight to survive the ruthless killing that has been going on for so many years,” explained Hoth-Hanssen.
Hoth-Hanssen urged all Namibians to play a part in protecting the country’s wildlife through supporting AfriCat’s conservation initiatives. She said there should be more national awareness against animal cruelty and illegal/unethical hunting practices.
The AfriCat Foundation is committed to the long-term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores. By working with commercial farmers, local communities, stakeholders, communal conservancies and the youth of Namibia, AfriCat supports environmental education, rehabilitation and welfare programmes, provides solutions to human-wildlife conflict issues and conducts constructive wildlife research.

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