Carnivore Conservation Programme

The Carnivore Conservation Programme (EWT-CCP) is one of the original programmes of the Endangered Wildlife Trust which was founded in 1973. The EWT-CCP focuses on the conservation of carnivores and their habitats. Large carnivores play a key role in regulating terrestrial ecosystems and their removal can cause effects that cascade through the lower trophic levels. Despite this, the geographic range and density of most large carnivore species are declining globally due to anthropogenic factors. Large carnivores are particularly difficult to conserve because they often come into conflict with humans, have large ranges, normally occur at low densities and are not confined to protected areas. The EWT-CCP has made huge strides in Cheetah and Wild Dog conservation in South Africa and is recognised as a leader in the field of carnivore conservation. Geographically, the focus is generally on South Africa, but some of our work is done in other African countries.

“Self-sustaining, wild populations of carnivores living in harmony with people”

Our key focus is in South Africa in four important geographic areas (Figure 1): Limpopo / Waterberg; Lowveld / Kruger National Park Western Boundary / Northern KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape. An EWT-CCP staff member will be based in each cluster and implement the strategy in that area. The Northern Cape is currently a gap that requires filling.
While the key focus is in South Africa, our strategy does promote work in other African countries especially in range expansion and reintroduction where the EWT-CCP has considerable experience.

Figure 1: the clustered approach to implementing the EWT-CCP strategy in South Africa.

The EWT-CCP works under six key themes , tese are all geographically focused in South Africa at present, but can expand into other southern African countries in some cases:

Carnivores have large space requirements but are able to function efficiently in areas where there is enough safe space with suitable habitat and food. Therefore, with enough space, carnivores can survive with minimal human intervention. This space can be broadly separated into two, not mutually exclusive, categories: (1) suitable space maintained for resident carnivores through on the ground action that prevents carnivores being killed and/or (2) suitable space created through reintroductions.
Geographic scope: Currently South Africa, potential for southern Africa through facilitated range expansion work.

Human induced threats are the leading cause of the decline in carnivore populations worldwide. In South Africa two key groups of threats are faced by carnivores: (1) trade and (2) human-carnivore conflict mitigation.

  • Trade
    Different carnivores are traded as dead or live specimens and different carnivores are utilised in different ways. For example, trade in dead specimens includes trophy hunting (e.g. Leopards, Lions) and medicinal or traditional use (e.g. Lion bones, Leopard skins). Live trade includes carnivores that are captive bred and traded commercially as live specimens (e.g. Cheetahs, Lions, Wild Dogs) or wild specimens that are traded between reserves for reintroductions or supplementation, or animals that are taken from the wild into captive facilities (e.g. Cheetahs). This trade can be legal or illegal but both can have negative effects on the conservation of the species.
    Each form of utilisation presents different challenges in terms of the conservation impact of the practice e.g. legal trade is often badly regulated due to poor control measures and illegal trade is done secretly making it difficult to police .
    An additional challenge is that the trade environment is always changing as markets and demands change. This is therefore an important area to regularly horizon scan both locally and globally to identify future trade threats and curb them before they impact on wild populations (e.g. Servals may be becoming a popular pet).
    Sustainable trade in carnivores should have no negative impacts on the survival of the species in the wild and should contribute to their conservation. This follows directly into sub-theme 2 (Human-carnivore conflict mitigation).
    Geographic scope: South Africa but partnering with other countries for issues surrounding international trade, lobbies and conventions (e.g. CITES)
    EWT Strategic Imperative 1, 3, 4 & 6
    High Level Organisational Targets: 1.2, 3.2, 4.3, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3
  • Human-carnivore conflict mitigation
    Human-carnivore conflict is the most widespread threat faced by carnivores worldwide. This occurs at the interface where carnivores and humans often compete for resources. This competition for resources results in deliberate persecution like shooting, poisoning and trapping. These activities are aimed at killing carnivores in retaliation for predation losses or to prevent future predation losses. Indirect persecution also happens when carnivores are accidentally killed e.g. snaring, road deaths, accidental poisonings. Implementing innovative techniques to reduce conflict will allow carnivore populations to function normally in a human-dominated landscapes.
    Geographic scope: South Africa but learning lessons from other countries and projects.

Carnivores must be appreciated as functional members of natural systems. Carnivores are flagship animals meaning that conservation action directed towards them can benefit other animals and habitats too. This appreciation needs to be addressed at all levels including government officials, landowners and users, school children and teachers, general public and tourists, etc.
Carnivores are often disliked by rural land users because they cause actual or perceived damage to livelihoods through predation. They are also often feared because they can threaten human life in some cases. This often results in carnivores being killed to protect human life or livestock.

A lack of appreciation and understanding for the role that carnivores paly in a system and what is required to conserve them has resulted in the general public viewing captive breeding as having conservation benefit. Captive facilities provide recreational activities like cub petting and ‘walking-with’ experiences that are sold under the banner of conservation when they have no conservation value. Captive breeding or keeping can have negative impacts on conservation through removals from the wild, fuelling demand for carnivores and their products and diluting the conservation message. By increasing the appreciation for carnivores and their functional role in ecosystems, more positive attitudes should result, with a concurrent reduction in threats.
Geographic area: South Africa, some awareness work may be international e.g. focus on tourists and raising awareness around captive carnivores.

Accurate information on carnivores is imperative for guiding and implementing effective conservation and management actions. This information includes, for example, monitoring population status, understanding population dynamics, use of space and habitat, and the effectiveness of management interventions. By obtaining relevant and current data on carnivores, the EWT-CCP will be able to provide suitable and applicable information to inform government officials, reserve managers, landowners, etc. on best practices for the long-term survival of carnivore populations through ensuring safe space, reducing threats and increased appreciation.
Geographic Scope: South Africa, there may be requirements for cross-border collaboration with neighbouring countries where the threat is close to the border.

Strengthening is needed on all aspects of legislation pertinent to carnivores to ensure a legislative framework that supports carnivore conservation in South Africa. Although South Africa has good environmental legislation, it is mostly relatively new, many areas are untested and enforcement is often poor. There is a lack of case law on which to base prosecutions. Additionally, permits issued by provincial and national environmental authorities are often poorly managed and improperly regulated. This means that repercussions for illegal activities related to carnivores are insufficient resulting in continued detrimental activities. Additionally, there is no relevant legislation that deals with the welfare of captive carnivores. Therefore obtaining a good understanding of and support for the legislation is required to ensure that it is implemented for the benefit of the conservation of South Africa’s carnivores.
Geographic scope: South Africa

Assessing and building the capacity at all levels and in all sectors is required to ensure that carnivores are effectively conserved. Internally, the leadership, technical, and management capabilities of the EWT-CCP staff need to be developed to ensure that they are sufficiently qualified to carry out their roles and to ensure that their skills sets remain current and relevant. Externally, technical capacity is required in partner organisations and stakeholder groups to ensure effective implementation of conservation projects and ensuring effective law enforcement. Additionally the profile of the EWT-CCP staff needs to be built to highlight their role as leaders in the field of carnivore conservation. By increasing capacity both internally and externally, conservation of carnivores done through best practice principles and by the most highly capable personnel.
Geographic scope: South Africa

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Winners of the 2014/2015 Kruger National Park Cheetah and Wild Dog Photographic Census competition - CLICK HERE


Grant Beverley - CCP: Lowveld Regional Coordinator email
Vincent van der Merwe - CCP: Eastern Cape Regional Coordinator email
Derek van der Merwe - CCP: Limpopo Regional Coordinator email