Factors Influencing Perceptions of Conflict and Tolerance toward Cheetahs on Namibian Farmlands
Marker LL., Mills MGL., Macdonald DW.
Namibia has the largest remaining population of free-ranging cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatusj) in the world, 90% of which are found outside protected areas on commercial farms. We conducted a baseline survey of Namibian farmers between 1991 and 1993, with a yearly follow-up thereafter until 1999, to quantify the perceptions of farmers toward cheetahs. Specifically, we sought to identify factors that cause cheetahs to be perceived as pests and management practices that mitigate this perception. The baseline survey revealed that farmers who regarded cheetahs as problems removed an average of 29 cheetahs annually, whereas those who did not consider them problematic removed a mean of 14 annually. These figures dropped significantly to 3.5 and 2.0 cheetahs per year after the introduction of educational materials. The perception that cheetahs are pests was significantly associated with game farms, and the presence of "play trees" on farms emerged as a significant corollary of both negative perceptions and removals of cheetahs. Between 1991 and 1999, the mean annual number of cheetah removals significantly decreased from 19 to 2.1. Late in the study, cheetah killing was more closely correlated with perceived problems than in the early years of the study. These findings suggest that although cheetahs are still perceived as a problem, farmers' tolerance toward cheetahs has increased. Management strategies and economic incentives that promote cheetah conservation, such as the formation of conservancies, development of ecotourism, and marketing of "predator-friendly" meat, are essential for conserving cheetahs outside protected areas.