The AWCRC is the host to the Primate and Predator Project (PPP). This project initially started several years ago by Professore Russell Hill of Durham University in the UK, and was restricted to the Soutpansberg area. In 2017 the project was successfully expanded to the town and community of Alldays, led by Dr Leah Findlay, focusing mostly on the PPP’s third aim.
The Primate and Predator Project’s three main aims are:
Here at Alldays Wildlife and Communities Research Centre we focus on the third aim: to help local people coexist with their local wildlife.
History of the Project
The Primate and Predator Project was established in 2011 within the Soutpansberg Mountains, in partnership with the Lajuma Research Centre. To date, our research has focused on two important groups of mammals: the diurnal primate community and large predators.
Within the Soutpansberg Mountains, our primate research has focused on all three diurnal species present in South Africa (chacma baboons, vervet monkeys and samango monkeys). Both baboons and vervets are important prey species for leopards, a fact that has enormous implications for their behaviour, which we study day to day. Using camera traps that are triggered remotely when an animal moves past, we have also established that the region harboured healthy populations of many predators, with leopard densities among the highest ever recorded on private land in 2008.
Unfortunately, in the subsequent years we have been monitoring the leopard population, we have seen a steady decline in their numbers. These animals suffer from significant levels of hunting and/or human persecution. Much of this persecution stems from negative perceptions of large carnivores as predators of livestock, even though our analyses show that livestock rarely feature in the diets of leopards. One of the challenges is to now look at ways in which these negative perceptions may be changed and to examine how conflict between predators and humans may be minimized. An important component of this is to increase our understanding of the ecology of these species and to broaden our analyses of carnivore diets. At the same time, we need to continue to monitor our predator populations. We do much of this from the Soutpansberg Mountains.
Despite leopards being viewed with such intolerance, it is baboons that are often cited as the major pest species by many landowners. Unfortunately, primates are often quick to exploit human crops and other food sources, bringing them into conflict with the local human population. In turn, this can lead to considerable economic loss among farmers and ultimately undermines local conservation efforts. An important facet of our work, therefore, is to understand how and why these conflicts come about and to examine ways in which farmers and primates can co-exist. With that in mind, the Primate and Predator Project expanded to establish a second field site within the Alldays area. In 2017, and in partnership with Campfornis Game Farm, the Alldays Wildlife and Communities Research Centre was established, where we focus on finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict issues.
About the farm and surrounding area
Campfornis itself covers an area of 16 km2, but the area studied by the Primate and Predator Project extends far beyond this farm. The Alldays area forms part of the Savanna Biome or ‘Bushveld,’ and is famous for its remarkable diversity of plants and animals, rich cultures and agriculture. Vegetation consists of Limpopo Sweet Bushveld, Roodeberg Bushveld, Limpopo Ridge Bushveld and Musina Mopane Bushveld. The area contains a remarkable diversity of plants, including a large number of endemics and rare and endangered species. Mammals include eland, kudu, blue wildebeest, waterbuck, red hartebeest, gemsbok, sable, impala, mountain reedbuck, nyala, bushbuck, klipspringer, common duiker, steenbok, Cape buffalo, Burchell’s zebra, giraffe, warthog and bushpig. Two of the five South African primate species – vervet monkey, chacma baboon – occur in abundance. We have a variety of predator species such as mongoose, honey badger, genet, serval, caracal, civet, brown hyena and leopard.