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Predators - enemies or friends?

the rabies which erupted recently In our districts it has once again sparked the discussion of the need to manage the population of predators in our environment, since for a long time the natural environment has been affected by human activity to such an extent that in order to preserve it, active intervention and management is necessary

A female golden jackal in Yarkon Park. Photo: Artemy Voikhansky, Wikipedia.
A female golden jackal in Yarkon Park. Photo: Artemy Voikhansky, Wikipedia.

All over the world, the breeding areas of predators are decreasing and so is the number of predator species such as tigers, dingoes, spectacled bears, cheetahs and many others. reduction and devaluation which is a problem since carnivores are important to the environmental system in that they provide services (1), such as increasing the environmental diversity by regulating / thinning sick and weak individuals and even contributing to carbon absorption.

These services are also important for the people (2), but convincing people of the need to preserve wild animals by relying on hidden and indirect benefits is a challenge, especially when it comes to farmers - since predators such as tigers or cheetahs pose a threat to farm animals.3(and sometimes even to people's lives)4). Therefore, mutual activities between farmers and carnivores are labeled as friction.

Farmers often exaggerate the danger (5), where in many cases the response is killing even when the predators do not harm farm animals. This is one of the reasons for the poor situation of carnivores. The situation can be changed by changing people's awareness of the tangible benefits that predators provide.

A study conducted in Africa shows that the benefits brought by the predators are much greater than the problems they cause, such as the dilution of rodents and other pests (6). The urgent need of farmers to control the amount of rodents (7) is due to the fact that rodents destroy about 15% of the crops in the fields. The common "solution" is poisoning, but the poisonings are not selective and the poison kills both beneficial and non-harmful creatures, while the rodents learn to avoid the poison or develop a resistance.

The researchers checked whether predators that eat rodents are found in farms, pastures and between houses in villages. In southern Africa, nine carnivore species have been identified, and for seven of them rodents are an important component of the diet (the species identified here include - badger, mongoose, wild cat). It turned out that there were more predators in the areas where there is a crop ready to be collected (8). That is: not only were the predators in the field, but it is clear that they control the amount of rodents, which without their presence (predators) would have caused serious damage to the crop.

In a series of conversations with farmers, the researchers tested their awareness of the connection between the presence of predators and the amount of rodents in the fields, and it turned out that although people know that predators eat rodents. The negative attitude still dominates when in most cases the farmers claim that "it is necessary to kill".

The approach of exploiting natural predators to control rodents is not new (9). We know the use of nesting boxes for breathing and also donor falcons. Nevertheless, the use of predators (mammals) for pest control - biological control, is not common in conservationist circles.10).

Breathe white. Source: Kristina Servant.
Breathe white. source: Kristina Servant.

There is a good chance and possibility to use predators as rodent exterminators, but for this approach to be successful the farmers must be taught to stop killing. The success depends on predators and especially on breathing as rodent exterminators (11), gives hope that the approach to predators can also be changed. The researchers' approach to change is through students in schools, when predators will be presented to students as useful animals and the students will influence their parents and thus break conventions and prejudices.

If, with the help of education, farmers stop killing predators, it will become clear to them that the predators return the favor by exterminating rodents. Dependence on predators will lead to a reduction in the use of poisons, a reduction in breeding expenses and a reduction in the collateral killing of harmless animals. The success of changing the attitude will bring profit to both sides - people and animals. Less damage to animals and more crops in the fields.

The research mainly deals with small carnivores, and in my opinion there is an urgent need (including for us) to prevent the violent friction between farmers and especially shepherds and large carnivores. in the past already I addressed the issue in proposals to raise dogs among the herds. When the biggest predator in the country is a wolf, it is appropriate that shepherds understand that they are subject to laws that prohibit harming wild animals and use deterrent, non-lethal protective measures.

If I started with rabies, here it is worth knowing that the jackals are returning to the areas where they were until about forty years ago, and that's a good thing. As someone who as a child went to sleep with the howling of jackals, I missed the howling. We have bodies and authorities that are supposed to solve environmental problems, there are those whose role and duty is to manage the natural environment. It is allowed to visit and make suggestions, but it is appropriate that we let them fulfill their role...

See more on the subject on the science website:

One response

  1. After writing the Rem I became aware of a number of contents and information that show that
    The last paragraph is not accurate (to say the least) because:
    It turns out that the rabies outbreak has culprits such as:
    Because half of the "animal lovers" have a ban on shooting stray dogs!
    The supervision of the obligation to vaccinate domestic animals is deficient or non-existent!
    Failures in the Ministry of Agriculture that result from a neighbor's negligence:
    It turns out that effective vaccine baits have been replaced?
    When the Minister of Agriculture says that "rabies is not an incurable disease"
    After all, it's waving in the air,
    When the authorities who are supposed to prevent the outbreak of rabies
    Infected with fever, we are in trouble!

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