On many farms across the world, fences protect animals inside their borders whilst keeping predators out. At CCF however, we also have the reverse situation: during a cheetah release in our Bellebenno game farm, we would like to keep the cheetahs inside the camp. In a normal game-fenced area, cheetahs and other predators can move freely through a fenced-in area using the holes that ground-digging species like warthogs, porcupines and aardvarks make under the fence. When farmers find cheetahs inside their game or livestock camps, they could run the risk of being trapped or shot as they may prey on their animals. Therefore, we have developed and are currently testing a non-lethal predator control system: swing gates. These are comparable to cat flaps, where digging species can range freely between farms without digging holes, whilst, when closed, they leave no visible opening for predators to move through. While researching the effectiveness of our swing gate system, camera traps have confirmed that the gates are used by different digging animals, but rarely, if ever, used by predators.
Our swing gates have considerably lowered the number of holes dug along the fence line, greatly reducing the amount of predators moving in and out of the camp, whilst keeping the cheetahs in the release area! Research is currently being conducted to determine which environmental factors influence the creation of holes between the gates from animals such as warthogs.
Swing gates provide farmers with an affordable alternative to the most conventional and expensive predator protection, i.e. fence electrification, which is good news for cheetahs! If the usage of non-lethal predator controls like swing gates becomes more common, this will reduce the chance of cheetahs and other predators getting into enclosures with valuable animals inside, which may decrease the human-wildlife conflict and subsequent killing of threatened animals such as the cheetah. So indirectly, the use of swing gates has the potential to increase the cheetah’s chances of survival!
CCF Ecology Intern
Photos (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012