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Introduction

What is a predator management plan

A predator management plan is a document that property owners are legally required to produce before they reintroduce large predators into a fenced area.

What is the function of a predator management plan

A management plan provides strategic guidance for the management of large predators in fenced areas. Local conservation authorities require prospective predator reserves to produce a predator management plan in order to ensure that:

  1. reserve management are fully aware of the challenges associated with the management of predators in fenced systems before reintroduction
  2. the fenced reserve is capable of supporting a population of large predators
  3. adaptive management results in the successful reintroduction of predators into the fenced reserve

Who should prepare a predator management plan

The management plan must be drawn up by a suitably qualified environmental practitioner. This practitioner should preferably have:

  1. a post grad qualification in the field of ecology, conservation biology or wildlife management
  2. familiarity with the study area
  3. sufficient experience in drawing up management plans for fenced reserves
  4. affiliation with a legislated regulatory body for natural science professionals

Scientifically based ecological principles should guide the management of natural habitats and species in small fenced reserves. Managers of game farms, nature reserves and national parks should have a sound understanding of the ecological potential and ecological limitations of the area they are managing. Baseline information on prevailing climatic conditions, soil types, vegetation units, carrying capacity and stocking rates should be available for any small fenced reserve. This information will determine the ecological potential of an area and should be utilised to guide future management actions.

Prey density and the availability of suitable prey species are of paramount importance when considering the introduction of large predators such as Cheetah. Habitat suitability is of more concern for Cheetah prey. Cheetah are habitat generalists and with the exception of extreme desert, forests and high mountainous areas, Cheetah are known to adapt to most habitats. Medium sized herbivores, the primary source of food for Cheetah, are more dependent on suitable habitat for survival and reproduction.

When drafting a predator management plan for a reserve, it is essential that all ecological parameters relevant to the introduction of prey animals are documented and converted to management actions. Information on prey species needs to be converted into a format that can be used for the management of predators (link to Hayward et al 2007 excel spreadsheet). A management plan for predators therefore takes one further step to accommodate predator-prey relations. It should consist of two sections with the first containing all necessary ecological information. The second section should stipulate goals, objectives and planned actions for the adaptive management of the property with its habitats, prey species and predators.
A management plan must be submitted to local conservation authorities. A government affiliated ecologist can then perform a brief survey to verify that all the information stipulated in the management plan is valid. Once this has been verified, a recommendation will be made based on the management plan and the findings of the state ecologist.