Lesson Learned

A team at Namaqua National Park in the Succulent Karoo Hotspot recently completed an innovative project in which local sheep farmers received Anatolian sheepdogs from South African National Parks. The dogs saw off attacks from small predators on livestock such as caracal and jackal more effectively than using indiscriminate and harmful small mammal traps.

What is the most important lesson the team learned?

Briefing partners fully before a project begins enables smooth implementation even if there are staff changes or communication problems during the project.

Describe how you learned this and whether/how you have adapted your approach or specific project elements as a result.

During the project, we had a change of staff - one of our coordinators left - and as a result, we weren't in contact with the sheep farmers as much as we hoped. We weren't getting updates on the dogs' progress often enough either. In one case, one of the dogs was kept at a farm rather than out in the veld and she became too attached to the humans living there, neglecting her sheep!

However, as we had developed good relations with the farmers before the project began, particularly on how to handle the dogs, most of them were able to continue on their own, even when there was no one monitoring the project at our end.

In fact, even in the one case where the dog was staying at the farm, the farmer contacted us and suggested the dog be moved to another area as she wasn't performing effectively. Fortunately, it was still early on in the project and the dog could be rehabilitated in the care of another owner.

By and large the project has been immensely successful - only one sheep was lost to a small predator throughout (average stock losses are 7 lambs per season).

Proper planning and full briefing of the partners before the project began has really contributed to this success. Even when one of the male dogs started attacking the sheep himself – which can happen when they’re badly trained as puppies - we were able to sort the problem quickly.

- October 2005