As part of the Predator Ecology and Coexistence Experiment (The Cape Leopard Trust) and Wildlife-friendly Lamb Initiative (Conservation South Africa) we are testing the effectiveness of EcoRangers and Anatolian dog combinations at protecting livestock. We have introduced Anatolian dog and EcoRangers on independent farms and we will assess just how well these treatments work by comparing livestock losses to a control site where no treatment has been implemented and where farmers will continue with their farm management practices for the duration of the study.
SANParks Anatolian Dog Breeding Project generously provided healthy puppies for the Predator Ecology and Coexistence Experiment. Puppies were introduced to sheep or goat flocks on participating farms when they were 7 weeks old. They were placed with 5 ewes and 5 lambs/kids in small kraals and spent 8 weeks bonding with their new families.
At 16 weeks old, puppies were moved with their sheep/goat family to a small camp where they could move around with the small flock as they graze. When the puppies were 24 weeks old, they were big and confident enough to be introduced with their small flock to the larger flock into the grazing veld.
Automatic feeders were placed at livestock water points and the dogs will now stay out in the veld with their new large flock day and night. EcoRangers will spend the day in the veld accompanying the dog and collecting ecological data and will return to camp in the evenings.
It took some time for the dogs to find their footing as they explore their new home. They have now graduated to the title of a Livestock Guarding Dog (LGD) now that they are over one year old. They dogs continue to test boundaries and learn to protect their family from unwanted visitors.
When introducing LGDs to farms the most important part of the process is the Dog Training Program. Just like any dog, LGDs need to learn what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Some of the LGDs went through stages of chasing their lamb and kid friends and even chasing wildlife. The behaviour needed to be stopped consistently and repetitively so the dog can focus on deterring predators from their flocks. On occasion some of the LGDs even returned to the farmer's homes. To prevent this behaviour from reoccurring, farmers and EcoRangers immediately returned the dogs to their flocks so the dog understands that leaving the flock is unacceptable behaviour.
We have recently placed GPS collars on all of the dogs so we will soon observe their movement patterns in relation to the sheep or goat flocks.