Jackal Narratives and Predator Control in the Karoo, South Africa

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University of Cape Town

This paper discusses the historical roots of, and scientific evidence for, rival 'jackal narratives' about the problems posed by black-backed jackals (canis mesomelas) for sheep farmers in the Karoo, South Africa. The jackal recolonized farms as government policy changed away from subsidising predator control and as farm employment contracted and sheep farming became less economically and politically important. The influential 'environmental jackal narrative' that lethal control is undesirable and ineffective, is rooted in the science of predator ecology but the linked recommendation that farmers learn to 'live with the jackal' is on less solid ground. The rival 'farmer jackal narrative' that jackal populations need to be suppressed on agricultural land resonates with conservation theories justifying the culling of jackals in national parks. Contestation over values remains important, but these competing plausible hypotheses about jackal control suggest that further scientific studies may be helpful in the construction of policies that are acceptable to both sides.