On Thursday, Dr. Elizabeth Pienaar (University of Florida) discussed her lab’s research on Oribi conservation in Kwa-Zulu Natal during her talk, “Protecting the Endangered Oribi on Private Farmlands.” Oribi are South Africa’s most threatened antelope species. They are grassland dependent, but as grasslands have been converted to other uses over time, oribi conservation has become increasingly dependent on the preservation of grasslands under private ownership. Currently, around 63% of remaining oribi populations live on private land. In addition to habitat loss, oribi have recently become the targets of taxi hunting—in which greyhounds are used to hunt wild game for sport and gambling.
Her research questions asked, (1) Why are farmers willing to protect oribi on their properties? (2) What do farmers perceive to be threats to oribi conservation? (2) What do farmers perceive to be threats to oribi conservation? (3) What understanding do farmers have of how their lands should be managed to benefit oribi? And (4) Which oribi conservation programs would farmers be willing to enroll in? Data was collected through in-person interviews and online surveys with present and past oribi owners and farmers. Out of people interviewed, around 74% had oribi on their property and 86% perceived oribi conservation to be very important. Some farmers cited an emotional attachment to oribi or the oribi’s stupidity/defenselessness as the cause, while others felt it was important to protect endangered species in general. Farmers were asked about wildlife ownership, illegal hunting and how they mitigated illegal hunting threats. Farmers were also asked about conservation programs and incentives.