Brink, C.W., Thomson, R.L., Amar, A., Girardello, M. & Santangeli, A. (2021) Prevalence and drivers of poison use by South African commercial farmers and perceptions of alternative livestock protection measures.Ambio, 50(6), 1211-1221. DOI:10.1007/s13280-020-01461-2 (IF2020 5,129; Q2 Environmental Sciences)
The use of poison to eliminate predators is causing African vulture populations to collapse. To understand the prevalence and motivations of this practice we conducted an extensive survey with South African commercial farmers. Using a specialised questioning technique and ad hoc quantitative methods we found that an estimated 22% and 31% of farmers used poison over a 1-year and 5-year period, respectively. Poison use hotspots generally coincided with small stock farming areas. The strongest predictor of poison use was whether farmers believed the practice to be common amongst their peers. Our results suggest that farmers' attitudes to vultures are primarily positive, and farmers are less likely to use poisons if they frequently encounter vultures on their farm. Overall, our findings provide an understanding on poison use that provides leverage points to change farmers' behaviour and help avert the African vulture crisis and possible cascading ecosystem impacts.