After at least two millennia of human–wildlife conflict over the predation of livestock in South Africa1, the recently
completed scientific assessment on livestock predation2 (PredSA) brings the power of a formal scientific
assessment to focus on the topic. PredSA represents a global first in terms of applying this increasingly recognised
approach to informing policy to the issue of livestock predation at a national level. Here we explore the process
behind the assessment, its structure and policy relevance, and some lessons learnt and suggest some avenues
for the way forward.
Scientific assessments are a relatively recent societal tool. Operating at the science–policy interface, they serve
to collate and interrogate transdisciplinary information relating to a complex problem and, through consensus,
evaluate the relevance of the findings to policy development. Having emerged over the past three decades, there is
a growing body of best practice guiding the basis for scientific assessments and how these should be conducted.3
Briefly, an assessment should have demonstrable legitimacy (a valid issue requiring attention at the behest of a
relevant authority), saliency (the focus on stakeholders’ interests in the problem) and credibility (reflecting scientific
rigour by recognised experts) to be accepted by, and useful to, society.3 To achieve these criteria, the governance of
an assessment process needs to be transparent and demonstrate a commitment to being broadly participatory.3,4
The need for an assessment on livestock predation in South Africa was identified by the national Departments
of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), as well as the livestock industry.
Discussions around this need developed through the Predation Management Forum, the latter representing the
wool, mohair, red meat and wildlife industries, as well as the regulatory bodies. Financial support was provided by
DEA and DAFF as well as the National Wool Growers Association, Mohair Growers Association and the Red Meat
Producers Organisation. This support reflects the legitimacy of the assessment, emerging as it does from both the
policy/regulatory domain and stakeholders directly affected by predation on livestock.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries formally endorsed
PredSA at its launch in 2016.4 The route to the assessment launch, however, started in 2010 with dialogue between
the abovementioned role players and the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE) at Nelson Mandela University.
This dialogue, facilitated by seed funding from Woolworths SA, resulted in a proposal for the assessment to be
hosted by ACE, which engaged recognised experts nationwide and followed the transdisciplinary approach of the
2008 Elephant Management Assessment.