Nature 437, 318 (15 September 2005) | doi:10.1038/437318b; Published online 14 September 2005

Re-wilding: other projects help carnivores stay wild

Guillaume Chapron1

  1. Laboratoire d'Ecologie CNRS UMR 7625 et Plateforme Environnement, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, 75005 Paris, France Laboratoire d'Ecologie Animale UMR MA105, Université d'Angers, France


In their plea for bringing Pleistocene wildlife to the New World ("Re-wilding North America" Nature 436, 913–914; 2005), Josh Donlan and colleagues do not discuss successful efforts to ensure long-term survival of large carnivores in Africa and Asia.

In Namibia, the Cheetah Conservation Fund has developed programmes to foster acceptance of this predator, by providing farmland-owners with educational material and encouraging them to take pride in cheetah presence. The number of cheetahs removed has dropped from 19 to 2.1 per farm per year since 1991. Ranchers enrolled in the programme can also export beef, certified 'cheetah friendly', to the European Union — making cheetah protection both ecologically possible and economically profitable.

In Kenya, a study shows that bomas, traditional corrals with thick walls and internal rooms, are effective at reducing the amount of livestock killed by lions (M. O. Ogada et al. Conserv. Biol 17, 1521–1530; 2003). This finding has the potential to reduce conflict with humans, which is the main threat to lion survival.

In central Asia, the International Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Conservancy provide incentives to local herders for protecting snow leopards. These include insurance against damage by carnivores, veterinary care for livestock and income generation from handicrafts. Participating herders in Mongolia, the Kyrgyz Republic and Pakistan agree not to kill snow leopards or their prey, in exchange for access to foreign markets to sell labelled knitwear. The success of this programme owes much to peer pressure, as the whole community loses the bonus if one person violates the contract. In the eastern Kyrgyz Republic, this has led to the first year with no recorded poaching since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

We believe that these diverse pilot schemes will ensure that large carnivores in Africa and Asia have a good chance of persisting in the wild into the next century.