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In module 1, the concepts of what wildlife management and conservation involves are explored in an African context, illustrating the major issues and challenges faced by African wildlife managers. This module explores major ecological crises affecting African wildlife including the conservation threats to African predators and African apes.
Some of the strategies employed are discussed along with a comparison of their success or failures. This module includes an evaluation of the social and economic impacts of wildlife management in Africa.
The adaptations and specialisations of the African predators have evolved to enable them to obtain sufficient food and live long enough to mate and pass on their genes, while also competing successfully with other predators. However, despite millions of years of evolution to get the predators to the form that we see them in today, they have not yet been able to evolve mechanisms to escape the pressure placed on their populations by human development.
Whether by direct persecution (e.g. hunting, trapping or poisoning) or indirectly via loss of habitat or prey, many African predators are threatened with extinction. Providing safe areas in the form of game reserves or National Parks may assist in the conservation of some species, but not others. Competition between predator species necessitates that reserves stock only appropriate numbers of each predator species, so that the prey base supports all predators present.
This often means that weaker competitors, such as the African wild dog or cheetah, are present in much lower numbers than lions or Spotted hyaenas. Likewise, the migratory or roaming nature of some predators means that they will not stay within the boundaries of the reserve. Furthermore, fragmentation of populations that are restricted to fenced reserves has implications for the survival of those populations.
Genetic diversity may be reduced and the natural dispersal of young animals prohibited. These problems can lead to increased disease susceptibility or other problems associated with inbreeding, as well as increased territorial disputes between residents and juveniles that are prevented from dispersing. Wetlands are often drained for agricultural use or human settlements.
The loss of these areas poses particularly problems for many predators, including loss of priming hunting grounds. The serval is one such species that is especially affected by the loss of wetlands. The destruction of habitat, hunting of game species (e.g. antelope, gazelle, zebra, buffalo, etc) or alteration of land for human use has resulted in significant declines in the prey populations relied upon by many African predators.
This has forced the predators to move away from certain areas, or to resort to taking livestock from farmlands. In some areas, the loss of prey has resulted in localised extinction of some predator species. These issues and more are explored in this 2 module wildlife management course.
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