1Frame4Nature | Goldilocks, the Sheep and the Predator

What YOU Can Do: 

  • Take the time to meet people and discuss with them. Expose your points of view and arguments with passion and conviction. Make your voice heard.
  • Learn about your local habitats and wildlife conflict. No cause is lost. Everyone can change their minds. Write to your local representative explaining that there are other ways than conflict with the presence of natural predators.

–1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now!

South Africa, Western Cape, Little Karoo, Anysberg Nature Reserve, Wild Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas). Photo by Denis Palanque /Nathalie Houdin.

1Frame4Nature: Goldilocks, the Sheep and the Predator

Over the years, whether as a biologist or as a photographer, I have had the chance to meet some of the people who, through their hard work, involvement and passion, mark your mind irrevocably to the point of influencing your own certainties and actions.

Anysberg Nature Reserve, Western Cape, semi-arid Klein Karoo, South Africa. Photo by Denis Palanque / Nathalie Houdin.

In a rare way, these people bestow in you that dynamism that drives you to follow the right direction. The one that involves asking questions about our behavior, how we understand the world and how we interact with it. They make us believe that our actions could influence change in this world.

Marine Drouilly and the farmers who accommodated her took care of the young tamed caracal. Photo by Denis Palanque /Nathalie Houdin.

In 2014 and 2015, I was given the opportunity to work with my colleague conservation photographer, Nathalie Houdin, on an ambitious project called The Karoo Predator Project. At the origin of this project there is undoubtedly one of those incredibly inspiring persons, Marine Drouilly.

Biologist marine Drouilly wants to involve as many farmers as possible in her research. Here, she is showing us one of the soft catch she has modified to trap predators without injuring them. Photo by Denis Palanque /Nathalie Houdin.

This passionate young conservationist and carnivore biologist set out to understand the drivers of a complex human/predator conflict with international relevance in the semi-desert region of Karoo (South Africa).

Marine tries to involve farmers in her research. Here she invites the farmer Gustaaf Lund to put the GPS collar on the caracal they caught together on his farm in the Karoo. Beaufort West, Western Cape, South Africa. Photo by Denis Palanque / Nathalie Houdin.

The Karoo Predator Project works closely with small-livestock farmers in an attempt to understand the conflict and promote co-existence with predators on commercial farmlands.

During the weeks working on these sites, I was offered the chance to see a real ray of hope emerging. Thanks to her great strength of conviction and her day-to-day work full of passion, I witnessed farmers changing their perception of predators, showing that working together can be the driving force for biodiversity conservation outside of protected areas.

Lukas Botes, a farmer involved in the Karoo Project Predator of the scientist Marine Drouilly, here with his new guardian sheep dog named “Marine” (Maluti Mountain dog) in tribute to the involvement of the scientist, Merinos sheeps. Photo by Denis Palanque /Nathalie Houdin.

Marine talked with the farmers about the different options for handling the threat of predators preying on their livestock. Each alternative requires that farmers reduce the vulnerability of their livestock to predators. This seems obvious enough, but creativity is key because predators adapt very quickly to any obstacles.

Western Cape, Karoo, South Africa. Photo by Denis Palanque / Nathalie Houdin.

Methods can range from the use of maintained electric fences to the use of protection dogs, such as the Maluti, as well as anti-predation collars, such as the King collars. The challenge is to brainstorm innovative solutions to outwit the predators and keep them out of harm’s way and out of the sheep pens. That way it is a triple win, for the predators (whose place in the ecological web of life is irreplaceable), for the farmers, and certainly for the sheep.

Typical landscape of Karoo with it’s low and dry vegetation. Western Cape, Karoo, South Africa. Photo by Denis Palanque / Nathalie Houdin.

This blog post is not about protecting a specific species more unique than another. All deserve to be saved. Today’s common species must not become the threatened species of tomorrow. It is obvious. I solely want to illustrate the interconnectedness of the natural world and human society and also introduce people on the front lines of environmental issues, and those dedicated to making a difference. This post depicts how a conservation project, led by a small French woman nicknamed “Goldilocks” by farmers, is making a positive difference on the ground for both people and wildlife.

Since the cessation of government aid, farmers organized in small communities come together regularly to talk about their professions, problems and the future. It is also an opportunity for Marine to come to meet farmers, sharing with them her results to convince them to get involved in the project. Photo by Denis Palanque / Nathalie Houdin.

It is time that these heroes of conservation come out of the shadows. Their work is incredibly remarkable, but for the most part completely unknown outside scientific circles. Conservation is not simply reserved for science and academia. It must be the concern of all.

Anysberg Nature Reserve, Western Cape, semi-arid Klein Karoo, South Africa. Photo by Denis Palanque / Nathalie Houdin.

With years of experience in both wildlife photography and conservation biology, Denis Palanque is an engaged conservationist with an insatiable curiosity for discovery and storytelling. He challenges himself to be both an artist and a scientist, both sensitive and rational at once. Read the rest of his bio here.