Falconry is used to manage populations of nuisance animals worldwide. For golfers who have waited for an Egyptian goose to leave before teeing off, the introduction of falconry raptors is clearing a path for a smoother game.
In South Africa, the past 30 years has seen an increase in Egyptian geese due to more farm dams. the expansion of agricultural crops and the introduction of urban green space. Lush expanses of grass provide grazing lawns. and open water provides a safe refuge, especially for flightless goslings. The birds are becoming a nuisance, particularly in the Western Cape, where they irritate golfers. residents and greenkeepers by obstructing play, being noisy, and fouling greens and fairways.
There are relatively few natural predators on golf courses. Planting reeds or bushes around water bodies and between fairways reduces ease of access to the birds’ water refuge. It also reduces the amount of perceived open space by obstructing their view. Another way to make the environment less comfortable is to introduce a predator. Prey animals avoid risky areas and choose to feed and breed in areas where they perceive the risk of threat to be lower. Harris’s hawks have been used with success on several golf courses in the Western Cape and Durban. Investigations into the impact of falconry on geese living on a golf course in Cape Town showed a reduction in geese by 73%.
The geese left the course because of an increased fear of predation, rather than direct predation by the hawks. Because the hawks were flown from a golf cart, geese learnt to associate carts with the threat of predation, therefore reducing the impact of geese on golf courses.
Written by Rob Little, a manager of the Department of Science and Technology – National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence (CoE) at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town
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