Speaking to the assembled crowd of more than 300 game farmers and their families, Hauptfleisch informed them of his current research and emphasised that with many commercial livestock farmers converting their operations to include wildlife, the practice has given rise to particular challenges regarding rangeland management. “Compared to cattle and sheep, it is much more difficult to ensure adequate grazing for wildlife without degrading the land,” Hauptfleisch said.
His research, in collaboration with Germany’s Potsdam University, focusses on developing rangeland management strategies specifically for wildlife to ensure sustainable grass and browse production while maintaining biodiversity. He welcomed the opportunity to speak to the game farmers because their contributions help him and his students to establish which rangeland challenges are the most prominent and also whether farmers have developed successful rangeland management activities which could be shared with others.
Hauptfleisch said the Poly team was able to exchange valuable information with the game farmers. “The questions asked related primarily to observations of rangeland degradation and we received a number of invitations to game farms to view their particular challenges. The farmers support the idea of assisting us to train wildlife managers who could work in their operations,” he said. The students were also able to interview the game farmers and gained a lot of knowledge of the industry. The farmers found the students to be very engaging and quite knowledgeable on the topic of wildlife management.
The Poly team was accompanied by Prof Michaela Buenemann, a visiting Geospatial Cloud Computing expert from the University of New Mexico who introduced the students to smartphone applications designed for collecting ecological and biophysical data.
This was the second time that Hauptfleisch and his team engaged the wildlife industry. At a previous auction a month ago, Ronnie Coleman of Nabibis Game generously presented the team with sponsorship of N$30 000 towards the research project. The sponsorship will enable additional field research relating to the challenges experienced by game farmers.