Ostrich farmer characteristics predict conservation opportunity

Anita Wheeler, Andrew T. Knight, Mark Difford, Susanne Vetter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Environmental sustainability rests on human choice and action. Understanding these may assist in determining the factors that predict or influence an individual’s behaviour towards the environment. In South Africa, approximately 80% of the most threatened vegetation types are in the hands of the private agricultural community. In the Little Karoo, which is situated in the Succulent Karoo biodiversity hotspot, unsustainable land-use practices including ostrich flock breeding threaten this region’s lowland biodiversity. We interviewed ostrich farmers in the Oudtshoorn Basin to quantify latent variables thought to represent components of conservation opportunity: environmental attitude, conservation knowledge, conservation behaviour, and willingness to collaborate with agricultural, environmental and conservation organisations. Three groups of land managers were identified: (1) younger land managers (<31 years’ farming experience) with bigger farms (≥2050 ha) who had above-average scores for all four indicators, (2) older farmers (≥31 years’ farming experience) who had above-average scores for environmental attitude and conservation knowledge, average scores for environmental attitude, but low willingness to collaborate, and (3) a large group of younger farmers (<31 years’ farming experience) with smaller properties (<2050 ha) who had low to average scores for all four indicators. Farmers in the first two groups represent the best opportunities for conservation, although different strategies would have to be employed to engage them given the current low willingness to collaborate among older farmers. Land managers were more willing to collaborate with agricultural than conservation organisations, pointing to a need to involve agricultural organisations in championing more environmentally sustainable ostrich breeding practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5540
JournalSouth African Journal of Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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