Easy meat for killer wildlife

2014-10-02 00:00

THE public protector has found that the official solution to regular wild animal attacks outside KZN game reserves is “to run away”.

And Thuli Madonsela was equally astonished to learn that the attitude of wildlife authorities to shepherds who defend their flocks from leopards is that they “are asking for it”.

Madonsela found that KZN Environmental Affairs and Ezemvelo Wildlife were at fault for “ongoing” attacks on people and livestock by escaped predators outside the Imfolozi Reserve.

She said a fund should be created to compensate victims within the Okhukho, Hluhluwe and other bordering communities. No figures on the attacks were provided.

In a report that sometimes showed a charming unfamiliarity with wildlife — with references to “tigers” bounding fences and “cheaters” stalking humans — Madonsela found that Ezemvelo Wildlife was guilty of maladministration for failing to secure wild animals within its boundaries.

She discovered that much of the reserve’s fencing dated back to the 1950s, and that at least 73 km needed replacing, at a cost of some R50 million. Officials told her that buffalo occasionally barged through boundary fences while escaping predators, which then used the opportunity to target the much easier domesticated prey outside.

Yesterday, KZN’s legendary conservationist Dr Ian Player said the report addressed a major problem, but told The Witness that bordering communities should be compensated through the legalisation of the trade in rhino horn.

Credited with saving the white rhino as an innovative ranger in the 1950s, Player said: “There is no doubt people are being attacked. These very poor and deprived communities should be given ownership of rhino. The whole problem boils down to the fact that there is not enough money, and there is a fortune sitting there. One kilo of horn sells for $6 500 (R73 100).”

Although attacks on humans were infrequent, Madonsela said she met a number of attack victims during her investigation. A widow, “Mrs M”, lost her entire herd of 20 goats to a single attack.

Madonsela complimented MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu for his immediate commitment to fixing the fences, identifying victims in need of compensation, and changing old policies.

But she chastised Ezemvelo wildlife officials for their cold-hearted response to the problem: “They claimed that attacks are usually triggered by people failing to obey advice given by game officials not to fight back when livestock is attacked and run away to call game rangers. I must say I took a dim view of this.”

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