Hunters bust, then lost

2011-03-17 00:00

TROPHY hunting among dog hunters is decimating wildlife, especially the endangered Oribi population in the province, but a recent incident in which the perpetrators were allegedly released by police has left a bad taste in the mouths of those who are fighting to curb it.

Concerned Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) honorary officer chairperson at Lions River, Janine Smith, expressed her disappointment after hunters, allegedly caught in the act, were allegedly allowed to escape by police.

She said a Rietvlei farmer had seen a reedbuck being chased by hunting dogs on his farm.

The three vehicles which had transported the dogs were located. Other farmers, the Rietvlei police and EKZNW were contacted to help search for the hunters and drivers.

Police remained with the vehicles to ensure that they were not driven away by the drivers.

The Pietermaritzburg Public Order Policing (POP) unit arrived and one of the drivers was seen walking along the road. He was apprehended and handed over to the police. Eventually the two other hidden drivers surrendered after the threat to have their vehicles impounded.

Smith said the hunters and their dogs could be heard in the plantation but only much later came out onto the road. “There were 13 men with 21 Africanus greyhound-like hunting dogs.This area is well known for its oribi and Blue crane populations, which are listed as endangered species. Oribi are the preferred antelope with dog hunters as they are easy prey.”

Smith said the hunters and their dogs were loaded into the three vehicles and were told to drive directly to the Rietvlei Police Station.

“The first bakkie was escorted by a security company and the two Riet­vlei constables, and arrived safely at the police station with nine hunters and 15 dogs. Unfortunately the second bakkie and the taxi were left to the POP unit to escort to the police station.”

A disappointed Smith said these two vehicles never arrived.

At the police station the dogs were given water and sprayed down with a hose because they had been without water for many hours.

The Howick SPCA came to inspect the dogs and four were found to be in bad health. They were taken for treatment, and to be spayed and neutered.

An abandoned dog is also being kept until the court has given its ruling on the fate of these dogs.

“This was not the normal kind of hunt where a jackpot for the first antelope brought down was at stake, but was a challenge from the Rietvlei local hunters to the Durban hunters to show their dog-hunting skills.”

Smith alleges that the two opposing teams each put in money and the first dog to bring down a kill was to win its owners the jackpot. She said nine out of ten times, hunts of this nature are not for the pot. “It’s pure gambling. The Rietvlei hunters said that the Durban hunters are not as good as them.”

She said that in this particular instance, although some of the dogs had blood on their paws, a carcass could not be located. She alleged that the absconded taxi driver was the organiser of this hunt.

The suspects appeared in the Greytown court on March 7 and the case was remanded to today.

Commenting on the incident, EKZN spokesperson Jeff Gaisford said EKZNW remains deeply concerned about the ongoing level of this type of illegal hunting, and is working closely with the police and farming communities to contain it. “We encourage landowners to report any suspicious activities of this nature to their local Ezemvelo District Conservation Officer, honorary officer or the police. The fact that two vehicles that were implicated in this particular incident managed to escape the net is a great disappointment.”

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan confirmed the incident and said six people were arrested for illegal hunting.

They appeared in the Greytown Magistrate’s Court and were released on warning and will re-appear in court today.

“With regard to the allegations that suspects’ vehicles did not arrive at the police station after being escorted by the POP members — this matter is under investigation. If it is found that members have neglected their duties, the necessary disciplinary action will be instituted against the members concerned. The investigations are continuing and further arrests are imminent.”

Smith commended the Howick SPCA for its willingness to care for the hunting dogs that are in ill health or badly injured. “In most cases the magistrate does not hand down a sentence that the owners are liable for the medication, kennelling or spaying/neutering. The costs are borne by the Howick SPCA. The only assistance they receive is dog food provided by the Lions River Honorary Officer Unit.”

 

 

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