Pongola croc farmer fined R290?000 for illegal pens

2013-01-18 00:00

A KWAZULU-NATAL crocodile far-mer has been fined R290 000 by the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs for building crocodile pens on his farm without a permit, said the National Council of the SPCA (NSPCA) yesterday.

Coen Labuschagne of the Metcroc Boerdery in Pongola was reportedly fined by the department for building pens for crocodiles without an environmental impact assessment done, said the organisation yesterday.

Jeffrey Zikhali, spokesperson of the department, yesterday said their officials had visited Labuschagne’s farm following reports that he had built pens without proper authorisation and he was issued with an administrative fine.

Labuscagne is reportedly appealing the fine.

The NSPCA also accused Labuscagne of animal cruelty. It said that he keeps the crocodiles incarcerated for up to six months to grow them so they could be slaughtered to supply the fashion trade.

Earlier last year, the NSPCA laid criminal charges against him for animal cruelty, but the state declined to prosecute.

Nazareth Appalsamy of the NSPCA said in a statement: “These single pens are referred to as the ‘finishing pens’, as the sole purpose is to restrict movement, increase growth and ultimately avoid confrontation or interaction amongst other crocodiles, thereby guaranteeing no injuries to the skins.

“The NSPCA stance is that the practice of keeping crocodiles incarcerated in single pens is inherently cruel, unacceptable and a violation of the Animals Protection Act. The crocodiles are being unnecessarily imprisoned.

“The pens measure less than a metre across and are less than two metres in length with a depth of only 250/300 mm of water.”

“Some of the crocodiles themselves are more than two metres in length and so their tails are bent in the enclosure or their heads have to be permanently at an angle … they cannot lie or rest straight.

“There is no shadecloth or shelter …” said Appalsamy.

Labuschagne said the allegations were ridiculous and he is contemplating legal action.

“These people hate me and they are continuously after me,” he said of the NSPCA.

His lawyer, Philip Markram, of Uys and Partners, said his client would respond to the claims by the NSPCA comprehensively in due course. “The statement is defamatory and devoid of all truth,” he added.

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