Report illegal ‘taxi hunting’, urges wildlife watchdog

2011-02-25 00:00

THE Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is calling on the public to report illegal dog hunting.

“If we don’t stop this practice, antelope like the oribi could soon be extinct in South Africa,” says Samson Phakathi, field officer with EWT’s threatened grassland species programme based at Midmar Dam.

“Oribi are already threatened by habitat loss, and hunting with domestic dogs is causing a serious decline in the population. Hunting with dogs also affects livestock, which has financial implications for farmers.”

While there are cases where hunters are driven by hunger, most hunting of oribi takes the form of sport hunting. It is a highly organised activity and hunters come from all over the province to participate in “taxi hunts”.

“They are called ‘taxi hunts’ because many of those involved in illegal hunting are taxi owners,” says Phakathi. “It’s an expensive sport and you have to be financially well-off to engage in it.”

Winning dogs can earn tens of thousands of rands in a single hunt, while successful dogs can fetch anything between R10 000 and R24 000.

“Hunts take place with 20 to 30 dogs or sometimes more,” says Phakathi.

There are reports of up to 40 people being involved in a single taxi hunt and, faced with such numbers, flushed animals stand little chance of escape.

Hunts usually take place on private property and at times when the land owner is away.

“Contact people in different areas will pass on information,” says Phakathi.

To address this issue EWT hos­ted a dog hunting stakeholder meeting earlier this month, attended by stakeholders from across the province, such as land owners, conservation officials, security companies, conservancy representatives, forestry companies and conservation NGOs.

A database has been established by the EWT’s threatened grassland species programme to record illegal hunting incidents, gain an understanding of how hunting is organised, and locate main areas where it takes place.

“There is also a need to educate people about the law,” says Phakathi.

To this end EWT has translated some of the relevant legislation into isiZulu and will be disseminating it to rural communities in KZN.

• If you have information on illegal hunting involving dogs, contact Samson Phakathi at 082 805 4806 or 033 330 6982. Information will be treated as confidential.

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