Vultures killed for muthi?

2013-08-01 00:00

THE owner of a farm on which wildlife experts discovered the carcasses of 48 Cape vultures, believes the birds may have been killed for muthi.

Gary Porritt, the owner of New Hope farm, says he is doing his own investigation into what happened.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife have launched an investigation, but have not yet pressed charges against any individual.

The rare Cape vultures, which are protected by law, were found dead at the farm in the Swartberg region last week.

New Hope farm is one of a number of farms that belong to the Snowdon Farm Family Trust, owned by the Porritt family.

The Cape vultures died after ingesting carbofuran — a poison used to kill worms. The poison was apparently in the carcass of a sheep.

Yesterday, Porritt released a statement saying his family were devastated by the turn of events. The statement said: “The Porritt family, who have fed and nurtured the colony of vultures on their lands over the past 33 years, are devastated by the mass death by poisoning of these birds.

“The Porritts, like most long-time farmers, are active conservationists. When they arrived to start farming in this part of the country, where the principal farming activity was cattle and sheep, very little wild animal life was to be seen. Since Gary Porritt introduced large-scale maize farming to the area, rare and not-so-rare species of birds and animals have proliferated on the food provided by the extensive crops.

“Where previously it was uncommon to see a reedbuck, a duiker or even a hare in the area, now these are abundant, and even oribi are present. It is not unusual to see a flock of 200 crowned cranes, in addition to the endangered blue cranes and the highly endangered wattled cranes, spread out over a field feasting on the early maize plantings.”

Porritt, speaking to The Witness yesterday, said he was not on the farm when the incident happened and that when he heard the news it was like “a piece of barbed wire being pulled through the gut”.

He said: “We love the birds on our property and could never envisage this kind of tragedy. We have recently been involved in stopping a local illegal hunt, where the locals had used hunting dogs to catch small buck. We caught the guys and called the cops, and then we used our own security company to take the culprits to the police station.

“I am sure that there was a muthi element involved in the killing of these birds, because people in the area know that they feed well on our property and perhaps it was their ­intention to get away with the carcasses.”

Porritt said the Cape vultures have bred well on the farm and have tripled in numbers over the years. “We also have blue crane and wattled crane on our land, and it’s a source of pride for us.”

Police spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge said on Tuesday that a criminal case of poisoning is being investigated and other charges, including killing endangered species or malicious damage to property, may be added.

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