Zebras shot and skinned

2014-08-02 00:00

SHOOTERS using high-powered rifles shot dead three zebras at Ashburton outside Pietermaritzburg this week.

One of the slain zebras had signs of having survived being snared at least three times before it was finally downed by the poachers’ guns.

The question that is plaguing wildlife lovers is who would want to shoot these zebras and why?

An ardent conservationist, who asked not to be named for safety reasons, is putting up a R5 000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the poachers.

Passionate wildlife lovers Mark Lederle and Rob Lambert, who were recently in the news for rescuing an Nyala ram trapped in a mudhole in the same area, told The Witness Lerderle received a call from a fellow enthusiast earlier this week. This after stumbling across one of the recently shot and skinned zebra carcasses in the vicinity of the Ashburton racehorse training centre.

Coincidentally the same day they came across the skinned carcasses of two more zebras in the bush along the Lion Park road.

The site where those zebras had been shot dead was about three kilometres from the scene where the first carcass was found shot.

Often called “horses in pyjamas or horses with stripes”, Lederle said there was something very forlorn about the sight of the slain and skinned animals, obviously killed purely for their hides.

But he said, although the zebras appeared to have been professionally skinned, the hunters did not include the head, which would have the effect of decreasing the value of the hide by at least 50% if the motive was a commercial one.

The poachers also left behind the tails and the meat was untouched.

Lederle said two of the zebras were shot through the chest with what was clearly a high-powered rifle, although the exact calibre is still unknown.

One bullet passed straight through one animal, from front to back.

The third zebra was shot through the shoulder.

Lederle said a very sharp knife must have been used to skin the hides off the zebras.

One of the zebras still had a “snapped off” snare still tangled around its neck, and the scars of a previous snaring were also visible in the neck area. There was also damage to its foot caused by a previous snaring.

“This shows that this zebra fought off three snares already in its life. Now someone goes and plugs it in the chest,” he said bitterly.

Anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the poachers will receive a reward of R5 000, which is being channelled via Lederle.

He said information can be passed on to him via cellphone on the number 076 031 4035.

A protected species

The Witness established from legal sources that zebras are a protected species in terms of the Natal Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1974.

This means that anyone hunting or killing a zebra in KZN requires a permit.

To shoot it without a permit can attract a fine of R20 000 or one year’s imprisonment per zebra.

In addition, a person found to be in possession or dealing in the hide or any other part of the illegally hunted animal also faces a possible fine of R20 000 or one year’s imprisonment per offence.

These sentences are applicable for first-time offenders. If the culprit has a relevant previous conviction the sentences can double.

The Witness was told zebra poaching isn’t common mainly because people are not keen to eat the meat, which is “like horse meat”.

However “good prices” can be obtained for zebra hides sold as rugs or wall decorations. This is borne out by sites on the Internet. One website, Wildlife Etc, an importer of zebra skin rugs, advertises them at prices “starting at $1 450 [R15 500]”.

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