Cape Town - Illegal dog hunters and gamblers, or 'taxi hunters' as they have been labelled by CapeNature, are threatening the unique biodiversity of South Africa.
The taxi hunting practice came under the spotlight after six men from the Nomzamo township in the Strand were arrested in Melkbosstrand for the illegal possession and hunting of wild animals in July this year. The suspects were arrested after they were intercepted by Melkbosstrand SAPS on the R27 West Coast Road and the carcasses of a Cape fox and porcupine were found in their possession - together with 11 hunting dogs.
The dogs were all transported in a taxi, from where they were released into the West Coast nature to hunt down animals. According to Leandi Wessels, CapeNature Conservation services officer, “The dogs involved in these ‘taxi hunts’ are usually lurchers – cross-bred hounds usually containing greyhound and whippet genes."
Unlike with other biodiversity crimes, the reason for these hunts are not even about what the hunters are able to harvest. "It appears the outcome is solely for the participants bet on anything, from whose dog and which dog will make the first kill, to which species of animal will be brought down first," Wessels says. "The practice may therefore also include illegal gambling."
According to Samson Phakati, senior field officer at the Endangered Wildlife Trust, ‘taxi hunts’ are a corruption of traditional hunting and cannot be regarded as a traditional cultural practice.
He says poaching with dogs is a destructive and indiscriminate hunting method and any animal that moves is chased down and attacked, including livestock. ‘Taxi hunting’ has markedly increased over last year, particularly along the West Coast.”
He confirms that ‘taxi hunting’ is one of the major contributors to the decline of the endangered oribi, a small antelope species, in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
"Poachers often travel far distances to conduct hunts, trespassing on private property without any permission from landowners, hunting permits or licenses to hunt wild animals illegally for sport and gambling," Phakati says.
Despite progressive environmental legislation, the unprecedented poaching of wildlife in South Africa is increasing.
If you'd like to curb illegal activities that are affecting the environment, check out: 8 Biodiversity crimes you should know about and report and Fighting bio-diversity crime: 3 Misconceptions we often make
Law enforcement officials, together with community policing forums and neighborhood watches, are compiling a focused anti-poaching plan for the West Coast area where the Nomzamo poachers where arrested. Members of the public with information regarding illegal hunting on the West Coast can contact Leandi Wessels on 021-955-9121/0.
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