Poaching for a bet on the rise

2016-01-12 06:00

Despite ongoing, concerted efforts by officials, illegal hunting of wild animals in nature reserves is still on the rise.

It is estimated that dozens of animals are poached every month, according to the City of Cape Town’s environmental resource management department.

The main types of animal targeted and caught are small antelope, such as Cape grysbok, porcupine and Cape hare. However, any mammal, including caracal and mongoose, is vulnerable.

While the exact figure is unknown, the marked decrease or even absence of particular animals at some sites is evidence of the impact of this illegal activity.

Department officials are urging the public to be vigilant and report poachers or any suspicious activity to their nearest law enforcement or nature conservation office.

While some of the poaching is for meat, many animals are also killed for their horns, hooves and organs.

Porcupine quills are used extensively in the tourism industry.

In Cape Town, however, the primary reason for much of the illegal hunting is for the practice of gambling. Dogs are used for illegal hunting and bets are placed on the dogs used in the hunt.

Poachers can usually be identified when three to five people are walking with a pack of about 18 dogs near nature reserves.

The setting of snares also remains a problem in some areas. Detecting this activity is difficult. Snares are usually placed along game paths and in holes in fences.

There are currently a few groups who hunt with large packs of dogs on the False Bay coastline between the Zandvlei Nature Reserve and the Macassar Dunes conservation area.

Last year, six arrests were made, of which three occurred at the Wolfgat nature Reserve (“Poachers also a local problem”, People’s Post, 13 October 2015).

The three men were caught at the reserve hunting porcupines with a pack of dogs.

While the arrests are encouraging, poaching remains a problem, says Johan van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning.

Difficult to protect“It is extremely difficult to police because many of our nature reserves are not fenced and there are numerous access points. Also, perpetrators are difficult to apprehend because they hunt at all times of day and during all weather conditions. Snares are often set and checked after hours,” he says.

“All of the species targeted during hunting are protected. Although they are not globally threatened with extinction, these species may become locally extinct if hunting continues. We have already noticed that there is almost no browsing occurring in the Macassar dunes and Wolfgat Nature Reserve, which means that porcupine and small antelope numbers have been greatly reduced in this ecosystem.”

“In addition, the hunting methods are considered inhumane,” he says.

“Residents need to work with the City so that together we can clamp down on illegal hunting to protect our animals and our environment for future generations. A tip-off could lead to an arrest and any arrest of poachers will be a significant achievement,” says Van der Merwe.

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