Residents of the Karkloof and Curry’s Post area, along with their security company, rounded up 16 alleged poachers and their dogs early on Sunday morning.
Station commissioner of the Howick police station, Sandra Mncwabe, said the men have been charged with illegal hunting. She said their 27 dogs were being sheltered at the SPCA because the police did not have a place to keep them.
Mncwabe added that the stock theft unit will take over the investigations. The men are in custody and will appear in court on Monday or Tuesday.
Local farmer William Saunderson-Meyer said that a farmer spotted the men and their dogs moving across his land. He managed to shoot one dog before the gang retreated into the bush. Alerted by Magma Investigations and Security on WhatsApp, support rushed to the scene from the valley.
Saunderson-Meyer said “Wildlife in the area, which is part of the Midlands Meander tourist destination, has been severely depleted by several hunting excursions in the last months. Mostly the lightning nature of the poaching operation means that they escape scot-free.
“Farmers and conservationists are also incensed that police seem to be reluctant to act against the gangs by pursuing arrests through prosecution. Landowners who have encountered poachers and confronted them, have been threatened by the increasingly brazen gangs.”
He added that about a month ago a hunting party swept through the Bosch Hoek Estate, the dogs pulling down and savaging buck on the front lawns of some homes. Farmers pursued them but gave up the chase at Mpophomeni.
He said the hunters mostly target reedbuck, duiker and oribi.
“This is not just the occasional buck for the pot. Apparently it forms part of a big betting business. Punters rent a dog for the day from syndicate owner trainers. These are highly trained animals. They hunt silently — no barking. Bets are laid. The biggest pot over the day rakes in the winnings,” said Saunderson-Meyer.
Owner of Magma Investigations and Security, Shaheen Suleiman, said his company has formed a task team to investigate poaching following requests by his clients.
His security guards were observing the area early on Sunday morning when they spotted the hunters.
“They saw people come onto three privately owned farms with dogs and chased after them.”
Suleiman added that the occurrence was common in KwaZulu-Natal. He concurred with Saunderson-Meyer that it appeared to be a sport and had nothing to do with hunting for food because of tough economic times.
“It is a gambling habit. The hunters put money in a kitty and the dogs that kill the most animals takes all the cash and goes home with the prize, the carcass,” he said, adding that three weeks ago, his guards had caught suspected hunters in Eston.