Animal brutality disgusts residents

Animal remains and a wire trapping cage were
collected by Burnside residents.

BURNSIDE – A resident who went into bush and thick underbrush in search of his missing dogs last week, found porcupines bludgeoned to death with steel droppers and domestic cats caught in wire snares.

• Who let the dogs out?

The young man who lives on a smallholding, was accompanied by his girlfriend to look for their dogs. “I was shocked to find more than 30 wire snares and two wire cages within one hectare of bush,” he said. Although the couple's dogs returned home safely, the same could not be said for their neighbour's cats. “I found the remains of cats and evidence that one had been snared,” he told Lowvelder this week.

He also discovered the remains of porcupines with steel droppers lying close by. A neighbour, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that monkeys' hands had recently been found at a deserted building on the property.

But now, according to them, their own lives might be in danger after they reported the slaughter of a small antelope to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA). The carcass was seen at the dwelling of a general labourer on the smallholding last Wednesday.

According to the couple, the carcass had been removed by the time the agency inspector arrived, but dried bush meat was found in his home. The culprit was issued with a R600 fine for being in possession of or handling monkey meat without a permit.

• Intimidation or coincidence?

It was after this, however, that troubles started for the couple and their neighbours. “On the Thursday, just after midnight, our dog barked and I saw two men at our fence, one already climbing over,” the man said, adding that at the same time, rocks were thrown on a neighbour's roof and a steel rod dragged across the burglar bars. A white bakkie without headlights was seen driving on the property on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

After a visit by the Nelspruit Flying Squad, the rest of the night passed without further incident. The residents suspect that a large syndicate that trades in bush meat and animal parts is at work here. “With so many snares and traps, why are there never any skins, hoofs or horns to be found?” he asks.

On Friday two of the neighbour's dogs were found to have been sprayed in the face with an oily substance that caused extensive blistering around the eyes and in their ears. “Now that they are targeting our animals, I am packing up and leaving,” one of the dog owners decided.

• Is this kind of poaching really that bad?

We asked our readers on Facebook whether this kind of poaching of small game was an offence that could be overlooked or did they think it required more serious consideration. The reaction was overwhelmingly in favour of serious action.

Zelda Prinsloo Barnard posted, “Poaching is poaching… Today it is small game and as time goes by they will start to poach an endangered species”. The sentiment that poaching is a crime, irrespective of the type of animal being killed, seemed to be the consensus.

Gary Hough, who writes that he used to be involved in anti-poaching, says that two types of poachers can be found, namely those who do it for sustenance (people who'll only take for their pot) and those who seek commercial gain. The latter includes syndicates that sell bush meat and make, according to Hough, a very handsome profit. “The sad thing is that snares don't discriminate when it comes to catching a particular species of game and I've had to cut dead animals like leopards, pangolins, and lions from snares. If there was a way to regulate hunting without snares, perhaps traditional spear and dog hunting which has been practiced for thousands of years, I would be the first person to give it the thumbs up.” It is the duty of every South African to protect wildlife to prevent extinction of species, says the MTPA about this issue. Evidence related to poaching activity must be reported to either the agency or the SAPS.

“Perpetrators are prosecuted for the contravention of Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act 10 of 1998, by MTPA and SAPS as well as the justice department,” according to MTPA spokesman, Ms Kholofelo Nkambule.

She said this kind of offence was common in the Lowveld and South Africa. About 107 cases have been reported since January 2013 and

2 800 cable snares were removed in the Lowveld region alone.

• Mpumalanga Animal Crime Watch

The complete account of the story can be found on the Facebook page of Mpumalanga Animal Crime Watch, a local group which wants to act as a watchdog against animal cruelty and criminal activities affecting animals. It aims to educate the public about this kind of poaching. A video of a puppy in a trap, used to attract bush pigs, is unsuitable for sensitive viewers.

Renowned conservationist, Dr Ian Player, writes on his website, ianplayer.com, “One of the cruellest types of poaching is snaring. I have seen animals lying in a twisted heap, their eyes bulging, slowly choking to death”.

  AUTHOR
Susanna Oosthuizen
Journalist

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