Small game poaching running wild

The injuries caused by a wire snare to the dog of Mrs Lindie Nel who lives on the Jatinga road.

BURNSIDE – “This makes me morbid,” said Mr JK Klopper after examining the fourth skeleton of the day, this time the remains of a tiny animal, most probably that of a baby monkey.

Klopper is part of a growing number of Lowvelders who are taking action against the rampant poaching of small game by way of cable or wire snares.

On this particular sortie into a 1,5-hectare section of Burnside bush, Klopper and Lowvelder discovered the remains of porcupine, duiker, a bushbuck and monkeys. According to information on wildlifecampus.com, monkeys and small cats are caught and sold for muti.

Klopper, a self-styled bush warrior, is the founder of Mpumalanga Animal Crime Watch and wants to assist landowners with the clearing of traps – hard physical work, often demanding leopard-crawling through thick brush and alien vegetation such as lantana. Lowvelder recently experienced the arduous nature of snare removal while accompanying Klopper on another mission in Plaston.

The horrible telltale scars of a wire-snare injury are still visible around the neck of one of Ms Lindie Nel’s dogs. Her son, Liaan, has cut no less than three canines loose from traps near their smallholding on the Jatinga Road in the past month. “We can hear the dogs crying from a kilometre away,” says Liaan who has braved the bush at night to free these animals. The snares are set to catch small animals such as otter near a stream. Six traps were removed within 30 minutes by Klopper. Signs of a struggle surrounded one and porcupine quills were scattered at another. On his own property, he had removed over 30 of them in the past two weeks. Last week, he discovered an empty paint tin next to the Burnside Road, with large amounts of animal hair inside, and markings on the road pointing to the cache. “Why would someone do this, if this is not a collection point of some sort?” he asks. Upon returning two days later, he found evidence of fresh activity at this spot, “this means the poacher is able to deliver an animal every two days,” he believes.

If this is indeed the case, this could mean that as many as 15 duiker and porcupine are caught on this property alone each month, and a whopping 180 per year.

Mr April Lukhele of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) stressed the importance of curbing this kind of unrestrained massacre. “Landowners should make an effort to educate tenants and workers,” he says. He cites species such as red duiker which occurs only in the Lowveld and certain parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Lukhele says it is most often foreigners who are arrested for these crimes, “They don’t have our kind of nature-conservation laws in of the region raises questions about the action taken by farmers and landowners to address this illegal activity. A resident of the Heidel Valley, Mr Barry Carlse, says generally, the culprits are temporary workers. “Farmers are pleased to have small game around and will protect them where they can, dealing with the issue accordingly,” he states.

Tackling this issue, however, doesn’t come without its risks, as Klopper’s household and two of his neighbours have discovered.

After alerting the MTPA of a possible bush-meat trade going on in the area, tenants on the smallholding have been terrorised, and their pets attacked. Nel said her neighbours told her she was “crazy” to want to do something about this matter. She said, “I can lock up my own dogs, but that doesn’t take away the problem.” Residents on the Curlews Road say they have lost three canines to traps in the past year, “We believe it is the labourers on the surrounding farms that set them.”

According to Animal Rights Africa, “The illegal killing of wild animals for meat, the so-called use and trade of ‘bush meat’, is believed to be one of the greatest direct causes of the decline of wild animals in Africa. The increasing demand for it is also driving the high rate of poaching. According to a Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna’s resolution, poaching and illicit trade in bush meat, constitute the greatest threat to the survival of wildlife species.”

Klopper and Mpumalanga Animal Crime Watch offer snare-removal services free of charge in areas where there seems to be a great need. “There are many beautiful bush areas in the Lowveld, but once you start walking there you find one trap after the other – it is quite shocking!” He urges volunteers interested to assist with removal to make contact with him through the Facebook page “Mpumalanga Animal Crime Watch”.

Also active in snare removal is a company called HEAL, operating in Houtbosloop, the Schoemankloef and the Stadtsriver valleys near Nelspruit. Sine HEAL was founded in 2011, more than 11 000 snares have been removed. A report for March 2013, for example, indicated that 35 snares were removed in these areas by five rangers.

Lukhele echoes the opinion of many Lowvelders, that is that this kind of crime will continue as long as there is a large contingent of people that suffer from a protein deficiency in their diet.

  AUTHOR
Susanna Oosthuizen
Journalist

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