No Relief from Gin traps for South Africa’s wildlife.
REPORT ON WILDLIFE FORUM MEETING IN CAPE TOWN ON 11th JUNE, 2012
Present were the MEC Anton Bredell, Harry Prinsloo and four other members of the farming industry, Justin O’riain, Dr Quinton Martins from Cape Leopard Trust, Annie from Cheetah Outreach, Kas Hamman, Jaco van Deventer and Ernst Baard from Cape Nature, Adri Kitshoff from PHASA, Mick D’Alton from W. Cape Hunters Association, Chris Mercer from CACH, Jenni Trethowan of Baboon Matters and Louise v.d. Merwe and Tozie Zokufa from Humane Education Trust. Notable absentee: Cape SPCA.
Veterinarian Marc Walton was elected Chariman and he chaired the meeting ably.
The farmers’ concerns were expressed at the very outset: they wanted a blanket permit for each farmer to decide for himself how to combat predation in any way he deemed fit, and without any permits.
It was pointed out that this would be unlawful, and Government could not support a lawless free for all.
The gin trap issue sparked frank and lively debate, which lasted three hours.
The conservationist/animal welfare contingent were deeply unhappy about the draft protocol drawn up by Cape Nature with the Predator Management arm of the farming industry. The draft was criticized as:
1. Reintroducing the hunt clubs
2. Offending both the Constitution and national conservation legislation
3. Prolonging a policy – indeed a culture – of lethal methods of problem animal control which had been used for 350 years and been proved to be both cruel, destructive of biodiversity – and ineffective.
What alternatives to killing were put up for debate; why the farmers rejected them; and whether those reasons are convincing.
1. Herders. One suggestion was that farmers employ herders. The farmers declined this option citing South Africa’s rigid and onerous labor laws as a disincentive to employ herders. Hey, farmers have been killing predators in SA for 350 years, even when labour was cheap and farmers could hire and fire at will. Only recently have new labour laws been imposed on farmers, and whilst inconvenient to employers everywhere, raising this objection now to justify destruction of biodiversity by farmers looks to me like an excuse rather than a real reason.
2. Kraaling at night. We proposed that farmers kraal their livestock at night, instead of leaving them alone out in the veld at the mercy of predators. This proposal met with no interest, the farmers saying that herding the animals into a safe camp at night would cause erosion in that vicinity. Again, I do not find this reason convincing. Erosion occurs around drinking points, but farmers do not stop giving water to livestock.
3. ‘Soft’ gin traps. Another suggestion was for farmers to surrender their awful old gin traps for somewhat less barbaric, ‘soft’ traps, which are not quite so bone breaking – if adjusted and used correctly – and monitored every day! I do not know why the Forum could not at least find consensus on this, at least as an interim measure. I do not believe that this is an ethical alternative, especially since we know that existing traps are not monitored every day. Every type of trap requires rigorous monitoring, and farmers have other tasks to do.
4. Anatolian sheep dogs and other guard animals. Some farmers use these with reportedly good results, but there are only one hundred of these dogs working, and there are sixteen hundred wool farmers alone in the Western Cape. Ostriches were not mentioned though we have seen how aggressive ostriches are with predators.
The farmers believe that a para-military lethal onslaught on problem animals was the only possible solution – despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Members of the Forum were of the view that the farmers were indeed suffering stock losses from predators and that something needed to be done, but that the proposed lethal onslaught would only serve to damage biodiversity and would not solve the farmers’ problem. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and again, and expecting a different result.
It is my personal opinion that the sale, use and possession of all gin traps, and the use of poison, should be banned outright. This would then compel (law-abiding) farmers to look at different forms of predator management. Poison and gin traps are so indiscriminate, so environmentally ruinous, that I am still confused as to why so many farmers adamantly insist upon going down a road that is 350 years old and has proved to be ineffective.
Unless the farmers become more open to change, negative perceptions against the industry will spread, and farmers – along with our wildlife heritage – will be the losers.
For the background to this Forum read : Should South Africa Issue Permits to Hunt Predators?