Baby giraffe dies in snare

Guy Rogers rogersg@avusa.co.za

A BABY giraffe has died trapped in a snare, the latest in a string of poaching outrages on a private game reserve near Uitenhage.

The 2005ha reserve Doornkom is owned by botanist Swede Leif Johansen, formerly an ardent hunter, who invested here after falling in love with this part of the world, reserve manager Wayne Rudman said yesterday.

Poachers had for years laid snares along the Doornkom fence but recently they had been moving onto the property, he said.

“Giraffe are easy to snare as they stick to game paths, and they are quite docile.

“The poacher was probably not targeting giraffe in particular. We have other species like eland, kudu, blue wildebeest and zebra and this was probably just an opportunistic trap.”

Besides the initial pain as the cable tightens around the animal’s leg and cuts through its hide, this snaring was doubly cruel as the traps were often not checked for some time, he said.

“So the animal dies of thirst or gangrene. Normally one side of the snare is anchored to a heavy log. After the animal has got caught in it, it tries to escape, but it’s dragging this log behind it and eventually it gets tangled up and it can’t move.”

Identifying the culprit was not easy as he had to typically be caught in the act of laying the snare, but it appeared to be a single person, he said.

“In this latest incident with this baby bull giraffe, the snare was a cable the thickness of my little finger which seemed to have come from some sort of industrial conveyer system. Similar material, but thinner, was being used along the fence line and now I’ve seen a few of these thicker ones deeper in the reserve.”

This was the third giraffe Doornkom had lost in the past year and in all likelihood snaring was to blame on both previous occasions as well, although lightning was a possibility with one of them. The first victim was just a pile of bones when it was found and the second animal just vanished, he said.

Rudman said he had no proof, but the culprit could be from a compound on an adjacent property which is designated for development.

The development is on a piece of land sold off five years ago from the historic Amanzi citrus farm, once the home of citrus industry pioneer, author, adventurer and politician Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, who wrote the classic Jock of the Bushveld.

The spokesman for the development could not be reached but the great-grandson of Sir Percy and co-owner of the Amanzi farm, Clyde Niven, said he took the matter seriously.

“We are investigating. It is possible this individual comes from the compound, but he could just as easily come from the greater Motherwell area.”

Shelved in 2008 because of the economic down-turn, the 2000ha Amanzi project, comprising citrus farming, a golf course and housing units, would be restarted when the economic climate improved, Niven said.

Rudman is trying to organise a visit by the Bluewater Bay Sea Scouts, who work through the Zwartkops Trust each holiday, clearing snares from Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s Aloes and Swartkops reserves.

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