Upsurge in poaching gutting Bay green lung potential
Poachers with packs of dogs and snares are tearing the life out of Nelson Mandela Bay’s green lung, which could be used instead to create jobs and boost the economy.
While the plague has gripped the Bay’s protected areas for years, poacher numbers have swelled in recent months as hungry residents, their jobs and livelihoods severed by the Covid-19 lockdown, turn to the land to find alternative means of sustaining themselves and their families.
With the rise in subsistence bushmeat poaching, however, there appears to be a less palatable side to the phenomenon: killing game to sell to tshisanyamas, and taxi poaching, when groups of clients ferried to public open spaces bet on the best hunting dog and the first kill.
Peter Enslin of the Sardinia Bay Conservancy said poaching was a constant headache in the conservancy, which stretches as far as Bushy Park.
“Recently my guys and I spent two days clearing the bush, and we removed in excess of 60 snares.
“Poaching with dogs is also a massive problem. I have seen packs of up to 40 dogs.
“They come out here at various times, including at night during full moon. They use the dogs or light fires to chase the buck — bushbuck, grysbok, blue and common duiker — into the snares.”
Hopewell Conservation Estate manager Kevin Taylor said poaching was rife in the area between Greenbushes and KwaNobuhle, extending north to Jagsvlakte, the large tract of land behind the VW Auto Pavilion, and eastward to Parson’s Vlei.
“Many of these areas fall under the municipal public open spaces protection plan so the metro should be looking after them, but the poachers are wreaking havoc.
“There is a group of suspected taxi hunters which operates all around the metro and then there are a couple of tshisanyama gangs made up of youngsters. We caught one group the other day and the youngest was seven years old. ”
He had never caught any of the culprits inside Hopewell.
Zwartkops Conservancy spokesperson Jenny Rump said poaching with dogs was equally bad in the Aloes Nature Reserve and Swartkops nature reserves.
“I think many of the poachers are just people trying to survive with no work and no food.
“But there are also kids involved who have been bored at home during lockdown and for them this is great fun.”
Arnold Slabbert of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisation Wildline said the Baakens Valley was being stripped by poachers.
“The poaching has continued unabated since lockdown started, day and night.
“Before, it was just kids with a pack of dogs hunting dassies.
“But because the authorities have not done anything about this problem for years, now there are groups of adults who present a much more serious threat and they’re killing whatever they can from Sherwood to Lorraine to Walmer.
“I’ve lost count the number of animals I’ve found attacked by dogs or caught in a snare.”
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Coastal Management Unit compliance officer Ken Pressley said poaching was a huge problem across the Bay.
“During the Covid-19 lockdown, because people are hungry, it has become even more of a problem.”
Pressley said with just five officials in his team and its core 100km strip of coastline under siege from perlemoen poachers, it was stretched to the limit but were the only environmental compliance unit in the metro.
Wilderness Foundation Africa CEO Andrew Muir said
people were hungry, and turning to the land to try to survive. “It’s a dynamic as old as time.”
It was a critical period for environmental outreach, and vulnerable communities could be supported for example with vegetable gardens, special access to nature reserves to gather building materials and large-scale employment to remove alien vegetation, he said.
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