Game poaching requires urgent attention

Patricia O’Neill-Coutts, MPL

DA Northern Cape – Provincial Spokesperson of Environment & Nature Conservation

The Democratic Alliance is calling on the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Conservation to double their efforts to protect the wildlife population in the province. This comes after the brutal death of Abraham the Camel, who was killed by poachers early on Tuesday morning at the 8Myl Animal Farm petting zoo, just outside Kimberley.

The DA is deeply saddened by Abraham’s death. Animals have a way of creeping into our hearts and when we lose them, it is like losing a family member. We would like to express our sympathies to the Sonnenbergs and the staff at 8Myl.

The DA is also concerned that “game poaching has become a huge problem, with workers finding traps and snares in the veld almost every day”, as was indicated by 8Myl owner, Ina Sonnenberg, in a media report today. Illegal hunting has become one of the most severe emerging threats to wildlife and it would appear that poaching has now also become part and parcel of game farming and conservation in the Northern Cape.

A demand for meat, whether for personal or commercial use, is one of the obvious drivers of the bushmeat trade. Environmentalists further indicate that bushmeat poaching is also driven by “inadequate legal deterrents, including poor law enforcement; a lack of alternative livelihoods in rural areas; a lack of alternative food sources; a lack of clear rights relating to wildlife and land use; political instability, corruption and poor governance and traditional medicine”.

While bushmeat poaching is multifaceted, and not easy to resolve, it is said to occur mostly in communities living next to state and private wildlife areas. While, at this stage, it would be irresponsible to lay blame on any one community for the death of Abraham the Camel, we must note that poaching in and around the farm areas surrounding the Griquastad road, near the Platfontein settlement, is nothing new.

The DA will write to the MEC of Environment and Conservation, MEC Patrick Mabilo, and ask him to take command of the poaching threat in the Northern Cape. The DA is of the view that he should start by:

  • Forming a good working relationship with local communities who are settled around wildlife areas, such as the Platfontein community and educating them on the importance of conservation, the rights relating to wildlife and land use, as well as the fact that the consumption of meat is not essential for a healthy diet;
  • Establishing a multi-departmental task team to combat the socio-economic problems faced by the community of Platfontein;
  • Conducting research on the extent of poaching in the Northern Cape;
  • Greater investment in anti-poaching measures;
  • Increasing the number of enforcement and compliance officers in the environmental sector;
  • And establishing an anti-poaching forum with all stakeholders in the province, including the SAPS.

The DA calls on the police to go all out in their investigation and we hope that the suspects will be arrested soon. Poaching needs to be firmly dealt with and perpetrators harshly punished, if we hope to conserve our wildlife.

Abraham the camel was not only part of the business of the animal farm but also served to introduce young children to wildlife. It is frightening to think what comes next – the slaughtering of dogs and cats and other pets?