Durban - The ripple impact of Covid has taken its toll on SA’s wildlife, with a massive increase in snares injuring and killing many animals.
That’s the word from conservationist and founder of Blue Sky Society Trust, Carla Geyser, who is preparing to set out on her first expedition, Rise of the Matriarch 2022, since lockdown started, leaving Durban on May 6 for a month.
An adventurer at heart, Geyser is known for her expeditions into Africa, called Journeys with Purpose, to raise awareness around wildlife issues. In one, an all-woman team crossed four countries in 10 days in 2018.
This week, Geyser said that last year, she started receiving reports of a growing problem with snares which were being found on many species, among them elephants, wild dogs, hippos, giraffe and leopard. Some had been snared for a year or more, resulting in infections.
“It’s a huge problem. With the poverty and unemployment caused by Covid, the demand for bush meat sky-rocketed in the last two years, and there was no movement of tourists around the reserves which normally provides eyes on the ground.
“As tourists started driving around again last year and with more game drives taking place, animals with snares were noticed.
“A couple of weeks ago, there were three elephants in one week reported as having snares. One of those cables had dug into the animal’s skin so deeply it was maggot infested and very infected. The wildlife vet had to cut it out and clean it.
“There was also a giraffe last week and, last year, a leopard was found with a snare around its waist. There have also been reports of wild dogs with snares and quite a few haven’t made it.
“It’s horrific and devastating,” said Geyser, adding that there was empathy that people were starving and trying to trap bush meat such as buck and impala, but that other animals were getting caught.
“It’s a double-edged sword and it’s happening all over the country. Can you imagine the pain those poor animals are in?” she said.
The latest expedition will be done in two legs in South Africa, going through Zululand, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, again with two all-woman teams of six for each leg.
Geyser said her trusty 25-year-old “Landy” was undergoing maintenance before the planned month-long trip.
“It’s been two-and-a-half years since the last trip and there’s been a lot of planning and preparation that has gone into this trip, logistics, servicing and branding vehicles, dusting and cleaning all the camping gear, just getting my head back into the game,
“In Africa, you never know what’s around the corner, the minute you leave you have to adapt to any situation. But that’s when I’m in the moment and enjoy it. It’s my happiest place in the world to be out on the road.
“The last two years have been emotionally and mentally draining for all of us and nature rekindles your heart, it gives you strength to carry on,” she said, adding that many of the organisations supported by her Trust were doing phenomenal work in wildlife conservation.
“They are doing such great work and it gives you those flickers of hope after what we’ve been through as a country.
“After the floods last week and stories of all the incredible heroes, we have to hold on to hope” she said.
The Rise of the Matriarch 2022 expedition will include work such as collaring elephants, rescue and re-tagging with either a VHF or satellite tags for pangolins (African Pangolin Working Group), taking measurements, DNA samples and ear notching of black rhino, banding/ringing of the elusive Pel’s fishing owl chicks and research into wild dogs. There will also be nights under the stars with camping in the wild in northern Kruger.
Geyser said that as well as the conservation work, she wanted to assist in bringing back tourism to South Africa.
“We sometimes forget how beautiful this country is, I want to bring a flicker of hope, adventure and fun ‒ all those little moments,” she said.
The Independent on Saturday