Hunting licences to kill predators spark fury
Western Cape Environment Minister Anton Bredell has admitted putting pressure on CapeNature to issue 480 hunting permits, giving farmers a licence to kill nearly 900 000 jackals and caracals on farms across the Western Cape over a six-month period.
This comes after CapeNature’s executive director, Kas Hamman, acknowledged he had sent e-mails to Bool Smuts, the head of the leopard conservation organisation, Landmark Foundation. “Yes, political pressure has certainly been brought to bear on us and in no uncertain way,” Hamman wrote.
Another e-mail from Hamman to Smuts reads: “It seems as if we have very little say in the matter.
“Please contact me so that we can talk about how you could possibly assist us to either prevent this slaughter by gathering objective information that will most certainly prove them wrong.”
Bredell told Weekend Argus: “To find a solution, one sometimes has to exert pressure. What’s wrong with that?”
Bredell said he had placed pressure on CapeNature after “crying” farmers had approached him at a meeting in Worcester in November last year, which was also attended by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg.
At the meeting, farmers insisted that a state of emergency be instituted as a result of predators killing their sheep, and they threatened to poison predators if they could not hunt them.
The farmers’ plea came shortly after the National Parks Board culled more than 350 red jackal inside the Karoo and Addo national parks, an action Hamman and CapeNature have condemned.
Van Rensburg and Zille have denied pressuring CapeNature into granting the licences.
Smuts said Bredell had acted unlawfully by placing pressure on a statutory board. “He can engage the board of CapeNature, but not pressure it,” he said.
ANC MP Max Ozinsky, who made a formal complaint to the Public Protector in September that the licences were illegally granted, said the pressure Bredell placed on CapeNature was “completely wrong, illegal and irregular”.
He demanded that the hunting licences be withdrawn.
He said legislation aimed to make CapeNature independent from political interference.
“The scientists believe in green methods but Bredell is forcing them in a different direction.”
Earlier, Ozinsky accused Bredell of political expediency by trying to attract farmland votes before the May local government elections by issuing the licences in April.
Smuts said the legislation was referred to as “The Bredell culling”, and allowed farmers to cull about 900 000 predators. “Bredell is at the forefront of the biggest cull in the history of the African continent. It’s astonishing,” he said.
Altogether 480 applicants were each granted a licence to kill 10 animals a day – five caracals and five jackals. Over the six months the licences are valid, they are allowed to kill 864 000 predators.
However, Hamman said farmers killed very few predators in reality.
The CapeNature chief acknowledged that in principle, the group supported holistic methods that protected the animals. It believed that hunting them seriously increased their numbers and made the problem much worse.
However, CapeNature still granted the hunting licences in the interim while a permanent solution was being found, said Hamman. He felt sandwiched between farmers and green organisations, he added.
Bredell said that Smuts “is trying to make out I’m a mass murderer. He always brings up the poor jackal and the cruelty of the farmers, but I have never shown him the cruelty meted out to sheep. Cruelty has two sides,” he added.
However, Smuts said biodiversity was being destroyed by “a united cull front” and “it cannot be allowed to continue. The DA promote themselves as a clean and accountable administration, but they’re rotten to the core when it comes to biodiversity governance. They are only serving a small farmer constituency.”
The relationship between the foundation and CapeNature broke down further after CapeNature killed one of a group of 23 leopards being studied by researchers funded by the Landmark Foundation.
“I’m very upset that CapeNature, which is supposed to protect the leopard, killed the leopard for no good reason. This leopard covered 35 000ha and killed the occasional domestic animal, but we were prepared to compensate the farmer fully,” said Smuts.
He said these leopards, which were collared with tracking devices and sometimes photographed by infrared cameras installed at places they roamed, were among “roughly” 1 000 leopards still roaming the mountains of the three Cape provinces.
They were being researched in the mountains of places such as Hermanus, Napier, Greyton, Robertson, Riviersonderend and Agulhas and eastwards towards the Garden Route and Eastern Cape
Smuts said CapeNature killed the leopard in the current climate of predator-culling, which made it hard to protect the animals.
A Cape Nature official killed the leopard in September after it was collared and researched for a year.
Hamman said the official killed the leopard because it was a damage-causing animal, had killed nine bull calves and its foot was seriously injured, as established by a veterinarian who examined it.
Smuts countered: “They fabricated some medical condition to claim they euthanised this leopard. This was not supported by a full forensic autopsy of the animal.”
Ozinsky said CapeNature had an agreement with the foundation not to kill any of the leopards being researched, but had instead acted illegally by ending the animal’s life. - Henriette Geldenhuys