Early, on the morning of 6 September, quite a number of people were arrested and dogs were seized that had been involved in illegal hunting.
After a tip about a number of bakkies seen, with dogs in the back, being driven through Paulpietersburg , the local “Farm Watch” which forms part of the organised farm unit, Agri Piet Retief, sprang into action. Everyone concerned was alerted and was on the look-out for anything or anyone suspicious. Fast reaction by everyone concerned prevented the hunting even before a start could be madein the Panbult/Watersmeet area alone, where it seems that more than 60 dogs were seized and around 35 handlers were arrested. All the vehicles concerned had KZN registration numbers. The spokespersons of this group claimed to be members of the SAPS in Gauteng and to “know the law” .
However, according to the “The New Rules for Hunting in South Africa” (SCI, 1 February 2008) “No hunting is allowed with dogs, except for tracking a wounded animal or flushing, pointing and retrieving listed threatened or protected species.” Furthermore a dog that is not on a leash, on private property, like a farm, may be shot by the owner of the property. Hunting with dogs being illegal, does not, however, seem to deter the perpetrators whatsoever. Unfortunately no facilities exist for keeping these dogs and the seized dogs had to be released. As one cannot release the dogs on their own, the perpetrators had to be released as well and one cannot help but wonder how long it will be before they strike again.
Hunting with dogs is illegal and perpetrators are prosecuted in accordance with the Act on Nature Conservation. A second group of hunters and dogs was caught red-handed near the Mahamba/ Moolman turn-offs on the N2 towards Pongola. In this case a reedbuck, which is a protected species, had already been caught. Unfortunately the SAPS and people from the Department of Nature Conservation were still busy at the scene in the Panbult area. The Mahamba Police was contacted and they immediately went to the scene near the N2 and assisted there, but unfortunately in this case too, the perpetrators had to be warned only and then released.
It is not clear at this stage whether anyone will be prosecuted with regard to the hunting on 6 September. Unfortunately, hunting dogs kill anything in their path and sadly endangered species like the oribi and reedbuck often become the victims. Farmers on whose land such hunting takes place are often outnumbered and can therefore not easily do any arresting themselves. According to some research done on the internet and by talking to involved parties, it seems that large amounts of money are often part and parcel of the dog hunting business.
The dogs themselves are mostly considered extremely valuable and betting and competition form an integral part of the hunting “game”. This motivation of gambling inspires more and more people to get involved. Apparently prizes as high as R30 000 can be received by the winner, being the owner of the dog which is the first to bring down an animal. The betting business involved with hunting strongly reminds of horse betting. So it seems that this is all about money and no conservation of our fauna and flora is considered. Agri Piet Retief would like to thank the SAPS and the Ermelo branch of the Department of Nature Conservation for their consistant prompt and thorough co-operation and assistance.
Hunting dogs being transported by Taxi