Poaching with Dogs – An Underrated Threat

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Poaching with Dogs – An Underrated Threat
Poaching with Dogs – An Underrated Threat

According to information received from the Endangered Wildlife Trust, an upsurge of poaching with dogs has occurred in the last few years and it poses a serious threat for the grassland biodiversity.

This illicit gambling industry has grown extensively and has become a daily occurrence in grasslands all over Mpumalanga, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. Most, of which support threatened and/ or endemic species, such as Oribi, Sungazers and a number of bird species. This type of hunting cuts across all races and is not a case of a single person hunting with one or two dogs, but rather a group of people hunting with about 30 to 150 dogs.

The dogs used are mostly greyhounds, often mixed with other breeds for strength, which are trained to catch and kill a wide variety of prey including large antelope. One can only imagine the type of damage caused when 150 dogs sweep across landscapes.

Hunting with dogs was previously seen as a traditional practice in some rural areas but the mechanism and motivation for large scale taxi hunting has distanced it from the original cultural practice. Gambling is now the dominant driving force behind this type of hunting. It involves wealthy syndicates of well-connected individuals.

Different colours of ribbons are attached to a dog, or a group of dogs. Bets are then placed, based on the amount and size of the animal the dogs kill.

An oribi and steenbok, for example, have incredible speed and endurance and the dogs that manage to bring down such an animal usually attract sizeable bets in the tens of thousands of rands, making the insignificant fines (often only R 5 000-00 to R 10 000- 00) merely a slap on the wrist for these poachers. The industry not only contravenes multiple environmental laws but is also trespassing with illegal gambling.

The poachers are also often in possession of illegal firearms. Poaching with dogs is not only a threat to our wildlife but it is indeed a major concern to the safety and security of our farming communities as well. People responsible for this type of gambling are rarely from the local areas where the problem occurs.

It normally consists of groups of people from larger towns or cities such as Newcastle, Johannesburg and Durban, who drive through in a group of taxis (hence the common reference to this as “taxi hunting”) for a day.

It was recently discovered that some of the culprits involved in a case, just outside Amsterdam, allegedly consisted of lawyers and business owners from Johannesburg. They supported the notion of an organised form of gambling.

This is a relative new form of gambling and the lack of political will to stop it along with inadequate law enforcement adds to the continuing threat to our grassland biodiversity. Nevertheless, everyone is encouraged to report this illegal activities so that this type of hunting can be stopped.

If you have any information regarding this matter, please contact Samson Phakathi at 082 805 4806 or e-mail him at samsonp@wet.org.za, and Mauritz de Bruin at 071 478 5379 or per e-mail at mauritzd@ewt.org.za.

Let’s work together and fight illegal hunting activities! Article received from Mauritz de Bruin and ajusted.