Pregnant animals face culling
From The Lowvelder, September 30th 2014
Due to years of mismanagement of our wildlife, partly due to the actions of some property owners, Marloth ended up with a significant overpopulation of wildlife, which the habitat can no longer sustain.
MARLOTH PARK – Culling of impala and warthog in this residential wildlife park is planned for next week, at the height of breeding season when most of the sexually mature females are pregnant or have given birth.
Some local residents are concerned about the current management of the park’s wildlife because for the third consecutive year it has been scheduled for the breeding season.
According to Mr Dries Pienaar, head of CITES, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) has the final say in when these animals may be culled. “The problem arises when landowners contest the MTPA’s decision on the most appropriate, practical and ethical time for it. Marloth Park is severely overgrazed, and this poses a grave danger to the well-being of the animals as well as the ecosystem. Excellent ecological decisions have been laid squarely at Marloth Park’s door, but court orders obtained by the landowners’ committee have delayed the process, which is very important and very necessary to reduce overpopulation,” says Pienaar.
According to resident Ms Lorinda Steenkamp, the Nkomazi Local Municipality had a contract with a professional hunter who conducted these services. She said,
<"> “Due to years of mismanagement of our wildlife, partly due to the actions of some property owners, Marloth ended up with a significant overpopulation of wildlife, which the habitat can no longer sustain.”
Steenkamp and Pienaar agreed that this was not the first time the process had been mismanaged. Culling of pregnant impala occurred in 2012 and 2013, when numbers where beyond what Marloth Park could sustain.
“Several hundred impala had to be eliminated, as well as a large number of warthog. By August 30, 2012 only 70 impala and six warthog were slaughtered for the 2012 season. A game count done in September that year showed that we had 739 impala, while the proposed stocking rate was 150 to 210,” said Steenkamp.
According to him, the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Enviromental Affairs, through the Department of Veterinary Services, intervened at a meeting on October 23, 2012. A concession was made for a 14-day period and an instruction was issued that as many impala as possible were to be eliminated during this time. Subsquently 350 impala were killed, including heavily pregnant ewes.
Lowvelder reported on this in the edition of November 14, 2012. Property owners were assured that this was a once-off event that would in future be carried out at a more appropriate time. In July 2013, 23 impala and 63 warthog were taken, again in breeding season. Steenkamp explains the events, “On October 10, 2013, culling resumed and yet again heavily pregnant impala were shot. Corridor Gazette reported on this on October 18, 2013. Of the 300 impala that were supposed to be culled in 2013, only 44 were eventually killed.”
“So yet again, we are going to have heavily pregnant animals being killed. Some of the warthog have already given birth, with their piglets in the den and these animals will now be left to die.” She added, “The reasons given for it not being done during the normal hunting season, are that the contractor is too busy with his own hunting operation during the hunting season, and that the abattoir will be too busy to handle the extra carcases from Marloth Park.
Pienaar contested this statement and stated there were many contractors who knew exactly how important this process was for the environment. “It is not because contractors are too busy, it is because it is being delayed time and again. We have been doing this for many years, and we know the right time for culling, but if an interdict is obtained by the Marloth land owners and conservation committee, there is not much we can do.” According to the municipal spokesman, Mr Cyril Ripinga, there is no official period in which it must take place. “Firstly we conducted a game count and discovered that the impala were now overpopulated. We then informed the MTPA board of the situation and they encouraged us to commence with the reduction of mainly impala and warthog. The board said there was no official time or season when it should take place,” said Ripinga. <> He added, “The animals have to be reduced. Due to their large numbers they inflict significant damage in Marloth and we don’t make use of contractors, as our rangers are adequately equipped for the job.” He didn’t deny that the carcases would be sold off. He said, “Yes, we sell the meat to the community, those who wish to buy, can do so.” At the time of going to press,
Mr Jasper Aitchison, a professional hunter who has managed culling in Marloth in the past, said that at this stage another plan was being made to prevent it from taking place. “A meeting will be held on Thursday, at which the final decision will be made.”