http://www.citizen.co.za/1025942/game-s ... -for-muti/
9.3.2016 11:00 am
Game ‘slaughtered for muti’
Muti may be behind the mass poisoning of wildlife, including vultures for their heads, during poaching incidents.
The Kruger National Park (KNP) recently painted a grisly scene of animal carcasses strewn around the remains of an elephant as a number of animals were found poisoned.
In what can be described as a mass killing, an elephant was found to have been shot for its ivory and then poisoned, which led to the deaths of 110 white-backed vultures, two male lions and two black-backed jackals, which were found dead after allegedly being poisoned by poachers.
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa’s (Wessa) senior manager for wildlife and conservation initiatives, Chris Galliers, said one of the reasons poachers use poison is to target species – particularly vultures (vulture heads) and in some cases lions (for lion bones, claws, tail and teeth) for tradeable items.
“For example, the vulture heads are used for medicinal and superstitious purposes,” Galliers said.
Acting head of communications at South African National Parks (SANParks) Reynold Thakhuli said it was suspected the animals poisoned were harvested by poachers for muti purposes, with animal parts being put on to the traditional medicines market.
The other reason for the poisoning may be that it is used as a tactic to delay response time by law enforcement officials or game rangers.
“Vultures are a good indicator. Where there are vultures, there might be a carcass. “By poisoning the carcass they delay the response time. So we don’t get to the crime scenes earlier,” said Thakhuli.
Scavengers in the vicinity of the elephant carcass were poisoned by feeding on the exposed areas of the carcass. Galliers said vultures can provide an early detection service to park rangers in poaching incidents, making it harder for poachers to take the illegal bounty and flee the scene.
The ploy to use poison is an immense threat to the ecological system and has the potential of wiping out species, not just animals, and it can destroy the biodiversity as a whole, said SANParks. Wessa said the use of poison was an indiscriminate killer of wildlife, with the ability to wipe out large numbers of animals in one go.
“Vultures are severely threatened and a mass killing poses a large threat to the overall population,” said Galliers.
While SANParks said the poison used in the recent attack is being analysed, Wessa said lethal chemicals such as the aldicarb-based poisons (eg temik, which is illegal) pose a major toxic threat to both wildlife and humans.
Last year, the park suffered a similar horrific incident where one elephant, four lions, 46 vultures and one adult bateleur eagle suffered the same fate, all dying from poisoning.
An incident of deliberate poisoning of black-backed jackals and other small predators in Addo Elephant National Park in 2014 followed the same pattern of an attempt to kill wildlife through poisoning.
According to a study by the conservation journal Oryx between 2012 and 2014, 155 elephants and 2 044 vultures were killed in 11 poaching-related incidents in seven African countries.