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22 Feb 2016The WitnessJONATHAN ERASMUS
Paid cull of nyala sparks ire
Foreign hunters take part in project aimed to help cash-strapped Ezemvelo
JOEL MTHEMBU “I was never contacted about this as the general-secretary. The only reason I found out was because people were talking about these hunters coming and going [into the park]. They did apologise, but I find it difficult to accept.”
A PAID cull of large numbers of nyala in a northern KwaZulu-Natal game reserve by foreign hunters has raised the ire of struggling local communities.
The hunters, who paid R400 a shot to kill the nyala, were taking part in an organised cull as part of a pilot project that wildlife authorities believe could earn added revenue for cash-strapped Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
But the initiative has angered the Tembe Elephant Park’s surrounding community, who own the land on which the park is based. They claim the culling was done without their knowledge.
Joel Mthembu, chairperson of the park’s joint management committee with Ezemvelo, and general secretary of the Tembe Community Trust, said they were never contacted or informed of the culling, finding out rather via word of mouth and rumour.
“I was never contacted about this as the general secretary. The only reason I found out was because people were talking about these hunters coming and going [into the park]. They did apologise, but I find it difficult to accept,” said Mthembu.
He said after having a meeting in January with Ezemvelo to explain the situation, three months after the last commercial culling, he asked Ezemvelo’s Northern KZN head Richard Penn-Sawers about the money generated.
“I was told it would go to the adjacent communities, which is odd as we had not received a cent. I asked for evidence of the money and he said a special meeting would be held to discuss this further.
“We were not aware of the legalities controlling this, but I was worried we were being robbed. We are not experts and we are struggling to maintain community projects. I want this money back,” he said.
Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo said the issue of culling in Tembe is more complex than other reserves, because the park is situated “north of the Red Line”.
He said 1 000 nyala needed to be culled and removed from the park.
“This [the nyala] is a massive resource and due to the geographical position of the Tembe Elephant Park, north of the Red Line [for foot and mouth disease], we may not sell live animals or sell any of the meat or byproducts to communities and public who are south of the Red Line. This restricts the disposal opportunities and limits returns on the resource dramatically.
“With this in mind, it was suggested by management we investigate possible activities that would increase the financial return for this extremely valuable resource,” said Mntambo.
He said approval of a commercial outfitter to bring in hunters was sanctioned by both Ezemvelo and the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Mntambo said five culls between August and October saw 97 nyala killed by the outfitter and his clients, netting the organisation R39 200.
“The agreement with the outfitter was that a fee of R400 per shot would be charged. This included missed shots and not just kills. As a rule the maximum number of animals culled is 20 per day due to carcass processing facility capacity,” said Mntambo.
Mntambo admitted that the communications with the community leadership “were poor”.
“One must admit that we could have communicated this better than we did and timeously. Another reason that led to the breakdown in communication was the previous scheduled co-management meetings had been postponed [or] cancelled at the last moment by Mthembu,” said Mntambo.
Mntambo said any skins and skulls removed were done with the necessary permits from the state veterinary services.
He stressed that the entire process had a document trail and offered them for viewing to the journalist.
The outfitter Carlo Engelbrecht said the entire culling was tightly managed. He brought in the hunters, who then executed the kills.
“We shot from the vehicle in a predetermined area with silencers. It was a typical cull hunt. The guys were allowed to take a souvenir such as skin, horns or bones. The culling packages were R6 000.”
He said he brought his own staff to skin and load the animals, meaning Ezemvelo staff could focus on other duties.
“You can’t stuff around all day. You drive in and shoot what you see without interfering, using silencers, in a pre-allocated area that is closed to the public. About 50% of people are generally not interested [in taking part in a cull]. For them it is no fun. Some see it as a way to practise shooting,” said Engelbrecht.
He said the shooters could not be selective nor were they allowed to leave the vehicle.
He said allowing such initiatives could bring value to the parks.
“For the park it is an expensive exercise. By bringing in people they now make a profit. We had it as a test period to see how it would work and make sure people aren’t offended.
“If all parks controlled by Ezemvelo used this method they could easily bring in over one million rand in new revenue streams,” said Engelbrecht.