By Mandy Killian
If one is caught hunting without a permit one may end up in jail – Ezemvelo Wildlife spokesperson, Musa Mntambo.
Local residents have taken action in an attempt to stop the ruthless poaching of wildlife in the Ashburton area.
Last week’s Maritzburg Sun highlighted the poaching of three wild zebra who were slaughtered and their skinned carcasses found in Ashburton and Mpushini.
Residents have joined forces to work with the authorities, including the SAPS Stock Theft Unit, which is investigating the incident of zebra poaching. A reward of R20 000 has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the poachers.
“The zebra incident has really stirred us up because it is evident that poaching is on the increase. We are determined to bring these poachers to book. And other poachers to be warned, we are on high alert,” said Keith Brown, Chairperson of Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy.
The community has set up a community watch group over cell phone application Whatsapp so that residents can inform each other of happenings in their area. They are also busy setting up communications networks, including video surveillance, to give them early warning of poaching activity.
“The more eyes and ears that we have on the ground the better,” he said, adding that they were grateful for assistance from the local Ezemvelo Honorary Officers Corps.
Other measures being taken include setting up CCTV surveillance cameras to record and track every vehicle going into the area. A team of audio visual experts will help with the surveillance.
Dedicated residents are also patrolling the area and removing snares. Chairperson of the Mpushini Protected Environment Landowners Association, Nicole May, says that, “there has been a keen response from people wanting to get involved in putting a stop to this, from Bishopstowe to Camperdown.”
The area was one of the first proclaimed community-protected environmental areas under the Biodiverstity Stewardship Programme in KwaZulu-Natal in 2011.
Various education programmes are also in place to educate the public on the area and to prevent poaching. Pandora Long, project leader for the Preservation of the Mpushini Mkhondeni Biodiversity Trust (PMMBT) PEACE Project at the Galago Centre for Education, Arts and Environment, says that, “We would really like to encourage young people to connect with nature and develop a sense of place and an understanding of our interconnectedness in the last remaining areas of biodiversity around Pietermaritzburg.”
Ezemvelo Wildlife spokesperson, Musa Mntambo, said: “all wildlife animals are protected under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 2004 and the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act. According to these Acts, one must have a permit before he can hunt any wildlife. If one is caught hunting without a permit one may end up in jail depending on [which\ category under which the animal he/she was hunting falls.”
Anyone caught hunting without a permit faces stiff fines or even jail sentences, he said. Police have asked that if people find a poached animal to not disturb the scene and contact the authorities immediately. This is because often things like foot prints, which could lead to an arrest are removed when the public disturb the scene.
Anyone with information can contact Keith Brown on 082 6533504.