Facts about leop­ard case

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

ORIG­I­NALLY used only by hunters, the term “Big Five” refers to five of Africa’s great­est wild an­i­mals – lion, ele­phant, buf­falo, rhino and leop­ard. These an­i­mals con­jure up the ro­mance and ex­cite­ment of Africa’s ex­otic des­ti­na­tions. Even though rhino poach­ing is a mat­ter of great con­cern for South Africans to­day, lots of pub­lic­ity was also re­cently af­forded to the Western Cape leop­ard. Un­for­tu­nately many of the re­ports were mis­lead­ing and fol­low the break­down of a re­la­tion­ship be­tween Cape­na­ture and a part­ner in leop­ard con­ser­va­tion, the Land­mark Foun­da­tion.

As is of­ten the case when a part­ner­ship turns sour, false ac­cu­sa­tions have been made. These in­cluded al­le­ga­tions that Cape­na­ture acted il­le­gally and un­rea­son­ably by putting down a male leop­ard on a stock farmer’s prop­erty in Ceres. As a statu­tory body, ac­count­able to the cit­i­zens of the Western Cape, Cape­na­ture would like to clar­ify these is­sues.

Cape­na­ture fol­lows strict in­ter­nal pro­to­cols and re­gards eu­thana­sia as the last op­tion. In this case, the an­i­mal was given a num­ber of chances to re­ha­bil­i­tate but an in­jured leg and ev­i­dence of a loss of fear for hu­mans were among the key con­sid­er­a­tions.

Over a year, the male leop­ard had killed 12 stud calves which were found by the dairy man­ager and an­other 10 an­i­mals which were never found. Cape­na­ture was called in, and can con­firm at least six calves had been killed by the leop­ard. The same leop­ard had been trapped by Cape­na­ture and re­leased twice be­fore on the prop­erty in con­junc­tion with the landowner. The profit loss of one of these an­i­mals has an es­ti­mated value of R70 000 to the farm.

Even af­ter these at­tacks the landowner was will­ing to ap­ply mit­i­gat­ing mea­sures as ne­go­ti­ated and promised by the Land­mark Foun­da­tion. Those in­cluded pay­ment for stock losses and pro­vi­sion of elec­tric fenc­ing only around the dairy to pro­tect the young calves.

These prom­ises by the Land­mark Foun­da­tion never ma­te­ri­alised and left the farmer and his stock un­pro­tected against the leop­ard, which had adopted dam­age- caus­ing hunt­ing habits it could not un­learn.

Af­ter the leop­ard broke through bars to hunt stud an­i­mals, Cape­na­ture was called in again. We found it nec­es­sary to make a de­ci­sion based on the case his­tory, which in­cluded a fur­ther three stock an­i­mals which were killed by the same leop­ard in De Doorns, prior to the most re­cent in­ci­dent. The phys­i­cal con­di­tion of the leop­ard and a lo­cal vet­eri­nary rec­om­men­da­tion were taken into ac­count.

Sec­tion 18 of the Western Cape Na­ture Con­ser­va­tion Or­di­nance, No 19 of 1974, grants Cape­na­ture the au­thor­ity to put down an an­i­mal if it con­sid­ers that an­i­mal to cause dam­age to crops, live­stock or prop­erty; is a threat to hu­man life, or is wounded, dis­eased or in­jured. The national leg­is­la­tion guid­ing a pub­lic en­tity such as Cape­na­ture’s ac­tions in such a case is un­clear and we await an out­come from the National Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs on this mat­ter.

Our ex­cel­lent part­ner­ships with NGOS such as the Cape Leop­ard Trust, landown­ers and other leop­ard con­ser­va­tion agen­cies are im­por­tant to us. The co-op­er­a­tion of these part­ners has con­trib­uted to a healthy leop­ard pop­u­la­tion in the Western Cape.

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