Apartheid and three caracal kittens

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2000:

by Chris Mercer & Beverly Pervan

Our Kalahari Raptor Centre is the only registered wildlife rehabilitation centre in the Northern Cape province of South Africa–– almost a third of the country.

On October 14, 2000, we advised the department of Nature Conservation of the Northern Cape Province in Kimberley that:

“Further to our previous application for permits to provide sanctuary to predators, we were called by a farmer who stated that he had captured three young caracals after trap – ping and killing their mother. I drove more than a thousand kilometres round-trip to fetch them. One of the three had a foreleg broken so severely as to require amputation.

“We are thus caring for three young caracals, one of whom is disabled. We wish to use them to educate schoolchildren who visit our center, and for tourists to photo – graph. We will not allow the public to handle them. We propose to build for them a large camp with high electrified fencing, where they may live out as happy a life as possible. We thought that the veld near our present vulture restaurant would give them a pleasant site with a view and camelthorn trees for shade.

“Alternatively, once they are older and stronger, do you have any wilderness in mind where we could release them?

“We hope you will have no trouble giving us a permit to care for these beautiful, much-persecuted animals.”

The faxed response, in bold print with much underlining, was a categorical refusal; a notice of intent to prosecute us; and an invitation to a meeting to “discuss the renewal of existing permits and to reconsider the future of the Kalahari Raptor Centre.”

The department intends to apply the apartheid-era Problem Animal Control Ordinance of 1974––a chilling reminder of a time when all laws and policies were framed to protect the Afrikaans farming community, at the expense of every other person and creature.

The Problem Animal Control Ordinance declared war upon black-backed jackals and caracals. Both species are invaluable for keeping down numbers of rodents and other pests––but when farmers create a preydesert for them by hunting guinea fowl and springhares, they turn their attention to lambs.

Any attempt to protect these alleged enemies of the State is strictly verboten. For example, a motorist who takes an injured caracal kitten to a veterinarian commits a crime. He must kill the kitten and bury the body, or he is guilty of yet another offense.

Wildlife sanctuaries, including economically important eco-tourism resorts, are treated as illegal breeding grounds for vermin. The local livestock farmers’ association and provincial nature conservation department may ride into any suspect sanctuary on horseback or in motor vehicles, with weapons and dogs, to kill any jackals or caracals they find.

When a fugitive goes to ground, the burrow is dug up and the unfortunate fellowoccupants––ant-bears, bat-eared foxes, or whatever––share the fugitive’s fate. The dogs are provided by the South African taxpayer. Until recent budget cuts, public funds were used to import hounds from abroad.

Any attempt to resist the invasion is unlawful. Indeed, persons on the property invaded may be forced to join the hunt.

The hunt pays no compensation for collateral damage and loss. Limits are also placed on any criminal liability by hunt members. But the hunters, who are paid from tax funds, may recover all of their expenses from the owner of the invaded property.

In short, this is a selective imposition of martial law.

The Problem Animal Control Ordinance so far exceeds any legitimate need of livestock farmers to combat predation, and is so immoral and so damaging to the economic interests of the country, that one wonders how it has avoided repeal in the new South Africa.

Who are the real problem animals anyway? Certainly not the magnificent predators, whom tourists pay millions to see and photograph. The real problem animals (besides people) are goats and sheep, who reduce the veld to desert.

Despite the severity of the legislation, eco-tourist destinations and game reserves are expanding, while the livestock industry is in marked decline. In Tswalu alone 26 livestock farms were recently merged into one 90,000 hectare eco-tourism resort.

Yet as the sun sets on apartheid and Kalahari ranching, the lengthening shadows of a brutal past reach out to haunt us.

The only remedy now available is the Constitutional Court. It is not a pretty equation to divide the delays and costs of a constitutional battle by the lives of three caracal kittens. We intend to do it anyway.

[Messages on behalf of the caracal kittens may be sent to: The Premier of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, fax 27-053-833-2122; Northern Cape Nature Conservation, fax 27-053 – 831-3530, e-mail: wessel@natuur.ncape.gov.za; Valli Moosa, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, fax 27-021-461-5838, e-mail <vmoosa@ozone.pwv.gov.za>; and Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, .]
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