BOOKS: For the Love of Wildlife
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2003:
For The Love Of Wildlife
by Chris Mercer & Beverly Pervan
Kalahari Raptor Centre (P.O. Box 1386, Kathu, 8446 Northern Cape,
South Africa), 2000. 252 pages, hardcover.
For current ordering info, e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Chris Mercer and Beverly Pervan educated themselves about
wildlife sanctuary management, before making the Kalahari Raptor
Centre their fulltime “retirement” pursuit, by closely observing the
operations of the Harnas Lion Farm in Namibia.
Not everything was done there as it should have been done.
Mercer and Pervan record a shocking number of accidents and injuries
to staff, visitors, and animals, often resulting from actions or
inactions that would violate the U.S. Animal Welfare Act.
However, Mercer and Pervan also point out that Harnas was a
pioneer in introducing the very concept of “sanctuary” to a part of
the world where animals have historically been kept for hunting,
eating, or as a tourist attraction, or have been hounded,
poisoned, and shot to the verge of extinction. Much about Harnas
has been improvised, from lack of other examples to follow.
For The Love Of Wildlife is partially the story of Nic and
Marieta Van der Merwe, who gradually transformed their cattle ranch
into the rehabilitation and longterm care center it is today, while
raising four children who appear likely to keep the sanctuary under
family management for at least another generation.
For The Love Of Wildlife is also partially the story of the
children, especially daughter Marlice.
In addition, there are chapters detailing what is known
about the pre-Harnas lives of some of the animals who came to the Van
The most important part of the book, however, are the two
epilogues. Mercer, an attorney, argues that “All wild animals
shall have the following legally enforceable rights, which shall be
written into the Constitutions of all Southern African nations: The
right to live free from physical or mental cruelty. The right to
live undisturbed in all existing proclaimed game reserves. The right
to share unproclaimed wilderness areas free from human persecution.
The right to protection of the law against any person who violates
To enforce these rights, Mercer suggests that, “The High
Courts shall act as Upper Guardians of all wild animals,” while any
citizen should be able to initiate legal proceedings on behalf of
Mercer would ban all sale, possession, or use of three
types of trap and snare, require forfeiture of vehicles used in
connection with poaching, and allow confiscation of land “used for
cruel or inhumane purposes,” at judicial discretion.
So far, so good, but Mercer also suggested many “changes to
the law of criminal procedure and evidence” to combat poaching which
have already been tried in various nations, with abysmal results.
Mercer recommended that “evidence [given] by telephone or
radio should be admissible,” due to the cost and difficulty of
pulling rangers out of the field to attend distant trials.
The admission of absentia trial testimony, however, allows
unseen persons to coach witnesses, undermines the principle that
witnesses should be identifiable, and would preclude asking
witnesses to identify physical evidence–an often critical part of
winning a poaching conviction.
“Game rangers and landowners should have the right to shoot
at poachers who are either armed or fleeing to avoid arrest,” Mercer
asserted, adding that “Any trespasser on any game reserve,
proclaimed wilderness area or private land where there is wildlife
shall be presumed to be poaching unless he can prove to the contrary.”
Similar edicts prevailed in Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa,
Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia from 1984 into the early 1990s. At
least 160 alleged poachers were killed in Zimbabwe and 130 in Kenya,
but the shoot-to-kill policies also gave anyone carrying anything
that might look like a weapon cause to flee from anyone resembling a
ranger or landowner.
Among the “poachers” at constant risk were truck drivers
lightly armed for self-defense against bandits–or lions and leopards
if obliged to sleep outdoors after a breakdown. Serious poachers
meanwhile improved their armament and shot back at the rangers.
“All exclusionary rules of evidence should be replaced by one
rule which states that no relevant evidence shall be inadmissible,”
Mercer continued. “The right of silence of an accused person should
not apply in poaching cases. In Zimbabwe,” he noted approvingly,
“this is already the law.”
Yet it would be hard to find an African nation now where the
law is less respected, or where wildlife is at more peril.
Mercer further endorsed the formation of private
anti-poaching militias. ANIMAL PEOPLE extensively examined the
history of private anti-poaching militias in an April 1999 cover
feature entitled “Can mercenary management stop poaching in Africa?”
The weight of experience involving at least seven militias
funded by private conservationists between the mid-1980s and the
present indicates that they do not increase respect for law and
order, may provide cover for covert operations to destabilize
governments, import weapons and equipment which easily disappear
without a trace (including helicopters), and in some instances hire
individuals whose chief interest in fighting poachers may be to
reduce the competition.
Over time, ANIMAL PEOPLE found, the short-term achievements
of anti-poaching militias were offset by catastrophic failures,
especially at the political level after mercenaries abused the public
Mercer acknowledges that he might not have written the same
book today, now that the Zimbabwe model of wildlife management has
imploded and now that he has four more years of sanctuary experience.
Indeed, Mercer could compile a book about battling the South
African wildlife authorities on behalf of KRC and other sanctuaries
just by collating and editing the e-mails sent to ANIMAL PEOPLE since
his first e-mail to us announced publication of For The Love of
Notably, Mercer and Pervan won a long fight on behalf of
three orphaned caracals whom they rehabilitated in contradiction of
government policies which called for killing them. Two caracals were
returned to the wild; one, missing a leg, remains at KRC.
Mercer, Pervan, and Friends of the Tahr are still fighting,
after three years, on behalf of the feral Himalayan tahrs who have
resided for 70 years on Table Mountain, a large natural preserve
within Cape Peninsula National Park in Cape Town. Though endangered
in India, their ancestral home, the Cape Town tahrs are slated for
massacre in April 2003 as a non-native species. About a dozen
trophy-sized rams were shot in November 2002, ostensibly to inhibit
breeding, although shooting females would have more effect.
India would repatriate the tahrs, but lacks funding for
their capture and transport. Friends of the Tahr, so far unable to
raise the funding, continues efforts to prevent or delay the killing
through legal action.
Most directly relevant to the issues discussed in For The
Love of Wildlife are several recent incidents involving lions.
In a reprise of the opening chapter, a young male lion was
in June 2002 driven out of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park by older lions.
Seeking his own territory among cattle ranches where wild lions were
extirpated long ago, the lion killed seven cows and a donkey during
the next month, but eluded extermination until November 24, when he
was treed and shot.
The focus of a new book, however, would probably be an
ongoing legal battle between the scandal-plagued Mpumalanga Parks
Board and Enkosini Wildlife Sanctuary cofounders Greg Mitchell and
Kelsey Grimm, an immigrant from Bellevue, Washington.
“From March 2000 until September 2001,” according to Mercer
in a Response to Allegations prepared on behalf of Mitchell and
Grimm, the Enkoskini cofounders “ran the Camorhi Game Lodge’s
ecotourism business in the Orange Free State, where they saw tame
lions sold for canned hunts, cubs ripped away at birth from their
mothers, and lionesses forced into estrus for ‘speed breeding.'”
“The Johannesburg Zoo brought two High Court cases against
the Camorhi owner, Marius Prinsloo,” Mercer wrote, based on
information from Mitchell and Grimm that Prinsloo had falsely
reported the death of a lion named Zeus, sent to him on a breeding
loan. Zeus, bearing a rare white gene, was still producing white
cubs, whom Prinsloo sold via the Internet. The Johannesburg Zoo in
2002 won a series of court orders for the seizure and return of Zeus
and his offspring.
“With the help of Mitchell in identifying the lions, the zoo
managed to remove four of Zeus’ offspring in February 2002,” Mercer
related. “The removal was no easy task, as the Prinsloo contingency
bolted the gates to the lion enclosures, fired gunshots into the air
to stress the animals, and physically assaulted the zoo
veterinarians. Lion & Rhino Park operator Ken Heuer, a Camorhi
investor, told zoo attorney Lucien Pierce that he would ‘break his
legs and make him bleed,’ and threatened to ‘kill’ Mitchell. The
Bethlehem sheriff has written an affidavit describing the threats
made by Ken Heuer on this occasion,” Mercer said.
Mitchell also gave evidence against Prinsloo and Heuer in a
case alleging that they “organized for wild cheetahs to be captured
in Namibia and flown into South Africa,” Mercer said.
Mitchell and Grimm meanwhile purchased eight lions from
Prinsloo so that they would not be hunted, but when they tried to
collect the lions in September 2001, Mercer alleged, Camorhi
personnel used two vehicles to run Grimm and the four cubs she was
hauling off the road, while Mitchell’s trailer tires were slashed.
Mitchell had the four adult lions. “The Enkosini trustees
immediately took the matter to the High Court in Bloem-fontein and
received an interdict to remove the trailer and the four lions,”
As Enkosini was not yet ready to house the lions, they were
boarded first at the Johannesburg Zoo and later at the Honeydew Lion
Ironically, the Mpumalanga Parks Board then invoked
regulations that were supposedly meant to prevent the growth of
captive lion hunts to deny the necessary permits to Enkosini to
receive the lions.
In May 2002 Mitchell and Grimm transported the eight former
Camorhi lions plus two others they had acquired to Enkosini anyway,
hoping to win a court order that would enable the lions to remain.
Instead, the Mpumalanga Parks Board authorized Heuer to
seize the 10 lions and hold them at the Rhino & Lion Park pending the
outcome of the proceedings.
“Mitchell and Grimm then offered their support in caring for
the lions and meeting their food and veterinary costs. The MPB
refused this involvement,” Mercer said in a February 7 press
release. “The likely motive for this seeimingly pointless
prohibition,” Mercer charged, “is to build up a large debt to the
Rhino & Lion Park, and then to present Enkosini with the bill as a
final slap in the face if the Enkosini trustees win their High Court
case and come to collect their animals.”
Great Cats In Crisis
Heuer, Mercer promised, will be sued for defaming Mitchell
and Grimm in profane e-mails posted to an electronic discussion board
operated by Great Cats In Crisis, with which Heuer is associated.
Great Cats In Crisis is a promotional umbrella for big cat
facilities, founded by Brian Werner of the Texas-based Tiger Missing
Link Foundation, also known as Tiger Creek. Many of the “accredited
members” do fundraising direct mail via Bruce Eberle of Virginia.
As Mercer and Animal Act magazine of South Africa pointed
out, citing coverage by ANIMAL PEOPLE, Great Cats In Crisis became
known to the international protection community in late 2001 for
raising funds in the name of helping the Kabul Zoo in Afghanis-tan,
even though it had no connection with the official Kabul Zoo relief
project headed by North Carolina Zoo director and Brooke Hospital for
Animals president Davy Jones. In early 2002 Great Cats In Crisis
issued an appeal produced by Eberle on purported behalf of the Kabul
Zoo lion Marjan–which was apparently mailed after Marjan was dead.
Currently Great Cats In Crisis is distributing press releases
from Eberle about a case he brought against ANIMAL PEOPLE in July
2002 for allegedly libeling him and interfering with his business
relationships, chiefly by pointing out that according to IRS Form
990 filings, his animal-related nonprofit clients often spend more
than 70% of their budgets on direct mail.
ANIMAL PEOPLE recently rejected a “settlement offer” from
Eberle which amounted to demanding that ANIMAL PEOPLE should cease
critical coverage of his fundraising operations and allow him to
advertise. ANIMAL PEOPLE made clear that we will not compromise
either our news coverage or our advertising acceptance policy.
The relevant ANIMAL PEOPLE coverage on Eberle is grouped at
our web site, <www.animalpeoplenews.org>; click on “Why is
fundraiser Bruce Eberle suing us?”
The case is scheduled for trial on July 2-3 in Fairfax, Virginia.