Photo Credit: City of Cape Town, Simonstown 8 July 2016
This article is the continuation & conclusion of our article titled Help!
South Africa has an extremely diverse amount of fauna & flora that needs to be conserved in such a careful manner so as to not disturb the natural course of species. With an ever increasing rate of population growth & urbanisation, species are struggling to make ends meet in terms of food resources & securing a safe reliable habitat.
Recently within the Western Cape the local conservation & environmental management organisations have been putting pressure on species that have come down to urbanised areas in search of food due to their original food sources being affected by recent fires & droughts. Animals would not risk their own lives by crossing highways, dodging buses & trucks, let alone potentially coming into contact with the biggest threat of all, humans if they were not desperate.
After hearing about organisations wanting to remove the Leopard from Betty’s Bay due to it predating on penguins at Stony Point, I started questioning myself as to why they would want to remove such a rare & majestic animal from its natural habitat just because it is attacking penguins in an effort to attain food & whether what was taking place was right or wrong. However not living near Betty’s Bay, it wasn’t entirely close to home & as they say out of sight out of mind & so all I could do was aid in spreading the word & creating a greater sense of awareness about the situation, send in my objection through to Cape Nature & move on.
A couple of weeks later right on my door step I hear of news that a Caracal (Caracal caracal) that is needing to be trapped due to it “swooping” down onto Boulder’s Beach & killing 20 penguins over 2 weeks. While the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is an endangered animal, it is not a natural food source for caracal so that immediately indicated to me that this animal was clearly desperate & struggling to find food on the mountainside which has severely been affected by fires leaving the mountain barren and scarred with no visible life only charred Protea bushes.
After many “experts”in large sponsored vehicles hanging around the potential trapping area & a week later, the caracal had managed to out-smart the traps & dodge all the bait that had been placed out for it, continuing to kill penguins around the traps. Their declining patience resulted in officials (people in uniform who think they are higher than anyone around them) deciding to live bait the cages, on Friday evening, with penguins forcing the caracal with no option but to attack the tempting penguins thus becoming trapped.
Not only is this an extremely cruel way of doing things. I honestly think that it is so ironic that the experts with “environmental knowledge” take a declining endangered animal from its protected sanctuary & use it as a sacrificial item to lure an animal into a trap purely because it is struggling to find food. It wouldn’t be hunting the penguins in the first place, if there was sufficient food on the mountainside. It would probably resume to terrestrial animals once the land had recovered from the fires & move away from hunting penguins as it is far too risky for a meal.
Sadly on Friday 8 July 2016, they successfully trapped a female adult caracal. Using about 3-4 cages each with live penguins in, forcing the caracal into attacking the cage & trapping itself. It was then fitted with a GPS collar & removed from the area & released somewhere else in the Table Mountain National Park, the location not mentioned to the public.
It is amazing the effort that goes into trapping an animal that is posing a threat to an endangered species that brings in such a high revenue from being a tourist attraction (Boulders Beach). It reminded me of a military troop going on lock down.Preparing for war. Penguins are well protected because of holding such a high value to the tourist industry this & many species have suffered because they do not hold such a high commodity as the penguins do. The predation by the caracal is only natural & temporary, it wasn’t even entering the reserve! It was killing penguins that had escaped the sanctuary & were living outside the boundaries of Boulders Beach. As far as I am concerned those penguins has escaped & were not being monitored & could have easily been run over by passing cars never mind being killed by a caracal. In fact penguins still continue to be mowed down by passing cars, yet that does not seem to be an issue & something that never gets addressed.
I called an official on Saturday morning to inquire whether the cat had been captured & wanted more information & answers as I felt this capture was a rather extreme process of doing things. I quote from the paper I found on site attached to a tree near the traps “In case of emergency, or for any animal welfare concerns or requests for more information about this project contact project leader Dr. xxx xxx on +27 71 xx xxx who is available 24/7 to answer questions” and so with this friendly message I duly contacted the project leader, who was a very abrupt when I asked some to the point questions, a lady who was not wanting to comment on anything that I had seen including the baiting of live penguins & whether she thought that this was an ethically correct way of doings things or not. She was more concerned at how I got her personal number, why I was wanting to find out more & whether or not I was going to take this information to the newspapers. Instantly I knew something was amiss & not right. I could feel & hear in her voice along with her continuous uhm’s & aaah’s that she was covering up her actions & not wanting anything to let slip, if only she knew that I was on scene quietly in the background the Friday evening when they were setting the traps. But what could I do? I am just one member of the public who is concerned & not wanting to tolerate what was happening, while most of the residents within Simonstown were not even aware of what was going on, let alone care as to what was being done & how it was being conducted.
According to a press release on Monday 11 July 2016, “The cat, which was fitted with a tracking collar, was transported back to her original roaming territory in the Table Mountain National Park and released. It has been confirmed that the cat has settled down and its future movements will now be monitored. ”
I am not sure how they could determine where her original roaming ground was, given she was never tracked prior to Friday 8 July 2016. I would suspect that the caracal didn’t pack her suitcase from up country & come down to Simonstown for the weekend to view & taste test the local penguins. Is this just a case of environmental organisations making society feel better that she will be in safer territory & away from penguins? What exactly is the point of this statement?
I simply do not understand it. This entire week the Froggy Pond area has had a sad yet very tense air about it. As though humans have felt that they have succeeded & won. Yet sadly I think they are only thinking in monetary terms & not in conservation/biodiversity which is supposedly their main goal.
My final question is, how much good is trapping & collaring an animal doing or is it humans thinking they are making a change & improving the situation just because they have taken part in an event. After all these beautiful cats have lived perfectly sustaining their population numbers without collars. So why are collars needed to be fitted in order to “improve” their survival & safety.
All I know is that while I may not have been able to make a major difference or prevent the animal from being trapped & collared, I have certainly learnt so much in this week about the whole situation, more than I ever could have learnt through a textbook. I am so much wiser about government environmental organisations, projects protecting particular species & sanctuaries conserving endangered animals. Whilst in amongst all of these organisations there are genuine people who love & protect animals because its in their nature / personality with a pure love for animals. There are also the types of people that claim to “protect & conserve animals” meanwhile it is for personal or monetary gain.