Authors of the book For the Love of Wildlife
submitted by Merritt Clifton -
The Kalahari Raptor Centre is a wildlife sanctuary in
South Africa. It is also the only registered wildlife rehabilitation
centre in the Northern Cape province, which is a vast province covering
one-third of the country.
On Saturday, October 14, 2000 we sent the following
letter by fax to the department of Nature Conservation of the Northern
Cape Province in Kimberley:
Further to our previous general application for permits
to provide sanctuary to predators, there has been a subsequent
On Wednesday we received a phone call from a farmer who
stated that he had captured three young caracals after trapping their
mother and killing her. He felt sorry for the young animals but said
that if we could not take them he would have to put them down. We made
an arrangement in pursuance of which I drove to a small place called
Nonieputs (over a thousand kilometers round trip) to fetch them. One of
the three had a broken fore leg and I took her straight to the
veterinarian in Kuruman, Dr. van der Westhuizen, who attended to the leg
and immobilized it.
We are thus presently caring for three young caracals,
one of which is disabled. We wish to use them for the education of
schoolchildren who visit our center, and for the benefit of tourists,
who like to photograph these exquisite little predators. We have no
intention of allowing 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 natural veld near the
present vulture restaurant would give them a pleasant site with a view
out over the veld and plenty of camelthorn trees for shade.
Alternatively, once they are a little older and
stronger, do you have any wilderness in mind where we could release them
back into the wild?
Our book For the Love of Wildlife will be out shortly,
dedicated to the waning spirit of wild Africa and its purest elements,
the predators with whom mankind refuses to live, or let live. We hope
that you will have no trouble giving us a permit to care for these
beautiful, much-persecuted animals.
Kalahari Raptor Centre
The response, in bold print with much underlining, was a
categorical refusal of the application; a notice of the department's
intention to institute a prosecution; 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 a piece of apartheid-era
legislation called the Problem Animal Control Ordinance, which is a
chilling reminder of the days when all laws and policies were framed to
protect the narrow commercial interests of a tiny minority, the
Afrikaans farming community, at the expense of the population at large.
The Problem Animal Control Ordinance of 1974 is a
Declaration of war upon, and an extermination program for, two species
of wildlife: the black-backed jackal and the caracal (lynx). Both these
species are invaluable to a healthy natural ecosystem by keeping down
numbers of rodents and other pests -- but when farmers create a
prey-desert for them by hunting guinea fowl and springhares, predators
will turn their attention to the livestock farmers' lambs.
Any attempt to harbor or care for these alleged enemies
of the State is strictly verboten. For example, any motorist who stops
to pick up an injured caracal kitten to take her to a veterinarian
commits a crime. He must kill the little animal forthwith, and then bury
the body, or he is guilty of yet another offense.
Wildlife sanctuaries, and this would include
economically important eco-tourism resorts, are treated by the law as an
illegal breeding ground for vermin. Draconian measures are provided to
prevent any show of kindness to the enemy. The local livestock farmers'
association and its military wing, the provincial nature conservation
department, are granted the power to behave like Robert Mugabe's thugs
in Zimbabwe and carry out an armed invasion of the sanctuary, featuring
men on horseback supported by packs of dogs which are provided by the
South African taxpayer. (Until recent financial stringency brought this
abomination to an end, the provincial nature conservation departments
used public funds to import hounds from overseas. In the Orange Free
State such mayhem-by-authority has been privatized, and is infamously
known as the Oranjejag.)
The armed cavalry or motorized invaders, together with
the dog pack, may smash through the fence of any suspect sanctuary
and/or eco-tourism resort and charge around the veld looking for any
caracals or jackals who might seek shelter from the extermination
program, making of each little caracal kitten an Anne Frank hiding in
A better recipe for causing armed conflict between
neighbors is hard to imagine. The hunters may invade without notice or
permission. Any attempt to resist the invasion is unlawful; further the
outraged occupier may be forced to join the hunt, as participation in it
When a fugitive goes to ground, the burrow is dug up and
then the unfortunate fellow-occupants of the doomed burrow, whether
ant-bears or bat-eared foxes or whatever, share the fugitive's fate of
being torn apart by snarling dogs in a welter of blood and dust.
The hunt pays no compensation for any collateral damage
and loss it causes. However, the hunters, who are paid and rewarded by
the taxpayer for their grisly work, may recover all of their expenses
from the aggrieved owner/occupier of the scourged land. Limitations are
also placed on any criminal liability for hunt members.
In short, this is nothing more or less than a selective
imposition of martial law. This monstrous legislation so far exceeds any
legitimate need for livestock farmers to protect themselves from stock
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. Regardless of the obvious sustained cruelty to exquisite
wildlife, the misuse of public funds and harm to the employment
prospects for previously disadvantaged Africans who are condemned to
remain as farm slaves rather than to find emancipation through
eco-tourism, are in themselves good reasons for repeal.
Who are the real problem animals anyway? Certainly not
the magnificent predators whom the tourists will pay millions to see and
photograph. The real problem animals are the goats and sheep who trample
and devastate the veld, turning the land into desert. Besides, the
livestock farmers are in retreat across the southern Kalahari. Terms of
trade have moved against them, while eco-tourist resorts are sprouting
and game reserves are expanding. Tswalu alone changed 26 livestock farms
into one 90,000 hectare eco-tourism resort.
The land use may be changing, but not the laws. As the
sun sets on apartheid and the Kalahari ranching industry, the
lengthening shadows of a brutal past reach out to haunt us.
The only remedy presently available to those who provide
islands of sanity in a sea of mad destruction is the Constitutional
Court, and it is not a pretty equation to divide the delays and costs of
a full-scale constitutional battle by the lives of three little caracal
kittens. We intend to do it anyway.
[Messages on behalf of the three Kalahari caracal
kittens may be sent to the Premier of the Northern Cape Province of
South Africa, fax 053-8332122; the Department of Environmental Affairs,
fax 012-3220082, e-mail <[email protected]>; and media liaison officer
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