The Silent African Killer
Poachers are now using a controversial pesticide that is accessible over the counter of many supermarkets to kill wildlife among rhino, lion, elephant and vultures.
The potent Carbofuran chemical is registered for the use to control soil and foliar pests on agricultural crops, but now acts as weapon to kill fauna. The wildly abused pesticide acts as an alternative for the usual hunting rivals to kill wildlife as it is a silent, cheap, tasteless, odorless and easy method. Carbofuran is highly toxic to birds, mammals, freshwater and marine fish on an acute basis.
The US manufactured pesticide is banned in most developed countries, but easily traded in African countries. The substance is the cause of death of annual estimate of 500 000 birds and other animals in South Africa.
When placed on grub, the flavourless chemical acts as bait to lurk wildlife. It is used in waterholes, salt licks, watermelons, pumpkins, cabbages or used to coat the tip of arrows to kill mammals. The carcass of these animals can then poison the next round of consumers - scavengers.
An estimate of 500 vultures died after they ate the pesticide laced carcass of an elephant that had been killed by poachers in Namibia last year.
In Kenya the insecticide is known as the "lion killer" among agro-vet shop owners and their customers. Lion population in East Africa have been annihilated and it is perdicted that they will soon be exticnt in Southern Kenya.
Worldwide attention has been captured by the ongoing and lethal trade of rhino horn and ivory but Africa's lions are in equal danger. An estimate of 15 000 - 25 000 lions roam the African plains of which only 645 distributed in west and central Africa.
As an indirect result of the pesticide use to poach wildlife, an estimate of 500 vultures died after they ate the pesticide laced carcass of an elephant that had been killed by poachers in Namibia last year.
Highlighted recently and in many previous reports, the negligent or intentional poisoning of wildlife with agricultural pesticides continues unchecked. These reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg and indicate that immense damage is occurring through uncontrolled ‘seepage' of chemicals into natural systems.
In various ways, vegetation is increasingly destroyed and soil-cover removed. Increased run-off is silting dams and destroying rivers. Many fish species have vanished due to diminished water flow. Despite the increased spread of electrical power, wood burning continues unabated. Many destructive veld fires add to the smoke trapped under the inversion level in our winter skies. The continued supply of items in ‘no-deposit', and excessive, packaging encourages the ‘throw-away' culture that smothers our natural, tourist areas in commercial litter.
National laws that ban the use of poisons to kill wildlife have been implemented in 83% of African Countries but they are rarely enforced. Most are signatories to international treaties which prohibits the the use of drug use, poisons, poisoned weapons, or poisoned weapons during any act of hunting, capturing or fishing.
Although the use of pesticides are banned, the penalties for non-compliance with these international conventions are restricted. withe the few reported cases of poisonings, authorities are reluctant to follow them or to share the information with organisations.
South Africa is the only African country that has an organisation dedicated to the problem of wildlife poisonings.
There is a great need to understand the importance and maintenance of systems that support communities rather than the sentimental protection of individuals of a species. Desecration of natural vistas, whether viewed from above or below, continues unchecked through bush clearing or other ‘development', despite sound legislation to control these activities. There is a distinct lack of policing, accountability and coordination.
This is where the K2C Biosphere structure can play an important role - as a coordinating and communication umbrella for all the numerous research and social activities in the area. The structure also needs ‘teeth' to be able to enforce the environmental legislation. In this respect I believe that measures have been taken for the construction and fitting of effective dentures. The organisation must steer clear of any form of lucrative ‘greenwashing' which is so common in South Africa these days. The community needs to see and benefit from environmentally sound action.