Dealing with Wildlife Poisoning

© Shem Compion

Poisoning of wild animals in South Africa happens for a variety of reasons - people looking for protein, farmers trying to deal with 'problem' animals or birds, unscrupulous individuals trying to obtain bird or animal parts for the muti trade, misuse of chemicals by inexperienced workers - all of these and more spell death for a variety of birds and animals. Tim Snow, from the NGO, Wildlife Poisoning Prevention and Conflict Resolution (WPPCR) spends his life trying to deal with this issue.

From his base near Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal, he has travelled as far afield as Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana to deal with wildlife poisonings. Specially trained, he carries equipment to deal with the toxic remains of poison victims. He collects evidence and information from poisonings and together with his network, compiles information on South Africa's deadliest chemicals. Armed with this information, he engages with government and policy makers to ensure chemicals safety awareness.

Snow says that dealing with wildlife poisonings requires a high degree of expertise to ensure that the poison does not also harm those arriving at or investigating the scene. He is hoping to train a select group of volunteers; a community of practice, to broaden the network of people who can respond to incidents. Snow says that the recovery of poisoned animals is important for several reasons. From toxicology reports, the most common poisons used can be correctly identified and steps taken to regulate their use.

The removal of carcasses takes the poison out of the ecosystem, and also makes parts unavailable for the muti trade or for human consumption. Where possible, legal action is taken against those responsible for the poisoning. The operation largely relies on members of the public to call in poisoning incidents. Snow encourages people to report any suspicious dead animals. The more information available on what types of poisonings occur, the easier it is to present a case for controls or withdrawal of a toxin.

In 2004 based on the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Poison Working Group's database, the pesticide monocrotophos was withdrawn from sales in South Africa due to its deadly effect on wildlife even when correctly applied. Other withdrawals have followed. As well as dealing with poisoning incidents, WPPCR is proactive in training people, especially rangers, about pesticides crime (see website above). They also educate farmers that 'problem animal’ conflicts may be resolved using methods that do not rely on poisons and killing.

For more information, or to report wildlife poisonings, please call Tim Snow on 082 802 6223. WPPCR can arrange presentations or talks on the impact of poisons on the environment for wildlife clubs and garden clubs, or any interested group.

Kruger National Park - South African Safari