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Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel

Predator breeder and trader arrested

Photo: Ian Michler

Well done to the South African police – they may very well have made another crucial breakthrough in their fight against the organised crime syndicates targeting the country’s wildlife. On Friday 23rd July, an individual that is extremely well known in the canned hunting and predator-breeding industries of the Free State was arrested.

According to sources within the wildlife industry, he was arrested late in the afternoon after a tip-off. Police found an undisclosed amount of M99, the strictly controlled schedule 6 tranquilliser in his private plane that was stationed at Tempe airfield.

M99 is a vital requirement for anyone involved in handling or moving large game species, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino for example. And if you aren’t using it yourself, the black market value is approximately four times its counter value. In the wrong hands, it can also be extremely dangerous – hence the strict laws pertaining to its prescription and use. Given that veterinarians are the only people allowed to carry and use the drug, the suspect will have some explaining to do when he appears in court sometime in early August on charges for contravening the Medicines and Related Substances Act. Could this arrest lead police to others?

And while on the subject of canned hunting and predator breeders in South Africa, last week’s daily press carried stories speculating on the outcome of all caged lions if the South African Predator Breeders Association (SAPBA) loses its court appeal against government. Included in the article by Tony Carnie of the Cape Times were various wild and unsubstantiated claims made by a spokesman from the SAPBA. This type of misinformation, spread so readily by this organisation and its sympathisers within the wider hunting industry, must not go unchallenged. And Dr Paul Funston, a carnivore specialist at the Tshwane University and the IUCN, did exactly this – his response was spot on.

The same spokesman also came up with some preposterous justifications in attempting to defend the breeding and hunting of predators. He claimed that, “you are in the hunting business because you love wild animals. You are proud of how your animals look. But to kill just for bones, it’s not worthwhile”.

It is almost inconceivable that in this day and age, statements such as these are still being made. But having spent time amidst those involved, the harsh reality is that this reflects the thinking of so many of them.

Ian Michler

Ian has spent the last 24 years working as a specialist guide, photo-journalist and consultant across Africa, including a stint of 13 years based in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. When not guiding, he writes predominately for Africa Geographic covering topics on conservation, wildlife management, ecotourism, and the environment, and has been writing his popular monthly column since 2001. Ian is also the author and photographer of seven natural history and travel books on Africa, and is a past winner of the bird category in the Agfa Wildlife photographic competition (1997). He has also worked as a researcher and field coordinator on various natural history television documentaries for international broadcasters and as a consultant on ecotourism to various private sector and government agencies. Prior to his life in the wilderness, he spent eight years practicing as a stockbroker in Cape Town and Johannesburg.