Cub's death draws attention to cruelty of toothed traps

Published: 26 June 2008

John Yeld, Cape Argus

A Cape leopard cub that spent an agonising three-and-a-half days with a mangled paw tightly jammed in the steel teeth of a gin-trap on a Northern Cape farm, has been euthanased by conservationists after being released.

Members of the Cape Leopard Trust found that the injuries to its paw, which had been almost severed and the bones broken, were too severe for the six-month-old animal to have survived in the wild.

The mother leopard had stayed with the cub while it was in the trap, so close that the conservationists at first thought two animals had been trapped.

Ironically, the mother and her two cubs, one of them the trapped animal, had been "snapped" by a camera trap in the Namaqualand National Park just a few weeks ago. The last confirmed resident leopard in the area was in 1922.

Now the trust is hoping to use the young animal's tragic death to galvanise national and provincial conservation authorities into urgently adopting legislation that will transform the use of gin-traps for "problem animal" control and providing sufficient resources so that conservation extension officers can be appointed to regularly visit farmers and assist them.

"We're not looking to ban gin-traps outright, but we want the government to pass legislation setting certain standards for traps," says the trust's project manager, Quinton Martins.

"Non-lethal leg-hold traps with the correct specifications, such as spring-strength and gaps between the jaws, are even used by some conservationists, for example, the first rare snow leopards in the Himalayas were trapped like this.

"And there are several other methods of protecting stock as well, like Anatolian guard dogs and (sheep) collars with bells."

Andrew Baxter, the trust's chairman, says they want minimum standards for traps, including a register for the sale of all traps, and a requirement that any trap set in the veld must be visited at least on a daily basis to be able to release non-predatory animals and allow the humane killing of target species.

They hope to arrange an urgent meeting with Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, nature conservation officials and "problem animal" experts to get proper legislation in place urgently.

The trust, which has been operating successfully in the Cederberg area for the past five years, started a Namaqualand project in March. But farmers in the area are still habituated to simply killing "problem animals".

An angry Martins slammed the use of the toothed gin-traps and the lack of monitoring by people who set them.

"Knowingly leaving animals to suffer for three days and longer is disgusting," he said yesterday.

Baxter declined to identify the farmer, saying it was not their intention to "name and shame" individuals.

"We're really sorry about this leopard cub … But we also realise that we have a bigger responsibility, to create a much broader environmental and ecological awareness in rural communities like Namaqualand."

Cub's death draws attention to cruelty of toothed traps 


The Cape Leopard Trust Trapping Techniques

icon no trap Short overview of three trapping methods considered by the Cape Leopard Trust as safe and humane

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