BUSINESS is booming for gin traps in Namibia despite an increasing push by consumers, wildlife organisations and businesses to promote alternative ways to control predator induced stock losses.
The device and use of the device is banned in more than 90 countries globally, and many in Namibia say it is time it is outlawed here too. Although Namibian legislation forbids the sale of “old-fashioned” steel jaw traps, and the gin traps sold now are referred to as “soft” traps, the injuries and indiscriminate by-catch of the device remains a sore point for many.
In Namibia “a staggering number of farmers still use the gin trap”, a small stock farmer in the south of Namibia said. He said however that he no longer uses them because of the indiscriminate by-catch caught in the traps.
“We don’t use them any longer. They catch steenbucks, bat-eared foxes, hares, springbok”.
According to Dr Bool Smuts of the Landmark Foundation in South Africa there is a solution to the problem. He, like many others promoting alternative methods, said “the focus should shift away from predator control to controlling and guarding your stock.
And that is absolutely key – it is a paradigm shift required”. Smuts said that not only should the focus change from predator control to farmers improving the protection of livestock because of ethical reasons, but research has shown that “this is financially beneficial to the farmer”.
Smuts said that evidence suggests that in spite of “almost three centuries of the use of some of these methods” the issue of predators and livestock is still “out of control” which suggests that current methods, such as “gin traps, hunting dog packs, poisons, denning and helicopter hunting” are not in fact a solution to the problem.
“In other words, the methods we are advocating against have not only been ineffective in dealing with the problem, it has caused and aggravated the problem”. Evidence shows that “lethal predator controls have caused the reported escalating stock losses and secondary predator number increases”, according to Smuts and several other reports.
In Namibia, various groups have begun researching and helping farmers implement alternative methods of predator control.
Tammy Hoth from Africat North, who has worked staunchly towards promoting non-lethal and ethical ways of managing livestock amongst predators, said using gin traps is “a painful, but effective way with dealing with predators.
The problem is, its indiscriminate”. The by-catch of gin traps, and other lethal methods such as poisons are high. Reports suggest that nine out of ten animals caught in gin traps are not the intended predators, but other wildlife, such as antelope, tortoises and more.
Hoth agrees that a focus on protecting livestock effectively, rather than focusing on killing predators, should be predominant in tackling the issue.
Farmers have to consider their “livestock protection methods before looking at gin traps”. Reinforcing kraals into which animals are herded at night is one option. Another is reintroducing herdsmen during the day. She said Africat North believes gin traps should be “outlawed”.
Veterinarian Dr Ian Baines told The Namibian the death or injury by gin trap and other lethal methods such as poison, is “horrible” and painful, drawn out death or injury.
“The trouble is you get accidental trappings. It’s indiscriminate. The gin trap doesn’t decide who it’s going to catch”.
When an animal is trapped, there are a number of ways their injuries are exaggerated or how the animals die. “When an animal is caught, they go absolutely berserk.
They flip, they bite themselves”. Even though legislation forbids old fashioned steel jaw traps, the “soft” traps sold in Namibia do not prevent injury, which can be exaggerated by the animals panicked reaction to being trapped and injured.
Also, if the traps are not checked, animals die from thirst and starvation. The veterinarian said a number of options are available to farmers to control predators. “Jackal proof fencing, electric fencing. Dogs. Regular monitoring of your farm.
A lot of the predator problems are related to not monitoring,” he said. In essence, “good husbandry” eliminates the need for unethical methods such as poison and gin traps.
Another factor pushing farmers to consider alternative methods are consumers and businesses.
Consumers are pulling the strings more and more when it comes to livestock products. They are not only interested in the source of their meat but “also the impact its production has on the environment” a report written in South Africa has noted.
And, with certain supermarkets already stipulating that farmers have to sign declarations that they have not used gin traps, poisons or pack hunting to control predators, awareness continues to spike.
A livestock producer in Namibia said that the final decision lies with the farmer and whether they want to be able to sell their meat at a premium “then they have to find alternative ways to control predators”.
He added that “it is fact that livestock farming and predators, they are not compatible. One just has to find ways which are acceptable to the consumer, if you want to supply certain markets”.