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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Vertebrate pest animals in the Province of the Cape of Good Hope, Republic of South Africa

  • Author(s): Hey, Douglas D.
  • et al.

The keynote speaker describes the fauna of Southern Africa, renowned for its wealth of wildlife. Here, representatives of 51 mammalian families occur, a greater diversity than are found in any other zoogeographical region on earth. No less than 12 families are endemic and include 30 species of antelope. In terms of conflicts with human interests, carnivores are the most important order, including the large cats, jackals and hyenas, the aardwolf, civets, genets, mongooses, meerkats, the honey-badger, otters, and weasels. Many mammals came into conflict with humans, including the Bushmen and Hottentots tribes, from the earliest times. Following the first European white settlement in 1652, wild animal depredations suffered losses of livestock and of crops. As colonization continued, all larger forms of wildlife, considered “vermin,” were exterminated in the vicinity of settlements. Today, the Department of Nature Conservation in the Province of the Cape of Good Hope strives to find balance between conflicting interests of human endeavors, including agriculture, and conservation of wildlife. Techniques employed to control vertebrate pest animals today include use of trained hounds to hunt predators; use of the coyote getter to kill jackals that prey on livestock and poultry; use of fencing; live traps; and poisons. Poisons should be used as selectively as possible and by trained personnel; eggs treated with malathion have been used extensively to control crows and small mammalian predators, and Telodrin has been successful in poisoning baboons that can do extensive damage to crops and livestock. Among birds causing damage are the red-billed quelea, the red bishop bird, and the Cape sparrow. As early as 1957, the Department recognized the important role of predatory birds in nature by giving protection to all eagles, hawks, and owls. Today all predatory birds are protected in the Cape Province, but a farmer who loses livestock to eagles can obtain a permit to destroy the birds responsible. There appears to be a marked improvement in the attitude of farmers toward predatory birds, although some species are now classed as endangered. Problems with introduced rodents such as Norway and black rats are handled by public health authorities. In their desire to enhance sport fishing, anglers in the past introduced species form both Europe and North America, including trout and bass, which have practically eliminated indigenous fishes. European carp have destroyed aquatic vegetation, rendering ecosystems unable to support native species. Other problem species, whose introduction is said to be blamed on Cecil John Rhodes, include the American gray squirrel, Himalayan tahr, ring-necked pheasant, European goldfinch, and the European starling.

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