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Conservation News Volume 3 – 2022

Lizanne Nel Conservation News 18 November 2022 Last Updated: 21 February 2023 Hits: 264

Read or print the pdf version of this newsletter here


Projek Grootoog

South Africa has 12 owl species. Although not all of them are threatened, the mismanagement or destruction of their habitat has raised concern for their survival.
The Barn owl (Tyto alba) and Spotted eagle owl (Bubo africanus) are the two most well-known species because of their close association with people. They hunt mostly rodents at night, which helps to control the number of the prey animals. Barn owls catch between three and four rodents per night. When they have owlets, a female and four owlets can eat as many as 1700 small rodents by the time the juvenile owls leave the nest.
A few years ago, Springbok Branch decided to focus their conservation activities on the conservation of owls. Projek Grootoog was launched to create public awareness about owl conservation, and to monitor the breeding success of owls, focussing in particular, on different types of owl boxes people erect in support. All owl boxes get registered, and breeding success of the owls in that box is then monitored. The public and schools can participate in this project, such as Hoërskool Garsfontein in Pretoria where Springbok  Branch erected an owl box for two spotted eagle owls that decided to raise a family in their new owl box on the school grounds.
Springbok Branch erected an owl box at High School Garsfontein

At a youth camp held recently by Impala, Eland, and Springbok branches, 36 children enjoyed a close encounter with owls and learnt about the challenges for their survival. A rehabilitated barn owl was also released. Afterwards, they all worked together to put up owl boxes on site. Conservation requires action, not just observation! Anyone interested in becoming involved with Projek Grootoog, can contact the project coordinator, Lionel Smit at lionel@witklip.co.za

Children at the youth camp busy setting up owl nesting boxes.
A rehabilitated barn owl was also released.  Photos: Lionel Smit

DID YOU KNOW an owl’s large eyes enable it to see in low light conditions, but the eyes do not move in their sockets as human eyeballs do. Instead, owls can rotate their necks 270 degrees to increase their vision.

Snare busters

We received feedback from Limpopo, Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape provinces about a significant increase in illegal snaring of wildlife. Mopani Branch in the Phalaborwa region removed 213 snares on 35 ha in their recent Snare Buster operation. That was one snare every 67 seconds. During a previous snare removal exercise, 374 snares were removed form the same area. These snares are set to trap anything from pigeons, duikers and warthogs. The trapped animals die a painful and slow death. This illegal practice has a devastating impact on the ecology of an area. Game paths and fences are the most popular places where the wire and cable snares are set up. Landowners are advised to check their farms in the late afternoon or early mornings to remove snares. SA Hunters will soon launch a national Snare Buster initiative to involve more branches in curbing the incidence of snares.

Umfolozi- and Mopani- branch in their recent Snare Busters operation.
Animals saved in trap in snares.  Photos: Eugene Troskie en Barry Look

Conservation in Namaqualand

Namakwa Branch contributes to the conservation of the Gannabos Quiver Tree Forest in the Northern Cape. With the help of landowners, the forest was fenced-off to prevent trespassers that poach plants. The idea is not to deny access to tourists, but to control entry to the area. Some proceeds of the gate money will be used to conserve this unique area. This conservation partnership will benefit nature and future generations. Information signs will be erected in the future to provide visitors with facts about this area and its unique plants.

Ganna-bos Quiver Tree Forest in Namaqualand.
With the help of landowners, the forest was fenced-off to prevent trespassers that poach plants.

The Branch also hosted two information sessions for pupils from Okiep High School and staff of the Goegap Nature Reserve. Various role-players delivered presentations to pupils about the importance of conserving their unique environment, and about the negative impact of the poaching of plants and animals on nature and humans.

Okiep High School and staff of the Goegap Nature Reserve.  Photos: Karel du Toit


There are currently less than 400 Ground-hornbill breeding females left in the wild. This species really needs our support. SA Hunters is a member of the National Ground-hornbill Working Group and collaborates with other conservation organisations in developing the draft biodiversity management plan for the species, which will hopefully be adopted soon for implementation.

A Southern Ground-hornbill.   Photo: Fred Champer

Although habitat degradation and killing of birds for traditional beliefs threaten the species, intensive monitoring of reintroduced ground-hornbills led to the first documented cases of wild ground-hornbills showing lead toxicosis. The sources of the lead poisoning were found to be lead fragments from lead bullets in offal left in the veld. Ground-hornbills seem to have a higher sensitivity to lead than vultures.

A ground-hornbill showing lead toxicosi. Photo: Dr Lucy

Ground-hornbill family groups need an average of approximately 100 km2 and members are requested to assist in securing large enough areas that are safe for the birds and free from any lead particles in the veld. Members are requested to either switch to non-lead ammunition, or to ensure that no carcasses or offal of animals shot with lead-based ammunition are left in the veld.

Southern Ground-hornbill family-group in a protected area.  Photo: Marette Bennett

Risks of lead-based ammunition talk

Lizanne Nel, conservation manager, was invited to give a talk at a member meeting of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy on the risks related to lead-based ammunition. This conservancy was established in 1989. It has 70 members that manage about160 000 ha in the Waterberg region in Limpopo Province.  Activities in this region include conservation, tourism, game farming, hunting, commercial agriculture, conservation research, environmental education, and small businesses.

Because lead-based ammunition is being used in many of these activities, members were made aware of the risks of lead to wildlife, especially since this area is the home of threatened vulture and ground-hornbill populations that are extremely sensitive to lead. SA Hunters’  engagement with private landowners strengthens conservation partnerships and demonstrates the Association’s and our members’ commitment to community conservation.

Students from the University of Limpopo was treated to a lecture at Lapalala Wilderness School on the wildlife economy, including the role that responsible hunting plays in adding value to game, the security of wildlife-based landuse that contributes to conservation and socio-economic development. It is important that decision makers of the future understand that we must follow an integrated approach to socio-economic development, which includes biodiversity conservation and the wildlife economy. Peter Mills, a member of SA Hunters, and president of the Game Rangers Association of Africa, also gave a lecture on the future of conservation to the students.

Photos: Lizanne Nel

It is also important that we engage with politicians about hunting and conservation. Lizanne, the conservation manager and Dr. Kelly Marnewick, gave a presentation on the status of conservation to the DA’s commission on the environment. They presented the challenges and the opportunities. Since the DA is the official opposition in South Africa, the opportunity was used to share our insights on conservation and the role that responsible hunting plays.


We must limit the impacts of stray, free-ranging domestic cats on biodiversity. Recent research on the impacts of stray, domestic cats in Cape Town and Table Mountain National Park, indicated that city cats kill 27.5 million prey animals per year, including 203 000 from the park. The average Cape Town domestic cat kills between 59 and 123 animals per year. Reptiles and birds make up 74% of the prey that are mostly killed at night. Members should take note of this threat to biodiversity and assist in reducing impacts by:

  • refraining from feeding stray cats;
  • limiting the number of pet cats and neutering cats they have as pets; and
  • attempt to limit night-time movements of pet cats to surrounding environments.

More details on the research available here

Ferral cats can cause great harm to wildlife populations.  Photo: www.owlrehab.com


Pangolin poacher sent to jail

Jan Krijt, public prosecutor and chairman of our Hardekool Branch, and Francois Meyer, pangolin specialist and conservation coordinator of the Hardekool Branch, teamed up in court after a pangolin had been confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade. It was subsequently released back into the wild. The pangolin, nicknamed Bumper, is doing well. Fortunately, the good news does not end there, as Bumper received some justice when his perpetrator was arrested and sentenced.

Bumper was released by Francois Meyer, member of IUCN “Ieterma-gospesialisgroep”.  Photo: Francois Meyer

Jan called Francois and Wynand de Jager (representing Umoya Khulula Wildlife centre) to act as witnesses/specialists for aggravating circumstances in the court case of Bumpers. We are happy to report that their efforts were successful, and that Bumper’s assailant did not escape with a “slap on the wrist”, but were sentenced to 6 years in jail.

Jan Krijt and Francois Meyer at court after the case was heard.

SA Hunters contributes to predation management

Landowners in South Africa are faced with numerous predation challenges. SA Hunters recently became a member of Predation Management South Africa (PMSA) to represent the interests of our members in the responsible management of predation. Other members include Wildlife Ranching SA, the Red Meat Producers’ Association, and the National Wool and National Mohair Growers associations. During October, the PMSA met with provincial conservation authorities about environmentally-friendly management of the impact of predation. A manual on this topic was compiled in collaboration with Cape Nature and is available on the PMSA website. The monthly PMSA newsletter can be accessed on SA Hunters website here

Manual on the predation management.
Caracal can cause great harm to landoweners.


Comment on the draft white paper on conservation and sustainable use of wildlife

SA Hunters submitted comment on the draft white paper on biodiversity to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment. The Association’s input was presented in a positive spirit to promote sustainable conservation and responsible use for the benefit of South Africans. We expressed our concern about the definition of sustainable use and the lack of attention to the positive contribution that hunting and the private sector makes towards conservation and the wildlife economy through meaningful management of the natural environment.

The white paper includes only a few policy suggestions that support the private sector, diversified wildlife land use, and responsible hunting. The role of ecotourism and international tourism as key players in rural socio-economic development is overemphasised. Although tourism plays an important role, the obvious lack of recognition about the meaningful role of diversified wildlife-based land-use, which includes hunting, is of concern. Furthermore, the white paper does not address the differences in the environmental footprint of photographic tourism compared to hunting, or the contribution by other activities that contribute to the different types of landscapes. This can be perceived as a deliberate effort to divert the debate from the important components of hunting and sustainable use.

Given the nature and scope of the challenges described in the white paper, SA Hunters believes that it is critically important for the minister to ensure that the white paper is revised following further consultation with all interest parties towards producing a final white paper that can make a significant and positive impact on South Africa’s biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and that all South Africans can adopt with pride.

A second version of the draft white paper has now been circulated for public comment. All comments must be submitted by 11 November. The document is available at here

The state of conservation


Conservation needs sustainable financing. The state cannot fund the full cost. Private sector has an important role to play.


Newsletter VOL3 2022 high resolution

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