Forestry council to hear case against baboon culling

Monday, May 23, 2011
Masoka Dube

Mbombela - Pressure groups calling for a moratorium on the trap-and-shoot method that the forestry industry in Mpumalanga uses to control baboons will argue their case before the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Philip Owen, chairman of the environmental NGO, Geasphere, said he has been informed that the FSC will hear the matter on June 1.

"I received a call informing me that the case will be heard on June 1. There will be three witnesses, two South Africans and one American. The hearing will be conducted via e-mail," said Owen.

Owen said Geasphere lodged a complaint with the FSC on January 11 after learning that 1 914 baboon capture and culling permits were issued in Mpumalanga between May 2009 and December 2010.

"In the letter we clearly expressed that we want a moratorium on the killing of baboons in the timber industry. About 20 nature and environmental conservation organisations have signed the letter, endorsing the complaint," he said.

The FSC is an independent, international NGO that ensures the world's forests are managed responsibly.

Owen said although the baboon killings are legal, they are inhumane and irresponsible.

The baboons are accused of destroying trees by stripping off the bark, often ring-barking them. He said a non-lethal solution should be sought before any baboon is killed again in the province.

He said most of the culling permits were awarded to forestry companies Komatiland Forests and York Timbers.

He said the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) issued Komatiland Forests (KLF) with 851 permits and York Timbers with 1 015 permits. Both companies, as well as Sappi Forests, are certified by the FSC.

Owen said about 290 baboons had been killed in Mpumalanga this year alone.

"I really want to urge the involved companies to find another way to solve any problem that they claimed is their reason for killing these vulnerable animals," said Owen.

He suggested that the companies plant indigenous trees and shrubs in and around plantations that the baboons could feed on. He said the non-lethal solution was suggested at a Baboon Damage Working Group Public Stakeholder Session held in Sabie.

Owen said pressure groups were unable to determine exact baboons numbers in the province and therefore did not know exact culling statistics.
He also accused plantations of refusing to release official data on how many baboons have been killed in the past two years.

KLF spokesman Leslie Mudimeli said the company had not yet found an alternative non-lethal method to manage the damage caused baboons in plantations.

"The continuous escalation of the damage and ineffectiveness of the non-lethal methods forced KLF management to implement the control of the damage by means of the trap-and-shoot procedure," said Mudimeli.

He said the procedure was prescribed in the Protocol for Management of Chacma Baboons Causing Damage in Southern African Commercial Plantations.

"The procedure is only implemented in areas where damage has become unsustainable for business to continue and when all possible non-lethal alternatives have been tried.

"It is our wish that together with other concerned parties we find a sustainable solution to reduce the damage caused by baboons. The non-lethal methods were tested, but they all failed," he said.

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