The Use of Poison in Predation Management

© Robert Hofmeyr
The incorrect usage of poison can cause devastating problems throughout the food chain.
Pesticides, which include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, additives and adjuvants may only be used for the purposes indicated on their labels. Since none has been registered for killing predators, it is illegal to use any or mixtures of these products to kill or manage predators. Even buying or selling such products for the purpose of poisoning predators is a serious criminal offence.

The first problem with poison is that it is not target-specific, hence both damage causing and non-damage causing animals might get killed in the process. The hierarchy in a predatory group may also get disrupted, when non-damage individuals in the group get poisoned, resulting in damage causing animals now taking the lead.

Besides this, other animals, often vulnerable species, such as vultures and raptors, may be affected, either through direct or indirect contact with the poison when feeding on a poisoned animal.

Toxic Collars

The use of collars, filled with Sodium monofluoroacetate (1080) to eliminate black-backed jackal and caracal is one exception to this rule, according to the Predation Management Forum. However, no other toxin may be used in these collars and the collars need to be filled and supplied by licenced suppliers in terms of the Hazardous Substances Act, Act 15 of 1973.

The collars should also only be used on small livestock to control black-backed jackal and caracal when other techniques did not work. In pens where there is a high risk of predation, the forum advises farmers to fit a few young lambs with a toxic collar and put them in enclosures with adult sheep.

The benefit of this method is that only predators that catch sheep and goats will be killed by the toxic collars. Poisoned predators should be buried deep or burnt to prevent other animals from also getting poisoned.

Coyote Getters

Another exception to the rule is Coyote getters – a device used to kill target animals by shooting cyanide into the mouth of the animal when it disturbs the bait. While this is one of the most successful ways to address stray dogs, it is not a selective method and may, therefore, lead to the poisoning of other species, especially smaller animals.

Permits

Farmers need to get the required permit from the Provincial Nature Conservation Authority to use toxic collars or coyote getters. The authority will have specific conditions for issuing a permit, which the permit holder has to follow to the letter. Coyote getters should be set up by the Provincial Conservation Department to ensure it complies with all requirements and ethics.