Traps and Predation Management

© Chris Daly
Live hold traps as used on this chicken farm, is a humane way to catch and release Caracals away from the farm.
Traps can be used to catch predators, but the traps should be set up by an expert and be used in a way that does not injure the animals. Permits are required to capture protected or threatened species.

Gin Traps

Gin traps have been banned in more than ninety countries across the world, as these traps cause a lot of suffering by clamping off an animal’s limb. Animals not only get maimed in the process, but may die of thirst or hunger if not freed shortly after they have been captured. They may also contract gangrene if their injuries become septic.
Besides this, gin traps are totally indiscriminate, which means that many “innocent” animals also get caught in these barbaric traps.

Soft Traps

Soft traps differ from gin traps in that gin traps have sharp, sometimes serrated metal jaws, designed to cause severe soft-tissue, ligament and bone damage to any captured animal, whereas soft traps have offset jaws with thick rubberised pads, weaker springs, double swivels and springs on the chain to avoid ligament or muscle damage. They are also non-target specific, but animals can generally be safely released from them unharmed. These traps should be monitored daily to set animals free as soon as possible after being caught and in effect to prevent injuries and unnecessary stress to these animals. The traps should be set up by a trained individual and may not be placed in normal animal footpaths, in roads next to perimeter fences or near watering holes.

Live Hold Traps

Live hold traps are devices aimed at capturing and containing an animal, so it can be relocated. The traps have been designed not to injure animals and work with a trigger that causes the cage door to shut once weight is placed on it.

The cages should be inspected daily, to free innocent animals and take care of target-animals. Not checking on the cages, could lead to animals dying of hunger or thirst. The animals may also become stressed or aggressive and injure themselves in an attempt to escape.
The traps are covered with foliage, while the trap floor is covered with loose soil. They may be used with a lure or bait depending on the target animal and is usually set in the known path of a predator. Leopards, for example, are habitual animals, while caracals usually return to fresh prey. Some traps have single, while others have double entrances. The traps work with most species, except jackal.

The type of cage used will differ from one species to another. Farmers are advised, by the Predation Management Forum, to cover the door with sponge or rubber to prevent cheetahs or leopards from getting their tails injured. Leopards should also be covered with a thick canvas to keep it calm and be drugged by a veterinarian before relocating it. The same applies to brown hyenas, cheetahs and otters.

Holistic Strategy

Many conservation organisations including the Cape Leopard Trust support a more holistic strategy of managing livestock instead of trying to manage predators i.e. taking livestock off the predator’s menu by using preventative measures as the first option. Livestock protection methods include:

Livestock guarding animals (Anatolian dogs, alpacas, donkeys, ostriches)
Predator-proof enclosures
Human herders
Livestock collars that protect livestock, deter predators or alert the farmer
Deterrents like the electronic skaapwagter device, which uses flashing lights, noise and scent to deter predators

By Glenneis Kriel