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article imageCaptured poacher sheds light on living in 'bush kitchens'

By Alex Volker     Feb 27, 2009 in Crime
In poaching terms, a bush kitchen is a temporary shelter hidden away in the bush. It's a location from which a poacher can store meat, hide, and lay low for an extended period of time before and after checking his snares.
A recent arrest in the Gravelotte area of the Limpopo Province in South Africa, graphically illustrates how some poachers live in the bush whilst poaching.
The debate on whether subsistence poaching is justifiable and where the line between syndicate or commercial poaching lies, is ongoing.
It is in cases such as these where these “lines” blur into grey areas. It hardly validates the death of a Kudu, two Wildebeest, three Zebra and a Vulture to feed a single family. This is a business and a very lucrative and illegal one at that all at the expense of the legal occupier of private land.
In this instance it is clear that the poacher occupied this temporary base for some time, he had enough food to sustain himself for many days, by eating the food he had with him and his catch. He had sleeping gear and salt with which to process the meat that was hanging on wire.
The poacher, who was arrested, did not submit easily and attacked his arresting officer with a knife. It must be noted that poachers are criminals and they fear the reprisals of the law as would any other person caught in the act of committing an offence. This makes them potentially dangerous. They are usually armed with at least knives, spears or pangas and will not hesitate to use them.
Poaching is simply not seen as a harsh crime. It is not surprising that people working in the anti-poaching industry get despondent. They brave the elements, imminent danger and many obstacles stacked up against them to apprehend poachers who slip through the legal processes more often than not.
To arrest a poacher, he must be caught in the act either with the meat or handling snares. Trespassing alone is rarely taken seriously enough by the authorities.
The losses suffered by the land owner and the environment may be immense. The replacement value of plains game such as Zebra, Kudu and Wildebees run into thousands, but the White backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) is listed as a specially protected bird species in the Limpopo Environmental Management Act No. 7 of 2003. These Vultures are a necessary and integral part of the food chain and often fall victim to a variety of man induced hazards, which include poaching. This bird has great value in the muti trade for superstitious reasons. Similarly the tail of the Wildebees is also highly sought after by traditional healing practitioners.
A lot of this meat would have simply gone to waste and of the approximately 150 snares removed, many would have remained set, despite the abundant poached meat supply.
In South Africa, the media often informs us of poaching. Usually it is about Rhino, Elephant, Abalone, Cycads or marine resources.
In the private sector and government protected conservation areas alike poaching is a problem of gigantic proportions and the losses are substantial, but what is really done about it?
Protrack Anti-poaching Unit
More about Anti poaching, Poaching with snares, Protrack anti poaching, Nature conservation, Bush kitchen
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