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Thursday 2nd June 2011
In Botswana and other African countries it is always a bad sign when you come upon a carcass of an animal with many dead vultures lying around. Yet this seems to be happening more and more, and is a clear indication of the use of poison by farmers and perhaps by poachers.
The poisons are concocted from undiluted agricultural insecticides, and are highly lethal. So lethal, in fact, that they have been (and maybe still are) components of biological warfare (cholinesterase inhibitors, neurotoxins) – a tiny amount (1/4 teaspoon) can kill a human, and an even smaller amount (a grain) will kill a vulture. Prime among the suspected chemicals used is Carbofuran (Furadan) that Kenyan conservationists are attempting to have banned (but there are also Parathion and Aldicarb, products of equal toxicity). Carbofuran is made by the FMC Corporation in Philadelphia, USA, and is a wide-acting insecticide used on soybeans, potatoes, corn, sunflowers, etc. The product is banned in the EU and Canada, and the product is banned in the USA as well (where it was used to poison coyotes, eagles, vultures, raccoons, and even domestic dogs). Nevertheless, it is still available in Botswana.
USE OF POISON IS ILLEGAL…
Botswana does have laws about this, however:
“The wrong use or application of pesticides for the purpose not intended by the manufacturer is a crime that would lead to a fine of P10 000.00 ($1,530) or jail term of 10 years or both charges at the same time.”
The Botswana Wildlife Act does not allow the use of poison to control problem animals, and also has Section 17 that states
“No person shall except only under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a permit issued by the Director under section 39 or section 40, hunt or capture any protected game animal, and any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of P10 000.00 and to imprisonment of 7 years.”
Botswana has also been rather lax to prosecute those who poison wildlife. Over a period of three years, the Okavango Lion Research Project lost 60 lions to poison largely due to one small village. Samples were collected from carcasses (including wild animals that died ensnared in veterinary cordon fences and obviously sprinkled with chemicals) and sent to the Wildlife Department and the national veterinary laboratory, but apparently no diagnosis could be made. Certainly it could have been, as crops treated with Carbofuran need to undergo residue tests to ensure they are safe for human consumption. A lack of prosecution and a lack of will to analyse samples thoroughly will only encourage further use of these deadly poisons.
Posted by Pieter Kat at 14:50
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