Game rancher receives hefty fine from industry body for wildlife poisoning

Conservation groups have welcomed a decision made by Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) to take decisive action against one of its members for using poison to control damage-causing animals.

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Piet Warren, a specialist game breeder in Limpopo, recently made national and international headlines for breeding a Zambian sable antelope bull that sold for a record R27 million. However, he also began making headlines for having poisoned 26 baboons and two white-backed vultures.

According to media reports, Warren was fined R2 500 for poisoning the baboons and vultures. However, after WRSA saw these reports it immediately initiated its own investigation and disciplinary procedures against Warren for misconduct and for bringing the association and wildlife ranching industry in disrepute. WRSA fined Warren R60 000 for his illegal actions.

“We also felt that, as an association and industry, we must be seen to take our responsibilities seriously hence our fine being a lot higher than the court’s,” said WRSA’s president, Dr Peter Oberem, in response to Farmer’s Weekly’s enquiry on the matter.

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WRSA said that while it did not condone the use of poison at any time to control damage-causing animals, during its decision on how to penalise Warren it had taken the game rancher’s immediate admission of guilt and ‘real remorse’ into account. The association also accepted Warren’s explanation that he had not intended to harm the endangered white-backed vultures and had buried what he had thought were all of the baboon carcasses to prevent this. However, some carcasses had reportedly inadvertently remained available for vultures to scavenge on.

Kerri Wolter of Vulpro said that her organisation had received R30 000 of the fine imposed on Warren by WRSA. She confirmed that this money would be used for vulture conservation.

She said that vultures were scavengers that posed no threat to farmers and actually helped farmers by keeping the environment free of animal carcasses, by indicating to farmers where dead livestock might be, and by limiting the potential spread of disease from carcasses to living animals.