Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

‘Try traps on your own cojones’

Conservationists are calling on the government to outlaw all forms of gin trap, the toothed, sprung leg-holds used by farmers to kill thousands of wild animals each year.

And they have reacted furiously to proposed research into ”soft” — rubberised — traps, supported by University of the Free State academics and officials of Cape Nature and the National Department of Environmental Affairs.

The project, which would be conducted on farms in the Northern Cape, sparked a catfight between conservation NGOs after the Cape Leopard Trust supported research into ”soft” traps as an interim alternative remedy.

However, following criticism from fellow NGOs and inquiries by the Mail & Guardian, Quinton Martins, the trust’s project manager in the Cederberg, dissociated his organisation from the research.

Gin traps are banned outright in about 90 countries around the world, but are legal in South Africa except when capturing protected species such as leopards and rhinos.

Tim Snow, manager of the wildlife conflict prevention group at the Endangered Wildlife Trust, said gin traps were inhumane and could not target specific species. ”Our experience shows at least 50% of gin traps catch non-targeted animals,” Snow said.

He added: ”There is no such thing as a ‘soft’ gin trap. I’d like to suggest that the people who want to apply to use these devices test them on their own cojones [testicles] first.”

Bool Smuts, director of the Landmark Foundation in Baviaanskloof, Eastern Cape, described ”soft” gin traps as barbaric and a ”green-washing” effort. ”They continue to fracture limbs, cut off blood supply, tear ligaments and tissues and cause dehydration and stressful deaths.

”The animals still chew off their limbs and break their teeth trying to free themselves from these devices,” Smuts said.

His foundation, which last year persuaded farmers in the 50 000ha Baviaanskloof valley to adopt non-lethal predator control methods, staged a symbolic burning of gin traps in the Eastern Cape last week.

The farmers now protect their livestock with Anatolian dogs, sheep collars and preventative herding techniques.

Smuts said his foundation had been offered a R100 000 ”donation” in May in return for ”softening” its stance and criticism of gin traps. He would not name the proposed ”donor”.

”In particular there was an objection to us calling gin traps ‘barbaric’ devices and to us calling for a ban on them and all leg-hold devices,” he said.

Martins said gin traps had killed up to 17 leopards a year in the 170 000ha area before The Cape Leopard Trust managed to persuade local farmers to ban the traps in 2003.

”Originally we were prepared to be involved in a carefully controlled experiment,” he said on Tuesday. ”We have subsequently reviewed this intention and will no longer be involved.

”To be pragmatic, in the Northern Cape right now any intervention that would reduce the carnage we have witnessed over the past eight months would be a positive step.”

Agricultural outlets and co-operatives around the country sell gin traps. A factory in Prince Albert, in the Western Cape, reportedly manufactures up to 1 200 gin traps a month and even markets ”leopard gin traps”.

Peter Schneekluth, owner of the factory, told the M&G the trap was ”for the odd declared rogue leopard. This trap is rather a heavy-duty version, mainly to control problem bush pig, warthog and big stray dogs.”

The environmental affairs department is developing draft norms and standards for the control of animals which cause damage. The draft regulations do not envisage a comprehensive ban on gin traps, said director of regulation and monitoring services Bonani Madikizela.

”There are humane ways in which gin traps can be used to minimise injury. Certain gin traps will be prohibited, while others may be used,” Madikizela said.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Fiona Macleod
Fiona Macleod

Fiona Macleod is an environmental writer for the Mail & Guardian newspaper and editor of the M&G Greening the Future and Investing in the Future supplements.

She is also editor of Lowveld Living magazine in Mpumalanga.

An award-winning journalist, she was previously environmental editor of the M&G for 10 years and was awarded the Nick Steele award for environmental conservation.

She is a former editor of Earthyear magazine, chief sub-editor and assistant editor of the M&G, editor-in-chief of HomeGrown magazines, managing editor of True Love and production editor of The Executive.

She served terms on the judging panels of the SANParks Kudu Awards and The Green Trust Awards. She also worked as a freelance writer, editor and producer of several books, including Your Guide to Green Living, A Social Contract: The Way Forward and Fighting for Justice.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa’s mothballed ‘supermall-ification’ sets strip malls up for success

Analysts agree that the country has enough malls and that, post-Covid, the convenience of local centres lure customers

Mabuza’s Russian jaunts and the slippery consequences of medical tourism

For more than five years the deputy president has remained steadfast in his right to travel abroad to receive medical treatment

More top stories

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell dies aged 84

The 84-year-old died as a result of complications from Covid-19

Kunming Declaration on biodiversity: A show of political will that...

More than 100 countries pledged to better protect nature at UN biodiversity talks last week

Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine turned down over HIV concerns

The vaccine might increase the risk of vaccinated males getting HIV, says SA’s health products regulatory authority

New electronic waste management regulations will take effect in November

Producers and importers of electronic goods will be legally responsible for end-of-life management of their products from 5 November

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…