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Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation arrived at the sleepy little town of Alldays on Tuesday morning 8th September at 2am, to monitor and report back on the Driven Hunt taking place on the Farm Braam. In the dark night the sky was velvety black and full of stars. It was unthinkable that such a beautiful place would be the backdrop for the killing of precious wildlife.

Ammondale Lodge, Alldays Limpopo.

A driven hunt is almost unheard of by the public in South Africa but have found, after further investigation that it has been going on for years. It is a highly controversial and unethical hunting method in which a line of people walk across the veld, chasing the animals towards a line of hunters sitting on raised wooden platforms. The animals have very limited opportunities for escape. Once they reach a specific area, the hunters would take aim and fire at them, with each hunter killing around two animals per day.

On the road to the farm we were met by a Senior DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) Official, Mr. Dirk Boshoff, sent there by the Director General of the DEA to oversee the proceedings. It was clear that there were mixed feelings about this hunt, and that the Department felt enough public pressure to react in a positive way by sending out additional observers.

Mr. Boshoff was allowed into the Ammondale Lodge, where the hunters are staying, and was later joined by other officials from the Limpopo DEA, as well as Isabel Wentzel and another Inspector from the NSPCA. These people were all allowed on the hunt, and could form an exact opinion as to what was happening on that specific day. The NSPCA had obtained a warrant to attend the hunt, but they are still powerless to stop it, because of a kind of legal no-man’s land and lack of legislation with regards to these kinds of hunts.

 

Pictured above is Mr Boshoff from the DEA and Isabel Wentzel from the NSPCA before entering the lodge.

The farm was a hive of activity, with the setting up of the day’s hunt starting around 07h00. Staff were transported about, and we got to see the sniffer dog, who is responsible for tracking a wounded animal in need of being put down.


At around 07h30, the vehicles with the hunters appeared and crossed the road from Ammondale Lodge into the killing fields. There were 13 hunters, and approximately 10 PH’s (Professional Hunters), with one Hunt Master. The hunters are a mix of Belgian, Dutch and Danish nationals, and this is their blood-sport of choice.

The hunters were laughing and joking, with only two of them having the decency to cover their faces in shame when they first passed.

  

  

Dutch, Belgian and Danish hunters leaving to shoot the wildlife.

They are a closely knit group of friends and colleagues who do not allow strangers in, and this hunt was organized specifically for them. It is apparently the first time that a driven hunt has taken place on this farm. Later on, we saw older platforms with more overgrown clearances, which suggests that it has happened here before.

Elsewhere in South Africa it is secretly a regular occurrence, with hunters like these coming into South Africa on an annual basis, to specifically satisfy this kind of blood-lust.

The mistake made by the Organizers of this hunt, was to place the wooden platforms in an area visible from the road. Some people who passed started asking questions, and the issue exploded in the media.

The corridors with killing platforms to shoot the wildlife.

The Chasers are local people employed for the duration of the hunt, to scare the animals towards the hunters. They also covered their faces as they were transported past. There were approximately 83 of them per drive. With ten metres between each person in the chasing line, this meant that almost 1km was covered by a human ‘chain’ of chasers, sending the animals straight into the shooters’ path. This was on Tuesday, and we were completely unprepared for what lay ahead on Thursday.

With an initial volley of shots fired, but barely audible, a few hours later, there really was no way to know what was happening on the killing fields, as they were too far away.
The farm is massive, and this explains how 600 of these platforms could have been built. The hunting area is split into smaller blocks around which the killing platforms are scattered, so only a few of these platforms are used at any time. This also enables the hunters to move to a different part of the farm, so that the animals get a chance to calm down about the shots fired around them. It makes them easier targets when they have not been shot at in a specific area recently.

Two vehicles came back, with something covered in tarps on the back. It looked like large antelopes.

On Monday, it was reported that 18 animals were killed, with one having been wounded, tracked and euthanized.
A neighbour informed us that that it had actually been twenty animals on Monday. On Tuesday the hunt stopped at 8pm, with a total of 20 animals shot for the day. At the time of writing, it is estimated that the total amount of animals killed since Monday, was around 85.

At lunchtime the hunters came back to the lodge for a break, and clouds were gathering, so hunting was seemingly ceased for the day. This time they seemed to be properly chastised, with most of them hiding their faces from our cameras. They continued to hunt, returning at 8pm on Tuesday.

  

The hunters too ashamed to show their faces as they return from the unethical killing.

Isabel Wentzel from the NSPCA who monitored the hunt on Tuesday, said that during the time that she was watching there really was no massacre, that the hunt was strictly controlled and well organized. She admitted that there is no legal precedent to refer to in this case, and that the method of this type of hunt is not ethical.
In a later statement by the Deputy CEO of the NSPCA, Este Kotze, it was confirmed that they are completely opposed to this kind of hunting, and find it unacceptable and highly unethical. This remains their formal position on the matter.

From the way that the events played out, it was clear that the hunters had no intention of being honest or transparent with regards to their methods. If there is nothing to hide, the press and NSPCA would have been welcomed along on the hunt. Instead, back roads were taken, video was allowed to be taken in a section where they had no intention to hunt on that day, and several of their staff participated in playing a cat and mouse game in order to confuse the public and concerned organizations. This speaks volumes about the integrity.

The NSPCA was not allowed to take any video footage on Tuesday, and on Wednesday their warrant had to be enforced by the South African Police. As soon as they were allowed back on the farm, the hunters immediately packed up and left.

  
Police arriving to enforce the warrant.

On Thursday the NSPCA was not allowed on the hunting block, because that portion of the farm was excluded from their warrant. While they were chasing around to obtain a modified warrant, the hunt continued, and Carte Blanche, the Limpopo Rate Payers Association, and various animal advocates were witness to the incredible cruelty of this kind of hunt from behind the fence at a portion of the farm.

  
      NSPCA trying to access the scene of the drive.             Paul Oxton of WHWF being interviewed by Carte Blanche 

The Human Chain of Chasers started right at the fence, in a line as far as the eye could see. They then move forward, chasing the animals into the sights of the hunters. Literally a few seconds after they started walking, the first shots rang out. The hunters were situated about 200m from where the chase chain started (at the fence).


The 83 people (Beaters) stretching a kilometer long preparing to chase the wildlife into the line of fire.

While spending time in Alldays town, we spoke to several of the local lodge owners and staff. Every single person in this pro-hunting town we spoke to, said that they do not agree with this, and that they are losing business as a result of a controversial hunting method that should never have been allowed in the first place.

One of the ladies we spoke to who works in one of the restaurants is a mother to some of the individuals working in the chasing line. She had begged them not to do it, because their safety could not be guaranteed with the chasing line and the hunters so close to each other.

It was heart-warming to see that the Limpopo Rate Payers Association are opposed to this, and sent people out to protest on the farm.


The good people from the Rate Payers Association of Limpopo giving their support.

Also on Thursday, we met with a previous owner of the farm, who comes from a hunting family. He built Ammondale’s signature rock Entrance with his own hands. He was extremely emotional, and very upset about what was happening there. He said that it was not hunting, but just shooting taking place there. He came with his son, to say goodbye to a place they loved, vowing to never return.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation maintains that just because it is not illegal, it does not mean that it is ethical or morally justified. This is nothing but a canned hunt, in that the center animals have no means of escape, and are being driven into the face of death, where they would not have been normally.

If the organizers had nothing to hide, they would have invited press to attend, and the NSPCA would not have needed a warrant to obtain entry.

It was later reported that a total of 98 wild animals had been killed including two Duikers that are a small antelope not much larger than a domestic cat.

The fact is that currently this type of killing is not illegal in South Africa and until legislation can be introduced, this will happen again and again.

It has been reported since the Driven Hunt that the DEA have taken this issue to the highest level which we are following up on very closely. As yet we have had no formal response.

Anton De Vries: Hunt organizer.

The subsequent television exposé of driven hunting has established a disturbing link between the agricultural and hunting sectors. The link is Anton de Vries – a Dutch businessman and fruit exporter whose companies SAFE & BONO are strategic partners in the government’s agrarian land reform policies.

After De Vries was exposed on television for the driven hunt in Limpopo, the SAFE and BONO website was shut down.

At the time, De Vries was available for comment. But shortly after their activities were exposed on SABC News, their PR firm made contact, requesting that their clients be given the right of reply to the serious allegations leveled against them.

SABC will afford them the opportunity to defend themselves – a right that was not given to the terrified animals herded and slaughtered in Limpopo two weeks ago. Thus far he has not appeared to explain himself. 

The full version of this investigation will be broadcast on Special Assignment, Sunday, 4th October at 8.30pm on SABC3.

We are very pleased that this cruelty towards wildlife has been reported in over 25 news papers, web sites and TV stations internationally. Public outrage is powerful. Lets make it count.

Since this so called hunt was exposed it has been confirmed that Mpumalanga Province will no longer issue Driven Hunt permits. A win for wildlife due to public outrage.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation would like to thank everyone who made it possible for us to attend and report back on this issue. Public awareness is key in stopping such atrocities devastating our wildlife. Please share and make people aware.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation is proud to announce a successful partnership with the Woolworths MySchool Rewards Program.

#WHWF has recently been confirmed as a formally registered beneficiary of the outstanding rewards program offered by MSMVMP. This is excellent news for all of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation's South African supporters, because it means that you can now get discounts, be rewarded and support WHWF, all without it costing you a cent. #EverySwipeCounts.

 

MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is South Africa's number one community support fundraising programme, which raises over R4 million a month for more than 10,000 worthy schools, charities and environmental/ animal welfare organisations.

 

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You can sign up for a MySchool card in store or online (at myschool.co.za/supporter/apply) or link your Woolies card to MySchool and choose WILD HEART WILDLIFE FOUNDATION as the beneficiary you want to support every time you shop.

 

Whenever you swipe your card at Woolies, up to 1% of your purchases are given back to your cause (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)at no cost to you! Woolies makes the contribution on your behalf. How rewarding!

 

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Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation in the strongest terms condemns the recent killing of a critically endangered Black Rhino in Namibia, by Mr. Corey Knowlton, for a hunting trophy.

 

The word ‘Conservation’ means the following:

1. The act or process of conserving.

2. Preservation or restoration from loss, damage, or neglect.

3. The protection, preservation, management, or restoration of
wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water.

Conservation most certainly does not mean the exploitation and sensationalizing of the trophy hunting of a Black Rhino which people all over the world are desperately trying to protect and save from extinction.

Let’s look at some of the issues surrounding this controversy:

The rhino poaching in Namibia is completely out of control. With around 65 Rhino Carcasses of a limited population found in just the last few months, every rhino life is precious and should be treated as such. Most of the animals being poached here are Black Rhino. Namibia desperately needs an anti-poaching plan that can work. The exorbitant sum of money paid by Mr. Knowlton and the Dallas Safari Club could have been used to set up a decent anti-poaching program. Despite what we are being told, there is no guarantee that this will happen now.

 

Corey Knowlton pictured above on his way to kill the endangered Black Rhino.

It could also have been donated outright to for instance Black Rhino breeding programs or projects such as @Rhino Rescue Project (for horn infusion), but then Mr. Knowlton would not have the head on his wall in a few weeks.

Another option was that Mr. Knowlton could have done a ‘green hunt’, a process whereby by the animal is darted with sedatives in order to facilitate relocation. He could still have filmed it, taken his pictures to tell the tale, with the exception that one of these precious beings would still have been alive. These options had been presented to Mr. Knowlton and the DSC during the time of the auction by an organization called Live Trophy, who offered to refund Mr. Knowlton his money, and carry all costs of relocation. A suitable, safe site to move the Rhino to had been identified and secured. These talks had been shut down by Mr. Knowlton, because in actual fact, he just wanted the trophy, or in his own words “I want to intimately experience a Black Rhino”.

The Government of Botswana has joined the ranks of thousands of organizations outraged at the fact that no other options were entertained. Botswana indicated in an official statement that they would have been honoured to take the (live) rhino into their safekeeping.
In response to statements made that the rhino was a problem animal – these PAC (Problem Animal Control) permits need to be executed within two weeks of the verified complaint. Not fifteen months later.

As per the CNN televised footage, this area was frequented by only three rhino, of which two had been identified by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism as possible targets to be shot. It now has two, and it is just not possible to be certain that this population will survive or expand. Often, the older, more dominant bulls carry the strongest genes, the same ones that nature selects to be carried over to their offspring. Now we will never know, and this specific population of black rhino might as well be officially declared extinct. It is very clear from the articles and footage of journalists attending the hunt, that this bull was still healthy and fit. After all, it took him more than 30 minutes to collapse and die after being shot.

 

 

Knowlton having shot and killed this precious endangered Black Rhino.

Mr. Knowlton had the gall to say that the hunting conditions were brutal. Actually, brutal is working for years, sleeping in tents, exposed to the elements, in constant danger of being killed by poachers, in constant hardship, under-equipped and under-valued, just to protect our remaining rhinos from being poached. Watching your fellow rangers being murdered, and the precious beings entrusted to your care being slaughtered mercilessly. Because this is the reality of what a ranger faces, every day. In fact, to earn the equivalent of what Corey Knowlton spent to kill the rhino, a ranger would have to work for more than fifty years. To put it bluntly, with this blood money, Corey Knowlton could have paid the salaries of around one hundred (100) rangers for a full year. Is it becoming more obvious where priorities should have been?

As it stands now, the USD350k has been swallowed up into the coffers of a notorious ‘Conservation’ fund which has not been forensically audited in years, and it is highly unlikely that transparency will be at the order of the day.

As for the meat being supplied to the villagers, suffice to say that it is probably the most expensive meat they will ever eat. Together with the live relocation and reimbursement option, offers were made to Mr. Knowlton to set up self-sustaining small farming practices for the villagers (including complete training and education), supplied with goats that could reproduce and crops that if correctly managed would have been able to feed them for the rest of their lives, not just for the fifteen minutes of that much-prostituted picture.

There were other options which would have made Corey Knowlton a hero in the eyes of every person on this planet who loves animals, and he was aware of those options.

The professional hunter, Mr. Hentie van Heerden, who accompanied Mr. Knowlton on this hunt, is no stranger to controversy. In 2008 it was Mr. Van Heerden who held the hunting permit for Voortrekker , iconic Desert Elephant and ‘founding father’ of all the present few individuals in small herds living in the Kunene and Damaraland regions of the Namib. This permit was bought out from him (saving Voortrekker’s life as a living trophy), and Van Heerden killed another elephant instead. It would be interesting to know how much Mr. Van Heerden has been paid for his services, as his public profile now implies ‘retirement’.

Fewer people are aware that a second permit has been issued by the Namibian MET, for the Hunting of another Black Rhino.
Michael Luzich paid USD200k for his permit. He also received permit approval for the importation of the trophy from USFWS. 'Luzich has close ties to the person who 'accidentally' shot a Pregnant Black Rhino cow in Mangetti, in a highly controversial blunder of epic proportions. Is he going to follow through, or dare we hope that he may have learnt something from the Knowlton fiasco?

The fact that the US Fish & Wildlife Services approved the trophy import permits despite having been flooded with thousands upon thousands of comments opposing, is quite puzzling. The public comment period was a pacifier, as no heed was paid to any comment opposing the permit. The involvement of the Save the Rhino Trust and the WWF in this controversy is quite alarming to say the least, as is the recent admission of the Dallas Safari Club into the IUCN. It certainly seems like every animal on this planet has its price, no matter how critically endangered. Everything can be bought with enough money and political clout.

Even the life of one of only a few thousand critically endangered Black Rhino left in the world!.

©WHWF
Photograph by Wild Heart