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On Thursday morning a large crocodile was reported in the Mzingazi Canal, close to the Zululand Yacht Club, Pelican Island and the Bay Hall recreational area.
The previous evening, a huge hippo was being provoked by drunken revellers, again in the Bay Hall area, where such parties can be expected day and night during the festive season.
That same night, residents photographed a hippo – perhaps the same one – higher up along the canal banks near the new Medway Road intersection.
The implications are obvious: it is only a matter of time before someone is killed or badly injured as the public venture close to these creatures that are doing nothing more than occupying the land and water which are rightfully theirs. And, should a human be attacked, no doubt it is the animal that will pay with its life.
This serious state of affairs has an added dimension that is most concerting: to whom must these potential dangers be reported?
The powers that be, in their wisdom, earlier this year (without consultation) removed Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife from its role as watchdog over the marine environment, replacing them with personnel from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Unfamiliar with the people, places and species of the local area, their presence has not made an impact and to all intents and purposes the marine environment is minimally policed, patrolled and protected.
The Richards Bay-based Ezemvelo rangers who served with distinction for so many years have been deployed at inland facilities, doing work totally unrelated to their areas of expertise and experience.
Their offices are closed and their homes are empty – while those brought in are housed in hotels and B&Bs.
The change has also led to the virtual demise of the Honorary Officers’ marine protection group: unpaid civilians who offer their time and money in the interests of conservation.
The remaining few, with the help of the Meerensee CPF and other members of the public, are conducting dangerous night patrols mainly aimed at intercepting illegal gill netters.
On confiscating boats and nets, they are now forced to involve the SAPS (rather than Ezemvelo), adding to the workload of the men in blue.
The role and accountability of DAFF is vaguely described as ‘responsible for compliance and enforcement in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act 18 (1998)’.
This is of little help in trying to answer the following:
To whom must illegal poachers and gill netters be reported – especially bearing in mind such incidents generally occur after hours?
Who will catch and remove crocodiles from recreational areas?
Who will protect wild animals from the actions of drunk and disorderly crowds? (EKZN did this, intervening without fear.) How will the plunder of marine resources be stopped?
Who will check the licences, permits and catches of the many ski boats on the water this summer during recreational and competition fishing? Bring back Ezemvelo.