City’s traps a‘danger’

A rogue caracal is on the loose.

One of the traps set by the City of Cape Town to catch a rogue caracal, instead snared a domestic dog.

Although the dog was not physically hurt, the its owner was very upset by the incident, which took place on land which was, at the time, not signposted.

The public is being warned that more traps exist and that dogs and children should not be allowed to roam freely in this area.

John Butterworth of Simon’s Town alerted the False Bay Echo to the situation. “My dog was caught in an animal trap while walking in the area between Links Crescent and the beach ablution block on Windmill Beach,” Mr Butterworth said. “If this was set by SANParks, it is a disgusting way to trap anything,” he told the False Bay Echo.

“I was told that it was set to trap caracal in the area. If so, it still is disgusting,” he said. “The trap is designed to snare the leg of the animal. My dog, a miniature schnauzer, would have pulled the end of its leg off, were I not there to rescue it,” he said.

Mr Butterworth extended his concern to other animals and unsuspecting people. “What happens to the wild animals in this authority’s jurisdiction? What happens to a child who is caught similarly?” he asked.

He said the area was busy during the summer so the probability of a repeat was possible. “I want to inform others of this danger,” he said.

Gavin Bell of SANParks said the incident happened on City land and referred the incident to Gregg Oelofse at the City of Cape Town. The City was quick to apologise and have explained that the traps have been set to catch caracal, which have been feeding on endangered penguins.

Eddie Andrews, the City’s mayoral committee member for area south, explained why the traps have been set. “The City and Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) have a collective responsibility and duty to manage the Simon’s Town penguin colony.”

He said the endangered status of the African penguin population means that the City and TMNP are obliged to manage the area to maximise the breeding success of the birds. “During the past few months, we once again have had a very active caracal preying on penguins in the colony, which has resulted in multiple bird mortalities in a single night,” he said.

“As part of the collaborative management between the City and TMNP, we have opted to try and capture this caracal, so that we can collar it and release it back within its home range, allowing scientists from the SANParks Cape Research Centre to monitor its movements via satellite,” he said.

In so doing, they intend to develop new strategies to manage land-based predator impacts on the penguin colony without having to cull or remove these predators from the environment.

“Any removal of a predator would create space in the ecosystem for another predator to move into the area. Our hope and intention by trapping and collaring the caracal is to establish a sustainable predator management approach, by keeping the caracal in its home range and monitoring its movements,” Mr Andrews said.

He pointed out that capturing a caracal in this area was not an easy task as it had an abundance of prey.

“We have therefore opted to use both walk-in cage traps and foot-loop traps in the area. Foot-loop traps are specifically designed to capture predators without causing harm or injury and are globally regarded as the safest, most humane, and most effective capture technique for large predatory cats,” he said.

Although caracal are one of the smaller predatory cats, this technique has and is used successfully to capture them.

“We have a CapeNature permit which allows us to trap and use this particular method of trapping,” he said.

He assured the False Bay Echo that they also had a trapping team that continually check all the traps to ensure that any animal caught will not be in the cage-trap or foot-loop trap for any extended period.

“Neither the City, nor any of its partners, would support any trapping method that is inhumane or which could cause suffering or harm to any wild animals,” Mr Andrews said.

He said the City was aware of the incident involving Mr Butterworth’s dog, but that the City’s attempts at reaching Mr Butterworth had not been fruitful.

“Importantly, no traps were set on any of the paths in the area, for the very reason to ensure that dogs that are being walked on leashes, do not get caught in these traps,” Mr Andrews said. “We would also like to inform the public that we will continue to trap in the area, as we must manage the predations on the penguin colony,” Mr Andrews said.

All access points to Burghers Walk and Windmill Beach are now sign-posted, indicating that caracal trapping is under way.

“The public is asked to remain on the paths and to keep their dogs on leashes at all times.

Mr Butterworth, who supplied photos of the trap his dog was caught in, described it as a noose-type trap with a steel slip knot device.

“We were assisted in freeing the dog by an individual who looks as though he is living in a rough shelter nearby. The dog was not injured, but traumatised, by pulling in an attempt to escape,” he said.

He confirmed that signposts had since been put up by the City and said he would be in touch with the relevant officials.