Saturday, June 11, 2005

Culling, a barbarian way that is forbidden for a reason!

Civilisation has outgrown animal bounties, an oceanographic scientist said on Monday following calls to hunt down sharks after an attack on a Cape spear-fisherman."Bounties come from the Dark Ages," said Professor Rudy van der Elst, director of the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban.

He was responding to the weekend's shark attack on medical student Henri Murray, whose body had still not been recovered by Monday afternoon.Murray was spear-fishing with a friend in False Bay on Sunday when he was taken by a great white shark. His death has sparked calls for the culling of problem sharks.Van der Elst said civilisation has outgrown the practice of bounties being placed on animals considered to be dangerous to humans, such as crocodiles.

He said hunting great whites, who are apex predators, could harm the "delicate balance" of the ecosystem, and lead, for instance, to an excess of seals.Van der Elst said elephants are only culled when they are in excess to the natural system, and not indiscriminately.He attributed the fact that the great white population along the Cape coast remains stable -- and has even increased -- to the sharks being a protected species in South Africa.

While the death of Murray is "absolutely awful", the reality is that spear-fishing is a "high-error" situation that could be harmful to humans."The individual has to decide whether [the] risk is worth it ... It's as simple as that," Van der Elst said.Concurring with Van der Elst's sentiments, Natal Sharks Board deputy CEO Mike Anderson-Reade said culling or placing bounties on sharks will not solve the problem of shark attacks.

"The chances of culling the right shark are very, very slim."Sharks will be killed unnecessarily, "willy-nilly", and Anderson-Reade cautioned against overreaction.In Cape newspapers, Godfrey Mocke of the Swimsafe Project has called for a bounty to be placed on great white sharks.He said it would be easy for Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk to declare sharks as bait.

"It would be easy for the environment minister to mark the area from Cape Point to Hangklip and a 2km strip from the high-water mark out and say, 'OK, boys, go for it. Do your thing,'" Mocke was quoted as saying.Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism spokesperson Carol Moses said great whites are protected animals and the department will not support the killing of these sharks."Anyone found killing them will be guilty of a criminal offence," she said.


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