4 minute video of the scattering of Bev's ashes at Karoo Wildlife Centre on Saturday 20th May. Thirty friends and family there.
I felt lost when we moved from the Kalahari and did not know what to do with myself. As my arms began to heal I realised what a terrible mistake I had made in giving up the work at the KRC. But it was too late to go back and I was now stuck in suburbia where I did not want to be. I do not want to rehash all the reasons why we sold, just to tell you a little of what we have been up to since leaving the KRC and what our thoughts are for the future.
I tried to find animal welfare work around me and seemed to come up against a brick wall every time. The SPCA didn’t need, or have anything for me to do. The Penguin Sanctuary and Monkey sanctuary were both too far away for me to be of any help there. So what was I going to do?
That year I was kept busy organising special and successful evenings for the donkeys. The next year I raised money for the Rita’s baboons in Limpopo and Francois Hugo’s seals in Cape Town.
With so much time on my hands I used to read a lot about the work done by Sea Shepherd. I loved Paul Watson’s aggressive and no- nonsense attitude and one day I asked Chris if he would mind if I went away for a month and volunteered for Sea Shepherd. (He unkindly claimed that he would be happy to get a rest from me for a month-I’ll get him for that!) So I applied, was accepted as a volunteer and off I went. Here is that little story:-
The Sea Shepherd ship, named the ‘Steve Irwin’ after the famous Australian TV conservationist, was docked in Melbourne harbour and there the crew of volunteers was working hard to prepare her for her next campaign to stop the illegal whaling by the Japanese in Antarctica.
Volunteer work for Sea Shepherd was brutally hard work. Melbourne was cold and windy, with misty mornings and some rain during the month I was there, making working conditions very uncomfortable.
The crew was made up of young volunteers from all parts of the world. At the age of sixty, I was by far the oldest crew member. By comparison, the ship’s manager, Ben, was only 25 years old. So I was concerned that I might not be able to fit in. But I need not have worried. There was an initiation ceremony. This meant jumping off the high side of this 53-meter-long vessel into the icy cold, dark and dirty water of Melbourne harbour. I decided that, to prove myself to the younger generation, I had to enter into this madness. So off came the shoes and the jumper, and over I went, shouting “make way for granny”. The surprised look on the kids’ faces made it all worthwhile, even though I thought I was about to have a heart attack when I hit that freezing cold water. I swam to the side and got out but couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering. That leap bridged the age gap and from then on I was accepted as a fully initiated crew member.
The dedication of the permanent crew was an inspiration and I really felt that I was in the company of like-minded people. These young activists are not paid, and all their food comes by donation. We ate whatever was donated, so if no one donated, say, fruit for a week, we went without fruit. The onshore volunteers were people living and working in Melbourne who devote their time after work to come and help on the ship. We had carpenters, welders and even those who just came to do a late night watch for us, to give the ship volunteers a chance to get some sleep. The ship did tours, but only over the weekends. Visitors used to bring food with them.
Because this is a working ship it would be difficult to do tours with so much work going on during the week. On the weekends we tidied the ship a little and showed visitors around. We were given one and a half days off a week to go and do what we wanted. Because I am not so fond of cities I spent most of my days-off working on the ship.
Duties started at 9am after breakfast. They included, welding, carpentry, chipping rust, painting, cleaning, and sorting out the tools. Everyday chores included mopping the galley floor, scullery, sweeping and mopping the passage ways, garbage removal, and cleaning the heads (bathrooms).
Everyone had to do these chores at least four times a week over and above the other jobs. So every week we would put our names down on a schedule.
Out of compassion for animals, no animal products were consumed on this ship. Meals were all vegan, and Zin, the young lady who cooked for us, was wonderful. We often came down for lunch or dinner and there would be scones, muffins or chocolate chip cookies. Great treats. I have never tasted such wonderful choc chip cookies and I have never seen cookies disappear so quickly.
Watches were either four or six hour duties. The ship had to have someone on watch 24/7 and these were allocated to the volunteer crew every week.
My favourite watch was 8pm to midnight and the one I did not like was midnight to 4am. I never seemed to be able to sleep before or after that shift.
I was lucky enough to have animal welfare friends in Melbourne, Phil and Trix Wollen of the Winsome Constance Kindness Trust. Phil is a successful merchant banker who donates millions to deserving animal welfare groups all over the world. Kindness House in Melbourne is a multi-storey commercial development funded by the Trust and given free of charge to animal welfare groups. It was a privilege to meet and spend time with such a motivated philanthropist.
He and Trix very kindly took off a day to drive me out to the Healesville Sanctuary, where I saw some interesting and delightful Aussie wildlife. A lovely sanctuary, also run with volunteers, clean and spacious, and the animals looked very contented. I even got to tickle a kangaroo. Of course the Koalas only tucked their heads in deeper to their tummies when I told them that I wanted to take them home with me. I never got to see their little faces.
Melbourne city is very clean and has a great cosmopolitan feeling, with lots of restaurants with their outdoor tables and chairs. For a vegan it is wonderful. No matter where I went in Melbourne, I was able to get soy milk in my coffee or hot chocolate. The supermarkets cater to vegetarians and I could see it would be a pleasure shopping for vegetarian food in Australia.
It has been an incredible experience, truly wonderful to work with such dedicated young people and I am so proud to have been given the opportunity to be a shepherd even if it was for so short a time. May the Steve Irwin and her selfless crew go full steam ahead and help save all the whales now and in the future.
When I returned home I was all inspired by the dedication and upbeat attitude of the volunteers on the ship. I decided to continue with volunteer work. The next volunteer work I was to do was to help out at CROW, the Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife, in Durban. I knew they were always busy and needed help. I flew from George to Durban and spent two weeks there, working hands on with the birds and animals. Very interesting to see how other people run a rehab centre. I learnt a lot, even though my experience was with Kalahari wildlife, whereas most of CROW’s rescues are of garden birds and small mammals.
When I got home I told Chris that I no longer wanted to spend my life in suburbia and that I wondered if he would be interested in selling the house and moving to an area where we could set up another rehab centre. Having learnt a lot from my many mistakes I would do things differently the next time.
As always Chris was open to my suggestion and ready to back me once again and we put the house on the market. We spent a little time travelling around the Baviaanskloof looking around to see if we would be able to afford to buy a farm there once we sold our house. This is a wilderness area of outstanding natural beauty. See www.baviaanskloof.net
What was great about the many trips up to the Baviaans was that I met a lot of the local people and went in to meet the practicing vets. The next thing I knew I was getting calls from the vets to fetch raptors that had come into their surgery. I rehabbed a jackal buzzard and two steppe buzzards which was so rewarding especially seeing them released and again seen many months later. I coloured the tip of the tail feathers with mercurochrome so that we could recognise them.
So to close off, we were fortunate enough to sell our house in these tough economic times, and buy a little piece of wilderness (175 ha) in the Klein Karoo near Ladismith, where we can rescue and help the wildlife in that area. I specifically want to start a vulture breeding program because all the Cape Vultures have, over the years, disappeared due to poisoning etc.
Chris was up in the Addo Elephant Park only to see rotting carcasses and no vultures. Time to help bring them back and if that is all I ever do with the rest of my life it will be worth it. So now my life’s ambition, if given a second chance, is to start a breeding program for the Cape Vulture and hopefully, in my life time, see them back flying in Addo Elephant Park and the areas they used to inhabit.
All it takes is a few ethically illiterate fools with money to create a brutal industry based on routine cruelty. meet Mr Green, Mayor of Wellington, Texas.
Give Groupon SA your support
Groupon SA have contacted us to invoke the support of the animal welfare community in identifying unethical lion exploitation resorts or tourism facilities. They should be applauded for adopting an ethical stance on which facilities they should not promote.
In response to emails from CEO Wayne Gosling and Western Cape account manager Carl Erasmus, we responded:
Thanks Carl and Wayne for your ethical concerns.
As I explained to Carl, drawing the line between good and bad facilities is not exact or easy; there are plenty of shades of grey between black and white.
The best list we know is our Canadian colleague Carmen Berdan's page Volunteers in Africa Beware.
Hope this helps, but I cannot deny that you have a tough task and will never be able to keep everyone happy.
We'll help as much as we can.
Carl had earlier written:
It is with great appreciation for your cause that we formally send you this letter of support. This is to insure we align our business to your cause by asking you for advice when it comes to us featuring any lion related services on our website.
His email was backed up by a letter from CEO Wayne Gosling, pledging to fully support our efforts and to use our website and advice to ensure that Groupon supports the right industries. ‘We hope to build a strong relationship with CACH in efforts to stop canned lion hunting.’
So, if you see Groupon advertising a facility which you believe is linked to the canned hunting industry, eg by breeding and offering cub petting, please don’t shout at Groupon.
Do your homework, and find out as much as you can from us and other sources so that you can give them convincing reasons to withdraw their support for that facility.
Let’s work with Groupon SA. We can help each other – for the lions’ sake.
Let’s talk about hunting as a form of entertainment.
Hunters intrude in to a natural environment in order to inflict suffering and death upon helpless animals – for fun.
1. They claim to be doing it for conservation. They lie. They do it for entertainment; because they enjoy stalking and killing. True conservation means protecting animals, not killing them.
2. They claim that hunting is the only way to save Africa’s wildlife. They lie. That is like arguing that the only way to save whales is by whaling.
3. They claim that hunting creates jobs. They lie. Hunting causes rural unemployment. When land is taken out of agricultural production in order to provide entertainment, jobs are lost. Ten thousand farms now provide entertainment, not food. Partly due to this change in land use, the rural labour force has dropped from 1,6 million to just over 600,000. SA has lost a million jobs in the rural economy.
4. They claim to bring billions of dollars in to the country. Again, look at the whole Balance Sheet on land use to see how misleading this claim is. Bring to account the loss of forex caused by the change from agriculture to entertainment. Last year, SA produced 4 million kgs less wool for export, owing to the change in land use. And that is just wool!
5. Hunters claim to have increased wildlife numbers from the point where some species (like rhino) were at risk of extinction. They lie. First, it was the hunting fraternity itself that wiped out our wildlife, bringing game numbers to an alarming low point. So now the hunters want credit for saving animals from themselves. A typical extortion racket!
6. No, this is the true story. Having all but wiped out our wildlife in the wild, the hunters had to turn to captive breeding on fenced game farms in order to provide a constant supply of living targets for their entertainment. Those animals may look wild but they are not. They have become livestock, being bred like sheep or cattle for slaughter. The hunters have taken the ‘wild’ out of our wildlife.
7. These animals no longer evolve against other species as they would in a natural functioning eco-system. They are being farmed as alternative livestock. And boasting about the increase in the numbers of fenced-in, captive-bred animals is as silly as boasting about the increased numbers of prisoners in SA prisons; as if that proves that we are a healthier society.
We know from studies published by IUCN that hunting is a wasteful use of land. Vast tracts of national land – about 20% - are set aside to provide entertainment, mostly for wealthy foreigners.
Is this a necessary – or even desirable - land use?
So who is ignorant enough to swallow hunting propaganda hook, line and sinker?
Why, the SA government, of course. Edna Molewa and SA conservation structures all support hunting as if it were a tool of conservation, and not a major threat to it.
Any intelligent person can see that hunting is to conservation what pornography is to art – a ghastly parody of the real thing.
And claiming that the only way to save our wildlife heritage is to kill majestic animals is as crazy as arguing that the only way to save art is by destroying the Mona Lisa.
It’s all about loving lions, say the canned lion breeders.
CACH threatened to sue for defamation in response to a particularly nasty piece of hunting propaganda by SAPA (S.A. Predators Association). Their reply was defiant:
“You have made it your life’s work to devastate the life’s work of our members and with it the livelihood of thousands of workers and their dependents. Just like you, Mr Mercer, our Association and its members love the African lion.”
Now this is a strange kind of love, when the farmer breeds lions for commercial gain, to be used as living targets by gun-toting or bow-wielding thugs who enjoy inflicting suffering and death on helpless animals for fun. I would say that their lion farming is an industry based not on love for animals, but rather upon routine cruelty to animals.
If there is any love, I see only a love of money.
The original article by SAPA’s Chairman, Prof. Potgieter, was entitled ‘9 Myths about captive bred lions’ and was published here:
A number of fatuous claims were made in this bit of gutter journalism, which attempts to portray lion farmers in S.A. as wonderful conservationists, having only the interests of lions at heart.
Bear in mind that this same organisation, SAPA, won their court case against the Minister responsible for Conservation (when he tried to impose a 24-month wilding rule upon the industry) on the legal basis that they were not conservationists, that what they were doing had nothing to do with conservation, and that therefore the Minister of Conservation had no authority over their agricultural enterprise.
So while they are trying to escape regulation, the lion farmers deny vigorously that they are conservationists, but when they are trying to paint lipstick on a pig in the media then they pose as the most wonderful conservationists – and animal lovers.
SAPA complains that CACH is committed to “devastating the livelihood of thousands of workers on lion farms”.
Hmnn..imagine if we were campaigning against drug dealers, rather than animal abusers. Would we then be accused of ‘devastating the livelihoods’ of all those heroin and crack dealers and their dependants?
Surely the real question is whether the industry is harmful or not. And if it is, then the workers must join the rest of society and look for honest employment.
In the case of lion farming, “thousands of workers” could be better employed growing food for the nation, rather than helping to abuse animals for sick entertainment.
CACH’s main issue with the article related to the defamatory allegations. The whole theme of the article is that the people speaking out against the cruelty of lion farming and canned lion hunting are not motivated by genuine animal welfare concerns, but rather by sordid commercial ones. The tedious repetition about Donate buttons on websites is used to drive that message home.
We – Bev and I - have been campaigning against canned hunting for sixteen years and it has cost us much of our life savings. Only recently, since the Global March for Lions in 2014, have any meaningful contributions come in from the public. We are all volunteers; none of us draws a salary, and activists who are invited to join our group are specifically told – in writing – that they are only expected to raise awareness, not funds. Recently, we sold our house in order to start a CACH project, namely a wildlife sanctuary in the Klein Karoo.
To publish an article saying that the real motivation for our work is cynical fundraising is false, and demeaning.
We asked for a retraction and an apology. The blunt answer was that none would be forthcoming.
Canned Lions - Fear and Loathing in the Free State capital.
Since the Walter Palmer hunting debacle in Zimbabwe last year (the controversial and unethical killing of Cecil the lion) and the world-wide screening of the documentary Blood Lions, the lion trophy hunting industry has found itself under fire from an increasingly
environmentally aware public.
With wild lion populations showing signs of acute decline across the African continent, South Africa’s burgeoning captive-raised lion industry stands alone as the top contender for the 'con' in conservation award.
Many criticise trophy hunting industry stake-holders for their brutal cruelty towards the species. Available export details and investigative analysis by Karl Ammann and others shows South Africa’s predator industry is also actively involved in promoting and supplying lion and tiger body parts and bones to the Asian market, as well as perpetuating a demand for the killing of wild lions, whether legally or illegally.
Some hunting record books no longer recognise canned or captive raised lions as record-setting trophies, so fame and glory seekers like infamous US dentist Walter Palmer seek out the biggest and the strongest wild lions as the “ultimate” trophy in their quest to satisfy their egos.
When US Fish & Wildlife Service announced that as of January 22 2016, all American trophy hunters would have to file additional permits before they could import their trophies from Africa, many conservationists (mistakenly) believed that lion hunts would be reduced.
So when a Free State lion-breeding operation put 61 captive-bred lions on a catalogue auction this month, it made wildlife industry headlines. It was to be a massive lion sale, even by South African lion industry standards.
Advertised by South Africa’s biggest wildlife-game auctioneer, Vleissentraal, the auction was held last Wednesday at the Olivia Private Game Reserve near Bloemfontein, and saw 61 lions and two leopards go under the hammer.
Olivia markets itself as the ideal N1 stopover, weekend getaway, wedding venue, and team-building conference location for that perfect corporate or private function.
However, closer inspection revealed the dark underbelly of the happy pleasure resort. Olivia runs breeding programs for White Lion, White Bengal Tiger as well as Black Leopard.
One potential buyer who asked not to be named, told us he previewed some of the animals before the auction kicked into gear, but decided at the last minute not to risk buying.
“As a breeder, I felt I would rather wait, and if necessary, even spend R10 000 more for animals with parentage I could verify. In this game, the cardinal rule is buyer beware”.
“Some of the lions we were shown appeared to have physical defects, genetically speaking," he added, "and there was no way of checking the lineage of the stock. The terms and conditions set out by the auction house were loaded in the sellers’ favour.”
(Judge for yourself by looking at this two-minute undercover video taken at the sale. Check out the strange short-legged one-eyed tiger, typical result of reckless inbreeding):
Asked to describe the setting, he described the lion enclosures as ten to fifteen hectares of electrified high-fencing with hardly a tree in sight for shade from the scorching African sun.
With nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide, it sounded like battery lion-breeding on an industrial scale. Hundreds of lions, both white and tawny, some with red skin-tones and sought after black manes.
Despite the large reported attendance, our sources confirm most of the lions sold on site were bought by only a handful of buyers, including a couple of invisible telephone buyers.
While the bidding was brisk, most final offers only just met minimum reserve prices, and some experts believe that the average prices fetched at the auction were indicative of inferior genetics and possible in-breeding.
By the time the hammer fell on two leopards at SAR58,000 each, the last lot of the day, just over R2 million had changed hands.
Notable amongst those reportedly rubbing shoulders at the auction, were:
Kobus Van der Westhuizen of Letsatsi La Afrika, a controversial predator trader and lion-bone exporter,
Casper van der Merwe of Paemenons Safaris, a North West lion hunting-outfitter
Bethlehem lion breeder and trader Maryn Prinsloo,
Marius Prinsloo, her former lion-farmer husband ,who arrived separately.
Free State game-breeder and hunting outfitter, Marnus Steyl, who was charged for his role in the Chumlong Lemtongthai pseudo-rhino-hunting scam in North West Province.
Those wonderful Australians again.
CACH received a substantial donation this week of SAR 25,000. from an Australian donor. That is significant in itself, but what makes this donation so exciting is that the funds were raised by a 15 year old.
Meet Edward Bourke, who founded his very own registered Foundation last year - when he was 14 years old. See www.savingthelion.org
"I was 14 when I started Saving The Lion Foundation (I am now 15), because I saw a huge lack in public awareness, around the plight of the lion in the wild, and in captivity, for example, bad zoos such as Lujan Zoo in Argentina, and Dehiwala Zoo in Sri Lanka. We have been very lucky to have such amazing support from the public, which has helped us become one of the worlds leading organisations, for raising awareness around the plight of the lion in the wild, and in captivity.
In the last year, I have also met with Greg Hunt MP (Australian Federal Minister for the Environment), and Jason Wood MP (Federal Member for La Trobe), who are helping us work against the Lion Bone trade, which has become very popular in China, with the advent of a crackdown on tiger bone. Both Minister Hunt and Mr. Wood, have become Ambassadors for our foundation, and are amazing conservationists.
I have learned so much since becoming involved with conservation, and animal welfare, and I have had the pleasure of working with amazing people. Fighting for the lion is something that I love, and something I will always do."
Photo above is the latest pic of George, the rescued Spanish lion cub.
There is a lot of buying of lions taking place under the banner of rescue. Often as not, the begging bowls then come out, and animal lovers are subjected to moral blackmail, in the form of: 'donate to us or we'll have to put them down.'
Campaign Against Canned Hunting will not be part of any such undesirable practices. Recall that CJ and Luis went the extra mile to get the Spanish authority SEPRONA to confiscate the two street cubs, before we all brought them out to Kevin's sanctuary as Yame and George.
CACH has its own wildlife rescue centre, Karoo WC, and this is the Animal Acquisition Policy which governs it:
3.2. Animal acquisition policy
No AWC sanctuary shall, without compelling reason, purchase or give any kind of consideration, whether directly or indirectly (e.g. swopping of animals, acceptance of services etc) in the process of acquiring any animal.
Ideally, no AWC sanctuary would purchase or provide compensation as a condition of acquiring any animal. All animals in an AWC sanctuary should have been confiscated by relevant authorities, surrendered or donated by the person/s holding the animals. AWC members agree to make every effort to educate such person/s in a positive and interactive way, not to take animals out of their natural environment.
However, circumstances alter cases, and it may sometimes be necessary for a sanctuarian to purchase animals, to save their lives or to remove them from intolerable conditions. Animals are often purchased from intolerable circumstances. eg chained monkeys. Even the internationally respected Animals Asia Foundation has had to rescue hundreds of Chinese Moon bears by purchase.
When doing so the sanctuary should bear in mind that by doing so it is promoting the keeping of animals in captivity, and that it should try to strike a balance between the welfare of the particular animal and the broader interest of animal protection. Care must be taken that sanctuaries do not create a market place for the trade in indigenous wildlife. Working with Police, NSPCA and conservation authorities to remove an animal from poor conditions to a reputable AWC sanctuary without payment is a better option.
By US CACH representative Dr Ian Giles.
The United States needs our help. Most Americans do not understand the value of wildlife. So:
Both groups recently passed the 2000 member mark and are very active.
There is a huge amount of education required, and who better to do it than us?
So please join us if you are not already active.