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AN infestation of dassies has been reported in parts of Joburg, with the animals leaving reserves and invading homes. In response, a culling programme will be introduced.

dassies_side1Municipal spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the dassie, population in Johannesburg was above capacity. THE City has undertaken a project to cull a portion of the dassie population in its nature reserves in an attempt to control the ever-expanding numbers of the animals.

Municipal spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the dassie, or rock hyrax, population in Johannesburg was “way above the carrying capacity of the municipal nature reserves and other natural open spaces within the city”.

Culling would be carried out by the City’s custodians of open spaces and animals, City Parks and Johannesburg Zoo, which has drafted a short-term strategy to manage the population.

Modingoane said the City had received a barrage of complaints from residents in Fourways Gardens, Norscot and Lonehill in the north, and Glenvista, Mondeor and Klipriviersberg in the south about damage to their properties caused by dassies.

“Current indications suggest that while some of the dassies venture into residential areas merely to forage for food, other groups have taken up permanent residence within residential areas, sometimes in drains or roofs, or even in houses.”

He explained that the growth in infrastructure had led to a loss of natural open spaces, while land use regulations had resulted in residential properties “encroaching on the natural habitats of some mammal species, resulting in human-wildlife conflict”.

This was exacerbated when people fed the animals, and it was neither sustainable for dassies nor affected residents, Modingoane pointed out. Dassies would be trapped in family groups and then relocated to suitable areas, or predators like raptors, pythons, leopards and caracals could be introduced to scavenge for the animals, to help reduce the population.

dassies_sideThe City has undertaken a project to cull a portion of the dassie population in its nature reserves. “However, it would not be possible, practical, desirable and even permissible to introduce such predators into nature reserves located in close proximity to residential areas,” he reassured residents.

Isolation and increased vulnerability to predators and new parasites lowered survival rates for relocated populations, Modingoane said. The City was also concerned about the stress the animals could suffer if trapped.

Poisoning the dassies was not an option either, he said. Residents were advised to use dassie repellents as a short-term solution.

He said although a long-term strategy would be developed in conjunction with specialists, academic institutions and conservation groups, culling was the “most humane and practical solution to address the current problem”.

A permit to cull the species at Norscot Koppies, Lonehill, Fourways and Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve had been obtained from the provincial department of agriculture and rural department. Culling would be carried out in the dry season and the dassie population would be constantly monitored in all nature reserves.

“Culling will be done by a professional marksman to prevent suffering. Where necessary, some animals will be trapped and euthanised and following health inspections will be used as a food source for other animals in the zoo or for other conservation projects.”

Modingoane said such intervention measures were only meant as short-term solutions for affected residents. “The long-term objective remains a holistic plan which seeks to manage the urban dassie population in a sustainable and ecologically sound basis, where a balance can be maintained between the needs of urban wildlife and human residents.”

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