THE GEESE AGAINST FARMERS DEBATEPosted on the 11th August 2017
(Many farmers have expressed concern about the dramatic increase in numbers of Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese. This has resulted in a debate on whether they could be shot, or maybe even positioned, as they cause major damage to crops. There has been correspondence on the CapeBirdNet on this matter recently and we include some of these emails. Pay particular attention to the comments by Gerhard Verdoorn and Kevin Shaw as these explain the correct legal stance on this matter. A fascinating read! – Ed.)
I seem to have noticed an increase in Spurwings recently but it was really brought home on our CAR count yesterday near Protem. Last year we set our record at 79 but this year we counted 395! The local farmers also have noticed and one of them was shooting them. He had erected a hide and had several elaborately constructed and painted decoys set up near one of the few wet patches in the area. Convincing too as we counted them at first! He obviously knew the flight paths and we saw more than 100 flying over of which he shot four as we watched. I will refrain from commenting on the legal/moral questions but wonder if anyone has had similar observations?
John, on our CAR route SW5 in the Swartland, north of Morreessburg we had over 500 Egyptian Geese in one wheat field.
Spurwings 102 were below the normal numbers we have had in the past in winter.
I find this topic fascinating - not quite the over-abundance of Egyptian Geese, but rather the seasonal variations in Spurwing! The straightforward analysis from Mel's and John's email might suggest the that normally high concentrations of Spurwing Geese in the Swartland might have shifted over the mountains to the Overberg... I would assume to do with the drought conditions.
I suspect more detailed analysis of the CAR count data would give a "slow shutter speed" moving picture, but I suspect atlassing data would be more useful for "faster shutter speed" understanding of how population dynamics have changed... Highlights the need for LOTS of SABAP2 submissions!
Hi Team CapeBirdNet
The SABAP2 vs SABAP1 comparison shows a massive increase in Spur-winged Geese across almost all the Western Cape since SABAP1. We can make a very approximate relative increase in abundance from the reporting rates through the "Griffioen transformation" (the formula, derivation and assumptions are given in this paper in Biodiversity Observations http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=255) --- the increase in numbers of Spur-winged Geese has been roughly 4-fold, whereas the increase in Egyptian Geese has been around 50% (ie 1.5 fold).
Thanks, Garth, for your enthusiastic comments about SABAP2. SABAP2 completed 10 years of data collection a month ago today (on 30 June). It has proved difficult to make really crisp comparisons between SABAP1 and SABAP2 (due to change of protocol), but as SABAP2 goes on for longer and longer, it becomes a bird monitoring project in its own right.
Prof Les Underhill
With reference to John Carter’s message about a farmer shooting Spurwing Geese, as this is illegal, surely this must be reported to the authorities, presumably Cape Nature and possibly the police. We cannot simply disregard the illegal killing of our birds.
It may be that if crops are being seriously damaged by large numbers of geese, then farmers can legally shoot them.
But they are surely not allowed to poison them.
There are far too many Egyptian geese. They are close to exterminating Hamerkops locally, by preventing them from breeding (they usurp the Hamerkop nests).
Kevin et al: please educate us on this.
Geese are serious pests to farmers and they are allowed to shoot them.
Nobody mentioned Poison Why bring this up.
Please do not start another tirade against legal actions by Farmers and Hunters. The Hunting proclamation lists the season in the Western Cape for Egyptian and Spurwing geese as 1st of January to 31st of December as they are really can devastate crops in this region and Hunting is a legal method of trying to controlling them.
It is not only hammerkops that are being targeted by Egyptian geese, Black spar nests are taken over I have seen shellducks chased unmercifully by them.
Thanks Dusty. The position is as I thought it was re shooting geese.
Poisoning was mentioned because some farmers are repeatedly guilty. E.g. Blue Cranes, vultures, eagles and other raptors. Secondary poisoning is inevitable.
Afternoon birders and birdnetters and atlassers (8/8)
Take a look at landscape, climate, human activities and agriculture (as specialized human activity):
1. Egyptian geese are very common all over the country. The current drought may force them onto crop lands with newly planted crops where they may sometimes cause extensive damage. It is also fact that changes in landuse (natural habitat to crop farming) boost their numbers because of over abundant food supply. Then there is also the matrix of private dams on farms all over the Western Cape which also support their population. From my personal perspective the Western Cape is a haven for Egyptian geese and spurwinged geese. What is also important to take into account is that the drought may catalyse very large aggregations of Egyptian geese due to limited natural food and abundant food supply in some spots on farms (grazing paddocks, newly germinated wheat, etc). I also see massive aggregations on a private nature reserve in winter on the Limpopo River west of Mapungubwe due the large natural dam on the farm and well preserved natural vegetation.
2. Hunting Egyptian geese is not illegal; if a hunter has a hunting license he/she may hunt these birds during the proclaimed hunting season. If the birds become a real threat to crops the conservation authorities issue special hunting permits; wing shooters are then brought in to shoot a few birds and that drives them away from the areas where they damage crops. It is not a case of hunting hundreds; maybe fifty or so will be hunted and that is enough to drive the rest away. I did similar repellency operations on golf courses in Gauteng using high powered crackers with great success. The birds learn very fast that they should avoid such places.
3. Poisoning remains a serious threat to all wildlife; it is likely that individuals may resort to poisoning the birds but that is the exception not the rule. Yet, if it happens it is devastating with mass killing of target animals (Egyptian geese in this case) and secondary poisoning of birds of prey and mammalian scavengers. I have recorded and investigated many such incidents with number between 40 and 400 Egyptian geese and Spurwings that were poisoned with monocrotophos, diazinon, aldicarb, carbofuran, etc. Poisoning is also committed by illegal immigrants and other rural people who kill the birds to eat them. Irrespective of whether the birds cause damage or not, poisoning remains illegal under the conservation ordonnance, the act that controls pesticides, the biodiversity conservation act and the animal protection act. There was a poisoning of Blue cranes two weeks ago but I don’t have confirmation of which toxin killed the birds. It looks like a deliberate poisoning to harvest birds for food.
4. Fact is that the Western Cape is largely transformed landscape with little patches of fynbos and renosterveld apart from the montane areas. Some species took a beating because of this while others like the geese are benefitting from it.
Hope this makes sense.
DR GERHARD H VERDOORN: DIRECTOR
GRIFFON POISON INFORMATION CENTRE
Call: +27-82-446-8946 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2017 hunting notice (which is out for public comment at the moment) states that the open season for Spur-winged Goose if from the 1st January to the 31st December, i.e. for the entire year and the bag limit is three per person per day. Please remember, however, that this caters for the sport hunters, hence the season and the bag limit. In terms of Damage Causing Animals (DCA’s) there is a different process. The applicant submits an application to the nearest CapeNature office, who sends out an officer to investigate the issue. Based on the findings of the officer he/she recommends that a permit may be issued, which will have its own bag limits and the permit will be valid for a specific period and it will also include the method of control. The situation will influence whether a permit is issued, the bag limit the validity period and the method of control. In terms of the latter this can include non-lethal methods (scaring devices) or lethal methods (hunting, trap cages). Currently there are only two poisons registered for bird control and none of them are for Spur-winged Goose. We cannot issue permits that contravene with national legislation and will therefore not issue permits using poison as control methods for Spur-winged Goose.
I hope this clarifies the situation.
Yes it does indeed Kevin, thank you very much.
So say if for instance, I come across landowners shooting geese or find a pile of dumped geese carcasses, can I report my findings to the local Cape Nature office so that they can check whether the correct permit was acquired etc?
And in the event of these conditions not having been followed, would Cape Nature take steps to educate the transgressor?
I suggest more than just “education” we are way beyond just killing wildlife willy nilly. Landowners have a geese problem but there are sound and legitimate ways of culling some of the geese as Kevin and I explained. Farmers are welcome to contact me personally if there are geese problems. I instruct our hunting affairs manager at SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association to engage the landowner and the conservation agency and if there is a real problem he arranges a small group of wing shooters with their respective licenses or permits to do a small scale shooting operation. The birds are generally donated to farm workers as it is a real sin to leave such protein rotting in the veld. Have such people never heard of sustainable utilization???
If anyone suspects or comes across any poisoning let me know; I am on the war path as we have again lost Blue cranes to poisoning. Only the Dept of Agriculture may poison only one species namely red-billed quelea. There is no other legitimate poisoning of birds allowed by individuals.
(Images by Richard Masson, Anton Odendal and Steve Peck of BirdLife Overberg)