17 December 2004

Four held for poisoning endangered birds

Eleven critically endangered Blue Cranes have been poisoned on a farm near Koppies in the Free State.

Blue Cranes are a protected species in South Africa.

This incident comes after more than 500 Egyptian Geese, Guinea Fowl and other birds were poisoned two weeks ago on a farm in Rouxville.

Four men were arrested in connection with the incident.

Louis Boshoff, owner of the Koppies farm, said 13 Blue Cranes arrived at his farm late on Tuesday afternoon.

"I was excited by their arrival because we have not seen Blue Cranes in this area for many years," said Boshoff.

He said the birds appeared to have visited the farm to drink at one of the dams.

"When I went to the dam on Wednesday, I noticed only two Blue Cranes near the water." Boshoff said he went to investigate and found 11 of the birds dead.

"There were also dead doves and other birds near the water and I immediately suspected poisoning," an angry Boshoff said. He alerted the police who arrested four suspects yesterday morning following a tip-off.

Gerhard Verdoorn of Birdlife SA, said the incident was a serious blow to the country's threatened Blue Crane population.

"We have had a number of incidents in the province this year in which vulnerable bird species have been targeted," he said.


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