At least 800 dogs are poisoned with the banned pesticide, Aldicarb, every week in South Africa.

This is according to poison expert, Gerhard Verdoorn, who says the poison, known colloquially as Two Step or Halipirim, is responsible for at least one hundred murders per year in Johannesburg alone.

SABC News took to the streets to see how easily this poison is available.

Within seconds of stepping outside the Sunshine Plaza shopping complex in Roodepoort, west of Johannesburg, SABC News journalists were surrounded by street vendors with a variety of wares.

After mentioning a rat problem, vendors immediately show the best solution on offer – grey-black granules in a small, unmarked, clear plastic bag. The vendor is holding at least 50 little bags but says that only four bags – approximately two teaspoons worth of poison – to decimate the rodent problem. The price? R20 for the lot.

Other vendors draw closer and offer a reduced price should the banned substance be purchased from them instead.

Listen to the full story here:


Aldicarb also known as halipirim or two-step is a pesticide that has been banned for both use and possession in South Africa. Despite this, it is readily sold on almost every street corner in Johannesburg – peddled to poorer customers as a rodenticide.

Cora Bailey, is the director of Community Led Animal Welfare or CLAW which is situated on the abandoned Durban Deep mine, West of Johannesburg. She says that the consequences of this banned substance are horrendous and seen too frequently to count.

“In the past few months it’s not unusual for at least a third of the patients in our very busy hospital to be poisoning cases,” says Bailey, shaking her head.

“Last week alone we had fifteen cases in one day, and all of those animals require very extensive and expensive treatment. It’s painful for them. Many of the animals that we’re called to assist with don’t survive as we just don’t get there in time. It’s really increased exponentially in the past few months.”

Bailey says in most of the poisonings they see, Aldicarb is to blame.

“In the townships it’s freely available and it’s very cheap. People in impoverished settlements who are plagued by rodents don’t necessarily have the funds to buy a labeled poison in the supermarkets so they buy it from a street vendor, either at a taxi rank or a railway station. You can even find it outside of Baragwanath hospital – it’s freely available and for less than R20 you can buy enough poison to kill several dogs.”

Many dogs in more affluent suburbs are deliberately poisoned by criminals before house-breakings, while a large percentage of poisonings in townships are accidental.

Street vendors suggest putting the Aldicarb in food to entice the rats – but this also makes the poisoned bait attractive for dogs and cats.

Poison expert Gerhard Verdoorn says while it is sold as a rodenticide, the majority of uses for Aldicarb are a lot more sinister.

“In the rural areas it is used to poison wildlife, especially carnivores like jackals, caracoal and stray dogs, and very often also lions, leopards, elephants and that goes into the muthi trade and into ivory smuggling. They sell it to syndicates to poison dogs because they wipe out all the dogs in the neighbourhood and then they come in and do house-breakings and they burglaries.”

But what can be done to keep Aldicarb off the streets? Both Bailey and Verdoorn agree that consumers should never buy unmarked poisons off the streets – and that community education is key.

“The sad fact is that there is very little policing around this,” explains Bailey. “It’s completely against the law but it’s openly displayed for sale. Even children can buy it. It would be really really simple if bylaw enforcement took their job seriously because this is causing so much misery and so many deaths that its alarming.”

Verdoorn says a dog poisoning is just the start of a chain of criminal events.

“In the end, if you don’t investigate the dog poisoning and somebody gets murdered its because somebody didn’t investigate the dog poisoning.”

Verdoorn says law enforcement officials must do their jobs. “The job of the police is to make sure that crime is investigated and crime is stopped and our response should be if there is a dog poisoning then it must be reported.”

 

Street vendors suggest putting the Aldicarb in food to entice the rats. But this also makes the poisoned bait attractive for dogs and cats.

Many dogs in more affluent suburbs are deliberately poisoned by criminals before housebreakings, while a large percentage of poisonings in townships are accidental.

The only way to keep dogs safe is to ensure that they sleep indoors. Verdoorn warns that worse criminal activities will follow if poisonings are ignored.

“The bigger problem lies with the syndicates who commit big scale crimes. In one example, in an agricultural area like Thabazimbi they poisoned all the dogs and stolel 44 Land Cruisers in one night. They poisoned all the dogs in a place like Upington and 14 Land Cruisers were stolen from one street during a single night.”

Verdoorn says is it important to remember that the dog poisonings are a means to an end – to remove companion animals who act as a homeowner’s eyes and ears and alert them to danger. When these ‘weapons’ are removed, citizens are left vulnerable. He says a dog poisoning is about more than just a dog poisoning.

“It’s the secondary crime, where they go and they burgle, they rape, they murder, they rob and they steal vehicles. It’s the starting point of a chain of events which becomes very serious. My advice – every time something is poisoned, demand that the police take it up – otherwise we’re not going to win the battle.”

Bailey agrees that if the battle is to be won, communities and police need to work together.

“I think it’s just really important to urge people to go make noise at your local police station. I don’t think there is a community in South Africa that hasn’t been affected by it, from the suburbs to the townships. Really make a fuss at your local police station. Insist that law enforcement is done.”

After-all, she says, it is not just animals that are at risk. “If you think about it the number of children wandering about without supervision that can easily gain access to that meat so it would be just as tempting to a toddler as it would be to a dog.”

Verdoorn agrees that small children become collateral damage when criminals use poisoned bait to target dogs.

“Any child, they pick up the stuff and eat it and I’ve had many cases where children eat the stuff and they die within a couple of hours after eating it.” He says there are no official statistics available for the number of humans poisoned with Aldicarb annually. “We don’t exactly know how many are poisoned but I can tell you it is literally hundreds a year in South Africa.”