|Robben Island’s culled rabbits are going to be turned into meals for poor people, island acting chief executive Jatti Bredekamp said on Friday.
He also said initial estimates of rabbit numbers — put at as much as 25 000 — appeared to have been overstated.
Just over 2 000 rabbits have been shot by marksmen since culling started a month ago, and up to now the carcasses have been buried on the island.
However, Bredekamp said, from Monday all culled rabbits certified safe for human consumption would be “dressed and packaged for donation to charity”.
|Just over 2000 rabbits have been shot by marksmen
Rabbits, commonly eaten in many European countries, yield an all-white meat, said to be higher in protein and lower in cholesterol and sodium than any other meat.
Bredekamp said a “task team” consisting of museum authorities, its animal control expert and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) met this week to discuss progress in the culling.
It had been decided that another animal population census would be conducted and presented at the next task team meeting scheduled for the end of November.
“The initial plan made provision for worst case scenarios regarding animal numbers which it would appear were overstated,” Bredekamp said.
The vegetation of the 475-hectare island has been ravaged by 25 000-plus rabbits and around 500 deer, both of them alien species.
Bredekamp said 175 fallow deer had been shot so far, and 21 feral cats, of which about five remained.
The SPCA had offered to trap and find homes for 100 of the flock of 500 free-ranging guinea fowl.
Though the remaining cats had been granted a temporary reprieve, no cats had yet been caught in traps set by an animal welfare organisation.
The marksmen would therefore resume shooting them.
Island environmental officials said in September the rabbits and deer had stripped virtually all the island’s edible vegetation, and that the rabbits had actually started eating stinging nettle.
They said the cats were on the hit list because they ate the chicks of penguins, the swift tern and Hartlaub’s gull, of the threatened oystercatcher, and of the highly endangered bank cormorant.
The culled deer are being shipped off the island by an organisation that makes use of the meat. – Sapa