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Poisons Project

The use of poison against ‘pest’ species (such as rats and mice in urban areas, caracals and jackals in rural areas) is widespread. These pests can carry diseases and pose threats to human livelihoods. Yet in using poison against them, people can pose threats to their own health (accidental poisoning) and to the environment (secondary poisoning of wildlife and non-target species, polluting water and soil). This project seeks to understand the social and economic dimensions of poison use and to confront the unintended consequences of poison use for people and biodiversity. A/Prof Beatrice Conradie and Marine Drouilly have collected data on poison use on farms, and Prof Nicoli Nattrass is currently conducting a pilot study of rat poison use in Khayelitsha and studying attempts by the City of Cape Town to adopt chemical-free rodent control strategies.

The downstream effect of urban pest management on wildlife manifests primarily in the secondary poisoning of terrestrial and aquatic carnivores including the caracal (UCP) and Cape clawless otter in the Cape Peninsula. iCWild PhD candidate Nicola Okes has recently completed a 4-year study on the impact of urbanisation on the behavioural ecology and threats to otters in the Cape Peninsula. Both otters and caracal have tested positive for anticoagulants that are used to control rats in urban areas with otters having also accumulated PCBs in their tissues. iCWild is attempting to understand the links between poverty, pests, poisons, pollutants and predators by working with the City of Cape Town, SANParks, residents’ associations and toxicologists to understand the long term impacts of urbanisation on wildlife.