Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (EMM) spokesperson Themba Gadebe has confirmed that the bunnies would be possibly gassed, Benoni City Times reports.
This comes after Metro listed its proposal to send the animals to a zoo.
“The excessive number of rabbits – estimated to be over 2 000 at Ekurhuleni’s Benoni Bunny Park – has forced the municipality to donate them to the Johannesburg Zoo as food for carnivores,” Gadebe said on Monday.
“The municipality plans to leave only 50 sterilised rabbits homed in separate enclosures. The excessive number of rabbits in the park has presented various challenges, such as a lack of control over the population growth, which leads to inbreeding and decline in intrinsic immunity, resulting in the outbreak of disease and high parasite loads. While the practice of free roaming rabbits at Bunny Park is an inherited and accepted management practice, it has, however, became an increasing concern to animal rights organisations in recent years, especially in relation to inbreeding.”
“We have decided that from a zoological point of view, this is no longer the best practice.”
The spokesperson said the metro’s policy on keeping livestock makes provision for the “disposal of excess” animals through a number of ways, including selling and the donation of excess animals.
He said about R300 000 has already been spent on sterilising rabbits.
“Having rabbits in the enclosure will also help the municipality’s plans to plant pastures without rabbits eating them. The overpopulation has caused severe damage to the land, and decimated the flora of the park,” added Gadebe.
Outcry a little too late
Numerous people have taken to the Benoni City Times Facebook page to voice their opinion against the confirmation of the bunnies being sent to the zoo.
However, Tania Forrest-Smith, a ward committee member of Ward 27 and former member of The Public Save the Bunnies Facebook group, said not enough people came forward to adopt rabbits.
“If people show no interest in adopting one bunny, no protest, no uproar will change this situation. The public and other organisations had their opportunity weeks ago to do something – nothing was done,” she said.
She said she personally found homes for about 500 rabbits, but listed delays in the sterilisation process as having hampered efforts.
Manager of the Benoni SPCA, Vicky Finnemore, said the development is unfortunate.
“The Benoni SPCA is not in favour of the rabbits being sent to the Johannesburg Zoo to be used as food,” she said.
“Naturally, there are various welfare concerns that must be considered when capturing, transporting, handling and euthanising hundreds of animals. We will insist on being present at the loading of these animals before transportation and any contravention of the Animals Protection Act, will result in the immediate halt of this ‘project’. We cannot stop this decision, and would much prefer for each rabbit to be individually, humanely euthanased with the dignity they deserve.”
Jacques Meiring, Ward 27 councillor, said the rabbit population is out of control and this is the only option.
He said he believes the animals will be gassed using CO2, with care being taken to minimise stress.
He could not say when the process would begin or how long it would take.
Nonetheless, the municipality is in the process of upgrading the park at the cost of R7 million in the 2015/16 and 2017/18 financial years.
The dams have been dredged, internal fencing and some irrigation has been installed.
The next phase includes planting of pastures, expanding the irrigation system and upgrading the animal shelters.
The park is still closed until further notice.
– Caxton News Service