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Rustlers target sheep in Cornwall Park

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 15/08/2014
pregnant ewe in leg trap

SHEEP TRAPPED: A heavily pregnant ewe is caught in a leg-hold trap at Cornwall Park.

Peter Maxwell
Emma Whittaker
THEFT PROBLEM: Cornwall Park farm manager Peter Maxwell looks after 600 sheep and a herd of cattle.

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Rustlers have stolen at least six sheep - including two pregnant ewes and a large ram - from Cornwall Park farm in the past four months.

A heavily pregnant ewe was caught in a leg-hold trap on Sunday night but spotted by a member of the public before it could be taken.

The SPCA said the incident was part of a "cruel and cowardly attack on a flock of defenceless sheep."

One of its inspectors was called to the farm at about 10pm after the trapped animal was discovered.

Leg-hold traps can cause significant injuries but the ewe was freed and has recovered.

Another ewe that was due to give birth to triplets disappeared two days earlier.

Three more ewes and a 110 kilogram ram were taken in the days before Easter.

"We've had some quite big sheep taken," Cornwall Park farm manager Peter Maxwell said.

"They're quite hard to catch. [The thieves] might be setting traps to slow them down.

"They're probably being dragged away somewhere. There are no signs of slaughter."

"We have a lot of visitors up here and we love showing them the sheep and the lambs so when something like this happens it's not good," Maxwell said.

No other traps have been found on the farm where more than 600 sheep and a herd of cows are grazed.

It's lambing season and the ewe trapped on Sunday night was in a small paddock with about 50 others, all pregnant with twins.

SPCA Auckland executive director Bob Kerridge said the latest incident underscores why his organisation has repeatedly called for a complete ban on the possession and use of leg-hold and gin traps.

Leg-hold traps have metal jaws that hold an animal by its foot or leg while gin traps have added serrated teeth making the injuries they inflict more severe.

"We've had far too many cases in Auckland where innocent family pets have been caught in these horrific devices, despite the fact that it is currently illegal to use such devices in any area where there is a probable risk of catching a pet or injuring a child.

"We believe it is only a matter of luck that a child has not been caught in a gin trap in our region."

Federated Farmers says stock rustling could be costing the country up to $120 million a year.

"This is a daily reality for many on farms but rams home to those in Auckland the magnitude of what our guys have to deal with," Federated Farmers security spokesman Rick Powdrell said.

"As we're on the cusp of main lambing, I was shocked that they had targeted pregnant ewes but they probably do not care.

"It is also bloody dangerous and stupid. At this time of the year a fair number of livestock are receiving animal remedies . . . they are under a withholding period and until it clears their system, should not be eaten."

Rustling is classed as general theft but anyone found guilty of selling meat on the black market can be charged under the Animal Products Act and face up to two years in prison plus a fine of up to $100,000.

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There are strict rules around the slaughter and sale of animal products.

The SPCA is asking anyone with information to contact it on 256 7300. Information about stolen sheep can be given to the police or reported anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- Central Leader

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