Sunday, February 21, 2010

WILD DOG RESPONSE - re African Painted Dogs in Big Trouble

Following the posting on 'African Painted Dogs in Big Trouble' I had an email from Mike Bester asking if it would be okay to post a response to the story. I immediately said yes as it is always interesting to hear it from the other side, especially in these cases. I should point out that I have never met Mike but we have corresponded on other matters. I also know people in the zoo world who speak highly of him and his character. So bearing in mind that there always is another side to every story I would ask you to read his. Thanks. - Peter


Suggestion can be extremely damning and insidious when it is used as an underhand tool with which to ‘accuse’ without actually accusing. It is a tactic often employed when there is a particular agenda which needs to be met but where the facts and the ‘proof’ that are material to making an outright accusation, simply do not exist.

Modern technology makes it possible to record a contrived interview with somebody, then in the process of editing, juxtapose images and comments from other, unrelated sources, in a manner that leads the audience to draw the intended conclusion. For Example: clips of painted dogs in horrendous conditions in China interspersed with clips of me talking about exporting Wild dogs on my property in South Africa, undeniably create the perception that the unfortunate dogs which the viewer sees, are ones which I have exported. In fact nothing could be further from the truth since I personally inspected all facilities in China before any dogs were exported to them. Over the years I exported approximately 50 painted dogs to China.

It is always somewhat uncomfortable to see and hear oneself ‘on screen’, as it were, particularly when it seeks to link one to illegal and unethical behaviour. The under cover footage featured in the ‘documentary’ or expose under discussion, which portrays me and my business in a sinister light and infers that I have acted illegally, is therefore extremely distressing and unfortunate.

I would like the opportunity to establish the truth by stating the facts of the matter and reporting the background and context of this interview.

¶ The section of footage about painted dogs which features me, was recorded approximately 5 years ago and its inclusion in this current documentary gives the impression that it is current footage. This is not true.

¶ The person who recorded the footage posed as a client who was interested in buying wild dogs. Since I do not under any circumstances enter into the illegal trading of animals and have nothing to hide, I was not suspicious when he kept asking leading questions and , to all intents and purposes, interrogating me.

¶ I fell neatly into his carefully constructed plan by seriously exaggerating the number of animals I had sold. Essentially it was ‘sales talk’, intended to elevate my status as a successful and experienced exporter of Wild dogs to a prospective client. I regret my vastly over stated claims and watching the footage was embarrassing to say the least.

¶ Although I have legally and legitimately traded many dogs over the past years I was thankfully and categorically not involved in any way whatsoever with the ‘Mystery of the missing Dogs’ around which this documentary revolves.

¶ About a year back, I was approached by a zoo association and some of the role players in Wild dog conservation to furnish them with information relating to my exporting of dogs, and I was happy to furnish them with all the information they required. Sadly this openness and willingness to co operate is not mentioned since it does not serve the agenda of the video.


At this point I would like to state that I totally agree with the basic sentiments expressed in the documentary. I absolutely support that Painted Dogs should be CITES listed. Wild dogs are in trouble in some areas and there is a need for their populations to be controlled and protected.

However, it should also be noted that there is a huge captive population in South Africa and many other zoos worldwide. Sadly many of these colonies are genetically inbred and are of little conservation value.


I feel violated by the documentary since I believe my integrity as a reputable animal agent/ dealer/ exporter was deliberately brought into question by suggestion and insinuation.

There is no question about whether each and every Wild Dog which I exported was totally legal and above board and that I was satisfied that the facilities to which they were sent were suitable. However, I accept that opinion varies on whether their export is ethical or not.

The following points may help to clarify my position on their export and highlight some facts of which the reader may not be aware:

1. Unlike most countries, ALL indigenous animals in South Africa ( not only CITES listed animals) , require a permit to be exported from the country.

2. ALL the dogs which I exported were with legal export permits.

3. ALL the dogs which I exported were captive bred in well known institutions with traceable histories.

4. ALL the shipments were checked and inspected by the relevant authorities ar the airport when handed in for shipment.

5. It is a fact that dogs are extremely prolific in captivity as there is not predation on the pups. (One farm in my area, bred in excess of 60 in 24 months! While this may not be ethical or advisable, these are the facts!)

6. Although many breeders have dogs on contraception now, there are STILL unwanted litters.

7. There are precious few release sites left in southern Africa as they are incredibly heavy on prey items on the game farms and most national parks in South Africa have enough dogs.

8. Many of the zoos which I have supplied have bred large numbers of dogs and offered to return some to South Africa at no charge! I called around in South Africa and a few neighbouring countries and could not place any!!

9. The dogs which I exported to China, as I stated previously, all went to facilities which I personally inspected BEFORE they were delivered. The footage of facilities in China had NO connection to any of the institutions with which I did business.

10. The last shipment I made to China was more than 5 years ago.

FINALLY I would like to say that I regretfully accept that I made a huge mistake by vastly inflating and exaggerating the figures relating to my exports of Wild dogs to a very annoying ‘client’. My conscience with regard to my exports is clear. My track record as a responsible animal trader and zoo owner is unblemished.

Please note I am still more than willing to help place surplus dogs in any bona fide park in southern Africa. I am happy to provide my services and expertise to facilitate this at no charge whatsoever if the area is suitable for wild dogs , conducted according to accepted norms and standards on reintroduction , and the area is relatively canid disease free so as to maximise chances of success .

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to state my case and defend my reputation.

Mike Bester

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for stating your side of the story. As always, any form of data can be altered to show a particular point of view, and I am glad that you have had the chance to reply. I wish you all the best in your reintroduction efforts.