When South African farmer Erard Louw gets a call from one of his sheep, he isn’t a happy man. Louw, of Durbanville in Cape Town, had 27 sheep and 13 lambs stolen 10 days ago, and has tried to find new ways of protecting his animals.
So, he came up with the idea of tying cellphones on to the collars of four sheep in separate flocks. As soon as they start running, the cellphone is set to switch on.
“As they run it gives me a phone call and says ‘sheep one’ or ‘sheep two’ and so on, so at least I know where to start looking because the farm is 750 hectares. The phone did start ringing that night and I went out.
“I checked all the fences – because they normally cut the fences – and they were all okay and the gates were closed. But the phone kept ringing, so I knew they were running. Then I found a new place where they had cut the fence.”
He was too late to catch those stock thieves, but said his sheep cellphones had caught another thief.
Stock theft of sheep is a major problem in the Western Cape and has led to sheep farmers leaving the industry. Winter is a peak time for sheep theft because the wet weather covers spoor, darkness comes early and the nights are longer.
If the lambs bleat too loudly when rustlers are herding them off the farms, they are killed and dumped. Louw said that the thieves had killed four of the lambs by smashing their skulls against poles.
He said the SAPS stock theft unit did try to help, but they were stationed far away in Malmesbury.
His experience was that there was not much point phoning the police because either they did not have a vehicle available, or they had no petrol, or the tyres had been stolen, or there was no one who could drive.