Minister of Environmental Affairs Mrs Edna Molewa convenes stakeholder engagement to address issues around lion breeding and hunting.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa has held a ground-breaking stakeholder engagement to discuss matters around lion management in South Africa; and in particular, breeding and hunting.
The Minister convened the engagement to address widespread and mounting public concern around the practice of so-called 'canned hunting' of lion.
The engagement is the first in what is to be a series of regular interactions between the Minister, departmental officials, and industry role-players on matters of mutual interest and concern.
Among those in attendance were representatives from lion breeders and the hunting industry. This included high-level representation from the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), the South African Predator Association (SAPA), the Confederation of Hunters Associations of South Africa (CHASA), the South African Predator Breeders Association (SAPBA) and the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA).
They engaged with the Minister as well as with the Free State, North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape provincial environmental departments, and representatives from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
"This meeting is a reflection of the seriousness with which we as the department view allegations of criminality operating at the fringe of the legal, well-regulated breeding and hunting industries," says Minister Edna Molewa, adding that the engagement would open channels of communication between all stakeholders on issues relating to lion management.
"South Africa is recognised worldwide for its conservation successes with regards to African lion, so much so that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) just recently hailed our advances in protecting the species," says Minister Molewa.
On the matter of so-called 'canned hunting' of lion, all industry role-players present at the meeting conceded that 'rogue elements' were operating within the lion breeding and hunting industries, and that these needed to be rooted out.
Departmental representatives emphasized that in terms of the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations published in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) it is prohibited to hunt a lion:
•in a controlled environment (the minimum size of the hunting camp is not prescribed in the TOPS Regulations, as it will differ from area to area. However, the minimum size is prescribed in many of the provincial acts/ ordinances);
•while it is under the influence of a tranquiliser (the minimum time frame before a lion may be hunted after it has been darted, is not prescribed in the TOPS Regulations but is regulated in terms of some of the provincial acts/ ordinances);
•with certain methods, such as poison, snares, air guns, shot guns, or by luring it with scent or smell.
The organisations present agreed that the illegal hunting of lion was damaging the legal industry. They further also noted that negative publicity fuelled by misconceptions that 'canned hunting' took place in South Africa, was resulting in substantial financial losses for the local legal hunting industry.
However it was noted that provincial conservation authorities have taken a proactive stance with regards to rooting out illegality, adding that there were a number of cases before the courts relating to suspected illegal activities around lion breeding and hunting, particularly in the Free State province.
In a move to promote consistency across provinces with regards to hunting ordinances, provincial authorities (such as in the North West province) are considering developing norms and standards to further ensure compliance on lion hunts.
Industry role-players have similarly developed norms and standards which have been presented to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for consideration. These include clarifying issues around the release period (prior to a hunt) of captive bred lions; handling of cubs and the prohibition of contact with humans in facilities where lions are bred for hunting.
Participants agreed to the establishment of a forum to investigate a number of issues related to the lion industry in South Africa. Participants agreed, inter alia, to
• Working together to determine how to move forward as the Department of Environmental Affairs in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in addressing and regulating the welfare of captive bred lions
•Supporting research relating to captive bred lions
"The Department is reviewing the comments received on the draft Biodiversity Management Plan for Lion that was published for public participation on 17 April 2015 and regulations are being reviewed and tightened to ensure that all gaps that exist in the lion breeding and hunting industries are closed. This stakeholder engagement, the first of many, will assist us, as the Department, in addressing areas of concern" Minister Molewa said.
Participants emphasized their commitment to promoting sustainable use as South Africa's conservation model, noting further that responsible utilisation of wildlife was a key driver of economic growth, skill development and job creation in the sector.