The hunting of Ranch Lions in South Africa is open and will continue as usual in the 2016 hunting season.
SAPA realises that the entire hunting industry is currently under severe pressure and that it will stay under pressure for as long as the perceptions of the public are exploited and manipulated by the animal rights organisations. Winning the hearts and the minds of the people for hunting as a legitimate and ecologically responsible human activity is a battle all hunters and conservation minded people must be prepared to fight together. SAPA has and will continue to stand up against these ongoing onslaughts on hunting,
SAPA firmly believes in the integrity and sustainability of the ranch lion industry in South Africa. Lion hunting is legal and constitutes an important sector of the trophy hunting industry in South Africa.
The hunting of ranch lions in South Africa is well regulated by the National Department of Environmental Affairs, together with the provincial conservation authorities. All licensing and permitting of the keeping, breeding and hunting of lions is done strictly in accordance with CITES regulations. As recent as 15 May this year the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has confirmed her government’s support for the lion industry in a press release by remarking: “There appears to be a deliberate strategy to conflate canned lion hunting with captive breeding of lions. The former is strictly proscribed; the latter is allowed, but strictly regulated and monitored. Lion hunting is allowed in South Africa. It is an integral part of our sustainable utilisation policies.”
NO RESTRICTION OR TERMINATION ORDER REGARDING THE RANCH LION INDUSTRY HAS BEEN ISSUED BY THE SA GOVERNMENT AND NOTHING OF THAT KIND IS EXPECTED
Complementary to state laws and regulations SAPA has developed norms and standards to guide the actions of its members. To ensure compliance with these norms and standards SAPA has developed a system of accreditation. Lion hunting destinations are formally assessed against these norms and standards by independent assessors. Successful applicants are awarded accreditation for three years and audited regularly in-between.
Currently (January 2016) twelve lion hunting destinations in South Africa have been accredited. These 12 ranches have dedicated their businesses to the legal and authentic hunting of captive bred lions in South Africa. SAPA is in the process of expanding accreditation to several more compliant ranches
SAPA is very much aware of and seriously committed to its responsibility towards the conservation of lions in the wild. The Association is, in fact contributing to lion conservation in various ways, e.g. through its Conservation Fund, funded by levies on lions hunted on accredited lion hunting destination and by contributions of hunting clients.
SAPA is aware of the fact that the final ruling of the USFWS on the status of the African lion, published on 23 December 2015, may have serious effects on the ranch lion industry’s client basis. However, the industry is positive that it will be able to live with the ruling and able to comply with any specific trophy import requirements.
SAPA and PHASA are closely related organisations, with members that belong to both organisations. Many PHASA members were, until recently, involved in lion hunting. PHASA’s decision, in November 2015, to distance itself from captive bred lion hunting drastically changed the situation. Their decision was followed by a warning that “…any of its members found to be involved in the hunting or marketing of captive-bred lions would face expulsion”.
SAPA is utterly disappointed by PHASA’s feckless about-turn on the issue of lion hunting. Although it has been expected for some time, it is still a slap in the face of a partner which has shown itself to be trustworthy and loyal in the hunting and wildlife industry.
PHASA obviously did not base its decision on what is good for the lion population of South Africa, but rather to appease uninformed public opinion. In a public statement prior to their 2015 annual general meeting, former PHASA president Hermann Meyeridicks expressed their unease as “the tide of public opinion is turning strongly against this form of hunting” and indicated that PHASA’s volte face on the subject came about “against this backdrop.”
It is SAPA’s position that the right decisions are often at odds with those that are popular. The current campaign against captive-bred lion hunting is just a battle in the war against hunting in general. PHASA has buckled before this onslaught of uninformed social activists. If the hunting of captive-bred lions should be prohibited, it would remove an important node of resistance against the opponents of all forms of hunting. The entire industry and its sustainable benefits for wildlife preservation are at stake and PHASA has taken the side of those who would destroy it. Ironically, in doing so, PHASA has jeopardized its own long-term survival.
PHASA’s humiliating retreat on the issue was done with no small amount of hypocrisy. It now demands that SAPA should prove the “conservation value” of captive-bred lion hunting as well as enlarge minimum hunting areas to 2 000 ha and increase the release period, yet PHASA would not dream of instituting these conditions on the owners of buffalo or rhino which are also bred in captivity to be hunted.
PHASA has expressed their reservations about the ethical treatment of lions bred in captivity in South Africa, but has now relinquished any position from which to advise or influence SAPA in the matter.
Prof PJJS Potgieter
President: SA Predator Association