Minister Barbara Creecy released the High-Level Panel (HLP) report on the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros on Sunday 2 May 2021. Besides providing specific interventions to resolve key issues in the sector, the report also provides for a re-conceptualised wildlife sector, that will provide a new deal for people and wildlife in South Africa, with a focus on thriving wild and wild managed wildlife populations. SA Hunters made specific inputs to the work of the Panel as part of the stakeholder engagement process.
The 582-page report from the HLP, with a long list of recommendations, was approved by the cabinet for release and implementation by DFFE. It is worth noting, that even with very diverse backgrounds, there was consensus on most recommendations of the Panel, except for areas that dealt with captive breeding of lion and rhino, and trade in rhino horn. The minister adopted the majority views in the latter two instances, which included, closing down of the captive lion breeding industry. The minister announced that "the Panel identified that the captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and the illegal trade”. She acknowledged that South Africa must halt and reverse the domestication of lions through captive breeding and keeping. She however also stressed that the recommendations are not against the authentic hunting of wild lion.
SA Hunters already released our policy position against the shooting of captive-bred wildlife, including predators, in 2015 and conducted research, made scientific inputs and presented several times to various forums on the negative impacts this practice have on the reputation of responsible hunting and the sustainability of the wildlife sector. These concerns were supported by various conservation organisations and the Custodians, who gave a joint presentation with SA Hunters in parliament as part of the Colloquium on the Captive Lion Breeding Industry. Other responsible hunting organisations throughout Africa, prominent international hunting organisations and the IUCN, that provides sound international policy guidelines on conservation and sustainable use, echoed the risks associated with the captive lion breeding industry and the reputational risks to authentic hunting and tourism experiences. SA Hunters will continue to support conservation and the sustainable utilisations of wildlife, including, responsible hunting, and in that, ensure that we secure the future of authentic hunting. In line with SA Hunters’ view, the Panels’ report highlights that all role players in the wildlife sector, have to continue to ensure that our actions are ecologically sustainable, economically efficient and socially responsible.
As far as rhino horn trade is concerned, the Panel recommended the phasing out of the captive rhino population and the development of solutions that allow for optimal conservation outcomes for captive and semi-intensive populations. The minister adopted that trade in horn from captive rhino, will not be officially supported/and or approved until the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry and Rhino Action Plan, as approved by the cabinet, are fully addressed. It was however noted that all rhino horn (including from captive specimens) may, in the future, be permitted for trade if approved by CITES. The Minister acknowledged that there must urgently be consultation with private owners of captive rhino breeding operations to plan for their coherent integration into a national long-term strategy for rhino conservation, social transformation and tackling illegal rhino horn trade, consistent with the Rhino Action Plan. Attention will be given to innovative short-term incentivisation for private rhino owners. It was approved that the trend towards captive rhino populations and intensification of management must be reversed and that it must include reintroductions to the wild in South Africa, and other range states where there are safe destinations, subject to assessments of adequate security at identified destinations.
SA Hunters will work through the full report and its many recommendations and provide members with a more comprehensive update on all recommendations in due course.