SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) welcomes the release of the high level panel (HLP) report on the management, breeding, hunting, trade, and handling of elephant, lion, leopard, and rhinoceros that was released on Sunday 2 May 2021. Besides providing specific interventions to resolve key issues in the sector, it also proposes a re-conceptualised wildlife sector that focuses on thriving wild and wild-managed wildlife populations and moving away from captive breeding. This approach is in line with the policy position of SA Hunters since 2015.|
SA Hunters acknowledges that all activities of people have an impact on the environment, and that we have a responsibility to consider the cost of our activities, especially where we utilise wildlife for our benefit, whether it is photographic tourism, hunting, or other purposes. The wildlife sector must be environmentally and ecologically sustainable, economically efficient, and socially responsible when taking care of the heritage of all citizens. Therefore, the Association welcomes this new recommended approach towards greater sustainability and reversing the trend towards domestication of wildlife, including lion and rhinoceros.
At its congress in 2015, SA Hunters adopted a policy on captive breeding. It sent a clear message that the Association is opposed to artificial and unnatural manipulation of wildlife to enhance or alter species’ genetic and phenotypic characteristics, and the intentional breeding of indigenous wild animals in intensive- or highly altered semi-intensive production systems for purely commercial purposes. SA Hunters urges its members to abstain from trading in and hunting animals that have been manipulated and bred in captivity and encourages them to actively promote and support wildlife-based activities in extensive wildlife areas.
It is critically important that this new approach towards vibrant wild populations is embedded in a national biodiversity white paper as recommended by the panel and adopted by cabinet. SA Hunters believes that even though the National Environmental Management Act, NEMA, enables the environmental right of people as enshrined in the Constitution, it is vague with regard to the policy direction South Africa should take in conservation and sustainably use wildlife to benefit current and future generations.
South Africa needs a vision and policy framework that can unite people and the wildlife industry in particular, in cultivating a responsible and inclusive wildlife sector. The fact that panel members with diverse backgrounds have agreed on key principles and most of the recommendations after thorough deliberations, is a testimony that transparency and objective engagements between role players in the sector can lead to greater understanding and better alignment in our approaches towards management, breeding, hunting, trade, and handling of the four iconic species.
The panel also highlighted the misalignment and challenges stemming from overlapping mandates between the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in dealing with wildlife in South Africa. On the one hand, Minister Creecy is urging towards valuing wild populations, while DALRRD has listed various indigenous wildlife species under the Animal Improvement Act that allows domestication of wildlife through agricultural production system approaches. Wildlife should be wild and valued as such. Therefore, SA Hunters initiated legal proceedings to challenge DALRRD’s decision, which had taken place without due consultation with the wildlife sector.
SA Hunters appreciates the work done by the panel and the bold steps by the minister to publish and adopt the report. It is commendable that the Minster already initiated processes towards implementation. The Association also commends the Minister for highlighting the importance of further stakeholder engagements with interested and affected parties. In particular, SA Hunters wants to stress the importance of engagement with custodians of wildlife that manage wild populations on extensive wildlife areas. The contribution of communities and the private sector towards conservation of the four species has been acknowledged in the report. The report touches on specific interventions in this regard, and these should be further developed in collaboration with the relevant role players.
SA Hunters will study the report in detail and apply its mind to aspects that affect its members, wildlife conservation, and the sustainability of a responsible wildlife sector going forward. The Association is cognisant of the mounting pressure on government to promote development that can improve the well-being of the people of South Africa. Conservation budgets are dwindling as was highlighted in engagements with public sector role-players. Government alone cannot fund conservation in South Africa, and we must be pragmatic in ensuring sustainable conservation of our country’s wildlife heritage.
SA Hunters believes that a responsible wildlife sector can achieve both conservation and sustainable development objectives simultaneously, especially in the marginalised rural areas of the country. However, it would require that South Africans engage intelligently with the environmental, social, and economic issues we face in the country and in growing the wildlife economy. The report of the high level panel paves the way for a new vision and inclusive approach.