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SA Hunters concerned about new regulations that allow cross-breeding of wildlife

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) recently added twelve wildlife species to the list of tame and domesticated animals regulated under its Animal Improvement Act (No. 62 of 1998). This amendment will allow genetic manipulation and cross-breeding of wildlife in the same way that cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and poultry are bred to obtain animals with specific characteristics for agricultural purposes.

The South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) is gravely concerned about this amendment that puts Black Wildebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Blue Duiker, Bontebok, Gemsbok, Impala, Oribi, Red Hartebeest, Roan, Sable, Springbok, and Tsessebe at risk of genetic manipulation and genetic  pollution, amongst other concerns.

The description in the Animal Improvement Act states that listed animals may be used “for the breeding, identification and utilisation of genetically superior animals in order to improve the production and performance of animals in the interest of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith”.

DAFF published its amendment to the Regulations of the Act on 10 June 2016, without any consultation with major role players in the wildlife industry as required by law. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which is the department responsible for legislation regarding wildlife was apparently also unaware of the listing of wildlife with livestock to allow for genetic manipulation to develop new breeds.

SA Hunters requested that the matter be placed on the agenda of the Wildlife Forum where government interact with the wildlife industry to ensure official responses from both DEA and DAFF on the matter. Although DAFF confirmed that they would report on the matter at the meeting, they did not show up and no response was given on the matter.

Lizanne Nel, conservation manager at SA Hunters, said breeding practices such as genetic manipulation and cross-breeding of wildlife are in conflict with existing biodiversity conservation legislation that protects indigenous wildlife and maintains the genetic integrity of wildlife species for current and future generations.

“Some of the antelope species that have been listed with livestock species such as cattle and sheep under the Animal Improvement Act, are also popular species for the local hunting market, while others, such as Bontebok, Blue Duiker, Roan Antelope and Oribi, are threatened. The reason for listing these species for animal improvement is unclear.”

The intention of the Animal Improvement Act is predominantly to enhance animal species through breeding practices for improved food production. This practice certainly cannot be argued to be beneficial for threatened species.  It will be problematic to distinguish between, or permanently separate, domesticated game and free-roaming game, with potential reputational risks to the hunting sector that already bears the brunt of local and international criticism because of unacceptable hunting practices.

The only wild animal that was previously listed under the Animal Improvement Act, was the Ostrich. Scientific reports indicate that haphazard breeding and cross-breeding, between for instance the Northern African ostrich and the Southern African ostrich was done to improve feather production. This has material implications on the genetic integrity of indigenous wildlife. The South African ostrich industry is known to experience reproduction and chick survival problems as a result of breeding practices.
Intensive and selective breeding of wildlife already resulted in illegal cross-breeding between West African Roan, a declared alien invasive species, with local Southern Roan to create so-called genetically superior animals.  DEA is in a process to develop a strategy to address this problem at a cost to the tax payer.
“How the same government could allow listing of some wildlife species, including some that are threatened, with domestic stock for genetic manipulation is just beyond comprehension,” Nel said.

SA Hunters awaits feedback from the DEA on how the Department intended to deal with this matter.

Issued by the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association
Editorial enquiries: Lizanne Nel on lizanne@sahunt.co.za
Media enquiries: Magda Naudé on magda.naude@gmail.com


Lizanne Nel – Bewaringsbestuur

Die Hofaansoek van die SA Jagters en Wildbewaringsvereniging teen die Minister van Landbou, Landelike Ontwikkeling en Grondhervorming (DALRRD) is met koste in die guns van SA Jagters beslis. Die Minister is beveel  om die lys van verskeie inheemse, bedreigde en indringer wildspesies ingevolge die Diereverbeteringswet ter syde te stel. Buiten vir die verreikende negatiewe implikasies vir wild, was daar ook nie behoorlik met rolspelers gekonsulteer soos die wet vereis nie.

Die Diereverbeteringswet maak voorsiening daarvoor dat landrasdiere geteel en geneties gemanupileer kan word om “nuwe” rasse te skep met verbeterde produksie en prestasie. Dit is tipies wat gevind word waar verskillende beesrasse geteel word vir spesifieke eienskappe soos vleisproduksie of melkproduksie.  Die wetgewing maak ook voorsiening vir spesifieke rasgebaseerde telersgenootskappe.

Indien wildspesies op hierdie lys sou bly,  sou dit beteken dat:

  • Wild  geneties gemanipuleer kan word deur verskeie veeproduksietegnieke (kruisteling, embrio-oes en oordrag, lynteling ens.);
  • ‘n Telersgenootskap rasstandaarde vir wildspesies kan voorskryf wat beteken dat diere wat nie aan hul rasstandaarde voldoen nie, as ontrou aan die ras verklaar kan word – iets wat eienaars van wild direk kan raak;
  • Hierdie proses die deur oopmaak vir die makmaak van wild en erodering  van genetiese integriteit van wildspesies; en
  • Indien gemanupileerde wild beskikbaar gemaak word vir jagdoeleindes,  dit ‘n wesenlike impak kan hê op die reputasie van jagters en die bydrae wat hul jagfooie maak tot die bewaring van natuurlike wildpopulasies en die verwante habitatte.

Volgens die Vereniging, is daar geen grondige motivering om wild saam met veerasse te lys vir diereverbetering nie. Vrylopende wildpopulasies het oor tyd en deur natuurlike seleksie aangepas om in veranderende omgewingstoestande te kan oorleef. Dit wil voorkom of die wanpersepsie dat die insluit van wild ingevolge die Diereverbeteringswet sou beteken dat biodiversiteitswetgewing (NEMBA en NEMA) wat die Departement Bosbou,  Visserye en die Omgewing (DFFE) bestuur nie meer van toepassing sou wees nie, moontlike as  motivering gedien het.     

SA Jagters het toevallig bewus geraak van die eerste lys in 2016 waarna ons beide DFFE en DALLRD versoek het om redes te verskaf vir hulle aksie en om die implikasies daarvan te verduidelik. Dit was gou duidelik dat nie DFFE óf die bewaringsowerhede in provinsies gekonsulteer was soos die wet vereis nie. Terwyl SA Jagters gepoog het om duidelikheid van DALRRD te kry is die volgende groep wildspesies weer sonder enige konsultasie van belanghebbendes gelys.  ‘n Totaal van 45 wildspesies is gelys wat onder ander  wit- en swartrenosters; klipspringer; oorbietjie; jagluiperd, leeu, suni en takbokke insluit.

As organisasie wat daartoe verbind is om ons natuurlike erfenis te bewaar, was ons baie bekommerd oor hierdie verwikkelinge. Vanaf 1949 toe die Vereniging gestig is, was bewaring deel van die mandaat en doelwitte van die Vereniging. Ons is ook saam met die regering en ander bewaringsorganisasies ‘n lid van die grootste bewaringsforum in die wêreld, naamlik die Internasionale Unie vir die Bewaring van die Natuur (IUCN), wat onder andere ook reeds die gevare van intensiewe manipulering van wild uitgelig het.

Met ‘n bewaringsmandaat van ons lede en ook in belang van die publiek wat ‘n grondwetlike reg het tot die bewaring van ons natuurlewe,  is ‘n hofaansoek in Desember 2019 gebring waarin die hof versoek is om insluit van wildspesies by die lys ter syde te stel.

Ons wag in spanning om te sien hoe Departement Landbou, Landelike Ontwikkeling en Grondhervorming op die hofuitspraak gaan reageer. Ons hoop egter  dat die uitspraak beide departemente sal noop om in die toekoms beter saam te werk waar hul mandate oorvleuel of onduidelik is. Die Vereniging hoop verder dat die staat besef dat rolspelers soos SA Jagters, gekonsulteer behoort te word in sake wat hul wesenlik raak. As volwaardige bewaringsorganisie met lede wat omgee vir die natuur, sal ons ons bly beywer vir die bewaring van vrylopende wild in hul natuurlike habitat.

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