The Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources were briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs about the role of environmental legislation in the management of threatened, endangered and commercially exploited species, in particular captive-bred lion. South Africa was a member of international conventions which regulated trade in endangered species such as lion.
From 10 April to 13 May 2016, the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Tourism jointly hosted a Biodiversity and Economy and Tourism Lab as a part of Operation Phakisa. This meeting showcased the economic potential of South Africa’s natural resources. The meetings outcome was a detailed focus plan that addressed obstacles to growth of the conservation sector and would help in creating the enabling environment for a sustainable use of wildlife. While the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) presently was focused on conservation and protection of species; it required substantial amendments to promote and facilitate the sustainable use of South Africa’s biodiversity resources. The Lion was currently listed as vulnerable species in NEMBA terms. NEMBA mandated that a permit was required to carry out any activity involving a lion specimen and restricted activities such as possession, transportation, and selling, hunting/killing, import/export of lion in South Africa. NEMBA currently listed certain offences involving lion in South Africa. They included failure to comply with any permit requirement such killing a lion without a permit, not complying with a permit condition such as the collection DNA for genetic profiling, altering a permit and fraudulently fabricating a document to pass it as a permit such as altering a permit holder information or dates or quantities or the use of a fake permit. It also prohibited making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a permit and to allow another person to carry out a restricted activity without a permit such as allowing another person to poach a lion.
Penalties for NEMBA violations could range from fines not in excess of R10 million or a fine equal to three times the commercial value of the specimen involved such as lion skin or not exceeding 10 years imprisonment or both fine and such imprisonment. After the presentation, Committee Members thanked the delegation and asked how the permit regime would affect the African way of life because the possession and the use lion and leopard skin was part of African tradition.
The Acting Chairperson sent the Committee greetings from the Chairperson who was recuperating from an earlier accident and apologies from Mr M Mlambo (Gauteng, ANC), Mr J Parkies (Free State, ANC) and Ms Z Ncitha (Eastern Cape, ANC).
A procedural question was asked by the Committee that they would not be able to adopt the draft on the amended Norms and Standards for the marking of rhinoceros horn because of the lack of quorum and sought clarifications on why it was already on the gazette by 7 February 2017 whilst public comments were still open until 10 March 2017.
The delegation responded by acknowledging the confusion and said there were lots of documents for public comments but one of their presentations today was for amendments to the norms and standards for the marking of rhinoceros and rhinoceros horns and for the hunting of rhinoceros for trophy purposes. This was published in February with a draft circulation for domestic trading in rhino horns and the Department would revert back with a set of regulations when all comments were looked into, meanwhile they were still receiving public comments which were scheduled to close on 10 March. The purpose for the presentation was for the Committee to complete the process of adoption so it could be sent to the NCOP for consideration.
The Committee asked whether it was submitted to the Portfolio Committee in the National Assembly (NA) because subordinate legislation had to first go to NA before coming to the NCOP. The Ministerial Committee was of the opinion that this was a concurrent legislation which had more provincial implications. The Committee Members present bemoaned the lack of quorum which they said it was sloppy on their part and again asked if provinces were consulted and their inputs taken into consideration, and if yes where was the proof?
The delegation acknowledged that provinces were already consulted through working groups and technical meetings but they could not speak for the provincial legislature which was supposed to be handled by this Select Committee. The Committee then asked that they deliberate in private for a few minutes. At this stage the delegation and public left the meeting venue.
When the delegation and public returned, the Chairperson ruled that due to the lack of procedural clarity and quorum, the Committee would be unable to deal with the first item on the agenda and asked that the second item, which was a briefing about the role of environmental legislation in the management of threatened, endangered and commercially exploited species proceed.
Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)
Ms Thea Carroll, Chief Director: Biodiversity Planning and Management, DEA, said her presentation to the Committee would focus on the role of national environmental legislation in the management of threatened or protected and commercially exploited species, especially lion. South Africa, she said, was a part of international conventions that regulated trade in species such as lion and also signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Both CITES and a CBD conventions contained sustainable use and protection provision. South Africa gave effect to these international agreements by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA).
From 10 April to 13 May 2016, DEA and Department of Tourism jointly hosted a Biodiversity and Economy and Tourism Lab as a part of Operation Phakisa. This was meant to advance the economic potential of South Africa’s natural resources. The outcome was a detailed focus plan that aimed to address impediments to growth and how the sector could be transformed and also create the enabling environment for a sustainable use of wildlife. The main focus of NEMBA was on conservation and where South Africa could make provision for commercial activity on regulated species while allowing flexibility on the permits regime. Amendments were being contemplated to NEMBA on what should be amended and included. If one thought of threatened or protected species nationally, they were governed by the National Environmental Biodiversity Act, though some of the species were also covered by provincial Acts because of its concurrent functions as it related to the conservation of the environment. The Biodiversity Act also made provision for the Minister to put in place regulations in terms of Section 97.
There were also Alien Invasion Species Regulations (AIS) and the Professional Hunting Regulations that was presented to this Committee last October. Nationally, it was the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations (TOPS) and CITES regulations which regulated international trade. The Minister was also empowered to provide Norms and Standards relating to activities which were intended also to present today the second set of substantial amendments. We have norms and standards in marking of rhino horns, and hunting of rhino. Norms and Standards was South Africa’s first intervention when faced with challenges relating to poaching just as the country had seal hunting in 2008 to 2009. South Africa also had one for management of elephants in South Africa. The Minister also had an empowering provision in terms of Sec 57 of the Act to prohibit an activity that was detrimental to the survival of species in the wild. So far South Africa had two of such prohibitions: Trade in rhino horns in 2009 and Wild cycads and export of large cycads. Another important mechanism at the country’s disposal was the biodiversity management plan aimed at the long term survival of wild species such as Albany cycad, African penguin, Black & White rhinos and Lion. Sec 56 of NEMBA also empowered the Minister to list species as threatened or protected.
Threatened species were critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable, depending on threat level based on International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list criteria while protected species were species of national importance or high conservation value. Lion was currently listed as vulnerable species in NEMBA terms. NEMBA mandated that a permit be required to carry out any activity involving a lion specimen and restricted activities such as possession, transportation, and selling, hunting/killing, import/export of lion in South Africa. This also included lion specimen which consisted of living or dead lion or its parts such as skin and bones. It was therefore illegal to kill/poach a lion without a permit. TOPS regulations obliged registration compulsory for wildlife traders, or facilities such as captive breeding facilities, zoos, sanctuaries, and rehabilitation facilities. It further prohibited the hunting of lions in a controlled environment (an area that was too small for a population to be self-sustainable), to be trapped in against a fence without a fair chance to evade the hunter, hunting by means of darting a lion that was under the influence of a tranquilising or narcotic agent, hunting by means of a trap, snare, poison, shot gun or air gun, hunting by luring it with smell, sound or any other induced luring method and by means of flood/spot lights, or from a vehicle or aircraft (except under specific conditions). NEMBA currently listed certain offences involving lion in South Africa. They were:
- Failure to comply with any permit requirement such killing a lion without a permit
- Not complying with a permit condition such as the collection DNA for genetic profiling
- Altering a permit and fraudulently fabricating a document to pass it as a permit such as altering permit holder information / dates / quantities or the use of a fake permit
- Making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a permit
- To allow another person to carry out a restricted activity without a permit such as allowing another person to poach a lion
Penalties for NEMBA violations could range from fines not in excess of R10 million or a fine equal to three times the commercial value of the specimen involved such as lion skin or not exceeding 10 years imprisonment or both fine and such imprisonment.
TOPS regulations penalties could be an imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine not in excess of R5 million or both a fine and imprisonment. A case of a second or subsequent conviction fine may not exceed R10 million or imprisonment not more than 10 years or both fine and prison. Extensive amendment to TOPS regulations and species list was envisaged which included provisions relating to lion. The purpose was to toughen certain provisions for example:
- A permit for the breeding of a captive lion would be refused unless such applicant demonstrated how such (breeding) could contribute to lion conservation
- A compulsory risk assessment must be undertaken in order to release a captive-lion into a national protected area
- Lions originating from a wild population could only be introduced into a captive breeding facility for the sake of conservation
As a result of a recent Red List Assessment, lion would hereafter be listed as a protected species in terms of NEMBA and approval of the relevant legislation was being initiated by the Minister to be tabled for approval with NCOP and thereafter with the National Assembly for voting.
In terms of the Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP), there was a Regional Strategy for Lions in East and Southern Africa which encouraged national strategies to be developed. The lion BMP looked a bit different from others the Committee may have seen because the populations were stable so the vision was the enhancement of stable, viable and ecologically functional populations of wild and reintroduced lions, along with well managed captive populations that had negligible conservation impacts. It was imagined that lions would provide opportunities for economic development, social, conservation and biodiversity benefits and an improved management capacity. The lion BMP would require the establishment of a forum that would coordinate the coordination of the BMP and that process was in motion.
For the trade in lion bones, African lion was included in Appendix II of CITES meaning South Africa was allowed to trade commercially in lions and its specimen including bones. Over the years South Africa was allowed to trade in trophy hunting practice which was a sustainable practice. A recent study relating to the trade in bones from South Africa showed it was a sustainable practice and had no impact in the survival of lions in the wild. In last year’s CITES meeting hosted in South Africa, there was a proposal by African countries to list the African lions in Appendix I because in areas to the north of Southern Africa, lion populations were under pressure. This proposal was not supported but concern was raised about the trade in bones. The key threats to lions were habitat loss, habitat change, human wild life conflict, etc. Some countries were seeing the loss of lion population by almost 50%, while for us in the Southern African region, the population was growing by 12%. What emerged out of the CITES CoP17 2016 conference was a revision of Appendix II with an annotation stating that with effect from 2 January 2017, a zero annual export quota was established for specimens of bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild and traded for commercial purposes. Also an annual export quota imposed for trade in bones, bone pieces, products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth for commercial purposes, derived from captive breeding operations in South Africa had to be established and communicated to the CITES secretariat.
The South African Biodiversity Institute (SABI) proposed that the Department look at a quota of 800 skeletons per year; this was based on an assessment of all the trade that took place for the last ten years in bones and hunting purposes. Though there may be a quota for bones, bones pieces, claws and teeth, the recommendation was that only skeletons with/without skulls, individual bone pieces would not be allowed. Upon receipt of an application from the captive-breeding farm, the Province would have to confirm with DEA the availability of a quota. The issuing authority would evaluate whether such a permit could be issued. Skeletons would have to be packed at breeding operation or hunting farm, weighed, tagged and a DNA sample taken. Quota numbers had to be inscribed on all permits such killing, selling, buying, transporting and exporting. Consignments had to be inspected and weighed and permitted at port of exit and random DNA samples could be collected. The proposal was not being finalized yet.
Mr M Khawula (KwaZulu-Natal, IFP) thanked the Committee and delegation for the presentation and wanted to know how all this would affect the African and Zulu way of life. As someone from KwaZulu-Natal, lion skin was traditional attire for ceremonies and even a church outfit for some, not because they believed in hunting lions. The same could be said of the Vendas although it was not clear where they bought theirs from. There were markets in Zululand where lion skin was bought without a care where they came from. How then would all these proposed penalties and fines affect those trading and buying these items?
Ms C Labuschagne (Western Cape, DA) said that in the issue of markings and testing of DNA at the port of exit, it was concerning of what the cost implication would be of all skeletons or consignments leaving the country. It was said in the presentation that there was an increase of 12% of lion population in Southern Africa; was that the captive or wild population? Again, despite all conservation efforts, the illegal trade was always there and the envisaged yearly export quota of 800 skeletons was a lot.
Mr C Smith (Limpopo, DA) asked what the cost would be of each one of the processes of the whole permit system. Again, the impression picked up was that there was an over-regulation for people who were trading legally, what then was happening to the illegal traders because they were the ones getting away with everything. The same thing was happening in the financial sector where legal lenders had to contend with lots of regulations and the illegal lenders were making lots of money.
Mr J Julius (Gauteng, DA) wanted to know whether the 800 skeletons were based on research and asked how they came to settle on this quota. Again to determine a fine, the value of the carcass had to be established. How was that determined?
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, DEA, replied that all the commissions mentioned in the presentation were meant to control and define the lawful prescripts needed to possess, transport and export lion parts. It was not meant to forbid anyone to posess and trade but such activity had to come from a lawful source with the right permits and follow the right process. It was therefore the legal possession that was encouraged. In terms of the volume, it was not only applicable to lions but also to leopards. Not long ago, for the protection of leopards in the wild, the Department had to introduce a moratorium and zero quota on trophy hunting of leopards for last and this year to enhance and protect the survival of species in the wild. Those were interventions the Department activated when concerned with dwindling numbers. The National Scientific Corporate on a regular basis provided the Department with non-detrimental findings based on the questions posed to them such as whether the Department should be concerned based on certain current trends. The Scientific Corporate would on their own carry out research and analysis and come up with findings on which areas the Department should be careful with increasing or decreasing quotas of specific species. This was not only for the National Government but for the provinces as well.
Ms Thea Carroll, Chief Director: Biodiversity Planning and Management, DEA, thanked the honourable members and clarified that the intention of the legislation was not to prohibit the traditional use of skins and bones of lion bones but rather the process to apply a permit especially in KZN where the Department dealt with permit applications and there were instances where the ezemvelo donated skins in the province. The process was in place to apply for skins for personal use in traditional ceremonies. The concern was when there was large scale use without permits and the DEA were not sure where the skins came from, either from inside or outside the country, so the Department was looking at raising awareness to make people aware of where, how and what documents were needed to obtain a permit to address more of the traditional users. Many people dealing with these parts in the markets were not aware that they needed permits. This was also to make them aware that if they were found with a skeletons, etc, that there was a process that unfolded not necessarily just putting them in jail or being fined R10 million.
In terms of DNA testing and marking of specific bones, the Department had Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI) at OR Tambo Airport that conducted spot checks and if they were concerned about anything, they could take samples for analysis before authorising export. Anyone that suspected an illegal activity happening could call them but it was not cost effective to test every bone considering that were 309 bones in each skeleton so they would take samples at least. The Department had samples now of every bone and what they looked like approximate wise and that was assisting the Department. On population estimates status, it did not include the captive population rather the completely wild population estimates in the national park and provincial reserves which totalled about 2300. The Department also had 800 to 1000 managed wild lions that were in smaller managed reserves which was the habitat of re-introduced wild lions. Those were the lions which were a stable lion population and 70% of them were in national protected areas where they were not hunted.
On the research question, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) analysis showed that based on an annual report for ten years of trading from the Southern African region, between 800 to1300 skeletons were exported each year; 800 being a more conservative figure. Lions in captivity were about 6000 to 8000 though the industry’s figures were more than 8000 while South Africa’s was about 6000. The Department believed that it was about 10% of those population figures that could be sustainable as the Department did not want to over stimulate the concerns raised or flood the market with skeletons but to maintain what was happening and part of this process was to conduct research on the price for lion bone because that information did not form part of the application process. The figure obtained from the industry was between R20 000 to R30 000 per trophy, although it was higher for male trophy. Monitoring was on-going so that the Department could make informed decisions of what quota was feasible for the industry and have a pulse on both the legal and illegal trade in bones.
As for the permit system, some provinces conducted a study on the costs to issue a permit, the process involved in scientific services evaluation and EMI’s inspections to verify information. The Department felt there was a need to redo a cost analysis in all provinces so as to determine the real costs for a permit because Government was carrying the burden for now.
Regarding the illegal activities, the intention was not for illegal traders to abuse the legal system so the Department hoped through the legal system it would be informed when an activity was illegal so a compliance management and enforcement could take place.
Mr Ishaam Abader, Deputy Director-General: Legal, Authorisation, Compliance and Enforcement, DEA, addressed the question on how this affected the African way of life and said that the Department was rolling out national education and awareness on legal and illegal trade and the need for a sustainable use of lion skeletons so as to preserve the species and even the use of artificial leopard skin and KZN would be the next stop. Places like Vuyani were crucial because of the illegal trading taking place. The Department had to make them aware that continuous illegal harvesting of wild animals was unsustainable and if not curbed, enforcement people had to be sent and from then on it would be criminal matter. The DNA capability was being expanded and the genetic lab was now enlarged.
Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Deputy Director-General, DEA, thanked everyone present and re-enforced Mr Khawula’s question on the approach towards traditional practices. She said that there were probably existing traditional hunters who might not be aware of the regulations which might be a challenge. Engagement of the house of traditional leaders and traditional leadership might be another option to help them understand the requirements to obtain permits and why it was necessary.
Mr Smith was happy that they were checking the price implication because this would help not to add more value to the product thereby strengthening the hands of illegal operators who then made a bigger profit to the detriment of legal dealers. He further asked about the capacity of the Department to regulate the illegal operators so the same situation with the rhinos did not occur.
Ms Carroll replied that on the issues of legal vs illegal, the approach was to put mechanisms in place in a permit regime that would comply and stimulate the business side of the transaction. Those people trading legally had the space and more opportunities and benefit of the law other than the illegal traders. On the capacity to regulate, due to experience with rhinos, there was collaboration with other law enforcement agencies like the police who had a prepared strategy to address wild life trafficking. What was intended was to analyse the cost and try to recoup some of those through permitting. Presently, the permit fees were very low; the fee was R100 for hunting and possession permit application so there was scope to build our cost into the system.
Mr Abader further stated that the number of EMI’s as at 2014/2015 was 2294. Of this number, 1300 were field rangers stationed in national and provincial parks. This number was not a lot for the whole country, which was why the DEA held collaborative training for SAPS, Customs and other law enforcement officials at exit points in the country. This training programmes was rolled out to detect and combat wild life trafficking. It was yielding fruit as there were media reports of people living in the country being fined for possession of wild life parts and skeletons.
The Chairperson thanked everyone present and adjourned the meeting.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.