The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs hosted a two-day colloquium on captive lion breeding under the title: Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting In South Africa: Harming Or Promoting The Conservation Image Of The Country. Day One of the Colloquium was divided into four parts. In part one, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs gave an opening address and Ms Edna Molewa, Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) gave the key note address.
The Chairperson stressed that this Colloquium will not be just another talk shop without being followed by action. Meticulous records of the proceedings will be kept and a detailed report will be produced with detailed recommendations to be considered by the PC Committee, after which it will be tabled in the House for adoption. Whatever outcome to the Colloquium, it will be followed up by the Committee with the shear tenacity of the hungry lion chasing its prey. It is deliberate the theme of this colloquium poses a fundamental question in relation to the conservation image of South Africa. Even though it is in favour of the sustainable use of biodiversity resources, South Africa finds itself increasingly isolated at important international conservation and hunting platforms as a result of this policy stance. Major questions are not only raised in relation to ethical and fair chase hunting considerations, but more concerns are being raised about the absence of scientific evidence showing the conservation value of canned hunting as well as the application of the precautionary principle.
In the keynote address, Minister Molewa stressed that the Committee’s decision to have this discussion is welcome. This is an opportunity to clarify South Africa’s position around the captive breeding of lions for hunting and for the trade of lion specimens. This position was formulated a while ago through the democratic process. Public representations are awash with slanted and misrepresented information. This is harmful for South Africa in terms of conservation. It is important for us to hear each other very carefully, lest we misunderstand or misrepresent some of the things which are said. These misrepresentations distract from the real discussion and the substantive issue around lion conservation. It is important for this discussion to be scientific and not anecdotal. Whatever decision is made requires trade-offs with a set of outcomes. A final decision requires very hard thinking. By way of conclusion, Minister Molewa stated that South Africa is one of the world leaders in conservation, in lion and many other species. All members of the public are expected to give the government information that relates to any malpractice involving wildlife.
The Department of Environmental Affairs spelled out the regulatory frameworks for wild and captive-bred lion hunting. The Department said that it supported an adaptive management approach and evidence-based approached informed by facts and science (International & National). In terms of the 2018 Lion Bone Quota of 1500 complete Skeletons, which was informed by the preliminary outcomes of the SANBI study and other sources, lion breeders can produce more skeletons than the current quota allows; the number of skeletons exported leading up to the 2017 quota was substantially higher than initial estimates; due to the quota restrictions there appears to be a growing stockpile of bones in South Africa (it appears that traders have been stockpiling skeletons and this is attested by the short period it took to fill the 2017 export quota of 800 skeletons); and there appears to be an increase in poaching for body parts (skull, paws, claws) but little evidence of poaching for bones. The Department also reported that it aims to balance conservation, sustainable use and beneficiation and adopts contextual approaches recognising differing dynamics in countries and regions.
The Scientific Authority reported that the 2017 Non-Detriment Findings for African lion was that it posed no major threats to the wild and managed lion populations within South Africa, trophy hunting of captive -bred lions poses no threat to the wild lion population within South Africa, consumptive use is restricted to private game reserves, and there is a low to moderate risk and trade is not detrimental.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries outlined its role in captive lion welfare; the animal welfare definition; existing animal welfare related legislation in South Africa; other important game legislation; proposed guidelines for the welfare of captive lions and categories of captive lion operations in South Africa. The Department stressed that, among others, DAFF has a mandate on captive lion breeding and hunting in terms of animal health and welfare and that the successful implementation of this mandate is dependent on the cooperative governance between DAFF and DEA, due to overlapping functions. The Department highlighted the opportunities. These are the development of a widely consulted comprehensive animal welfare legislation; incorporation (in-part or in-toto) of existing private welfare standards; liaise with other departmental structures to incorporate the welfare mandate into existing certification and licencing; developing a ranking system for facilities in terms of welfare, biodiversity, conservation and community empowerment.
Smaragda Louw, on behalf of the EMS Foundation and the Ban Animal Trading (BAT), presented the outcomes of a study entitled The Extinction Business conducted by the EMS Foundation into South Africa’s role in the international lion bone trade, which reveals how the Minister, her Department and conservation agencies support and grow a trade which has strong links to international criminal networks, is providing a legal channel for the trafficking of illegal big cat parts, and is fuelling the demise of wild big cat populations. DEA’s ‘lion’ bone trade damages Brand South Africa’s image and tourism. EMS Foundation requested the Committee to a) place an immediate ban on the lion and other Big Cat bone trade for commercial purposes, including from captive sources; b) bring the criminal aspects of this trade to the attention of other relevant Parliamentary Committees and authorities to ensure that a forensic investigation and financial tracking of the industry is undertaken; c) Urgently ensure that animal protection, welfare, care and respect is included in the appropriate environmental legislation, particularly in relation to the issuing of permits for the keeping, sale, hunting and exporting of wild animals and their body parts; d) Close down the rogue Big Cat captive industry; e) Instruct DEA as a matter of urgency to provide a complete and audited list of all Big Cat breeding and keeping facilities nationally, and to make this list publicly available; f) instruct DEA to convene stakeholder meetings to discuss the dismantling of the captive Big Cat industry, including experts from the fields of animal welfare, sanctuary management and forensics, as well as NGOs.
Born Free Foundation focused on a report entitled “Cash before Conservation - An Overview of the Breeding of Lions for the Hunting and Bone Trade”, which was released in April this year and summarises investigations into the development and impacts of South Africa’s lion breeding industry. Serious welfare concerns persist in relation to the rearing of captive-bred lions in South Africa, particularly with the increasing profit-driven commodification of lion products. Recent images of clearly undernourished lions in captive facilities, and news reports suggesting that lion slaughterhouses have been established to facilitate the mass slaughter of lions to supply skeletons for international trade, only serve to exacerbate these concerns. The Foundation argued that if we are to secure a future for Africa’s lions, the lion breeding and canned hunting industries must be closed down, with responsibility resting squarely with the South African government for ensuring that such a process is conducted with intelligence, humanity, and above all compassion for the animals concerned.
The Professional Hunter's Association of South Africa argued that South Africa’s conservation image is not being tarnished by the breeding or hunting of lions, but rather by key individuals profiteering from the focused attack on Brand South Africa.
The South African Predator Association presented that is members are breeding, raising and keeping their lions in Provincial government approved keeping facilities, built according to or better than the specifications of each Provincial Biodiversity Management authority. The animals are wisely raised and sustained for a period of three to five years thereafter; the animals are release for hunting purposes according to the guidelines of the SAPA Norms and standards for the hunting of captive lions and of the Provincial Biodiversity Management Authority. The Association emphasised that the captive lion industry in South Africa is a well regulated, manageable industry that contributes way more positively to South Africa than negatively, and ask the Committee to assist in maintaining this industry for South Africa.
The Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation stated that the bedrock of socially responsible hunting is the constitutional imperative of justifiable economic and social development, highlighting that perception determines the reputation (and therefore sustainability) of hunting & captive game/lion breeding. The organisation believed that conservation and the biodiversity economy needs hunting. Hunting can only be sustainable if practised responsibly. Responsible hunting must promote conservation; be ecologically sustainable; and be economically and socially justifiable.
The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation stated that captive lion breading may be legal, but it breaks moral and ecological basis and boundaries; it is bad for the reputation of South Africa at the global level; and is not good for the reputation of hunting, which is already demonized globally by false information.
During the deliberations, Members asked about lion bone cake, the provinces that have refused to implement the TOPS regulations, the mandate and composition of the Scientific Authority, the quota increase, the lion population in South Africa and whether at a regulatory level there are still challenges in terms of the systems that are there and the capacity of government to be able to monitor all these facilities with regards to what is happening both in public and private.
The Chairperson highlighted that this has been a fruitful interaction. The Committee is a bit more informed around this practice. This Committee would like to be briefed on the study by the Scientific Authority as it was used to come to a very key decision by the Executive. The Legislature would want to interrogate that report. From the information, there is overwhelming evidence that there is really no conservation value in the practice of captive lion breeding for hunting and for the lion bone trade. Neither does it add value to our tourism mandate. It is very clear that this kind of practice is really doing serious damage to brand South Africa internationally. The situation as it is isn’t sustainable. A solution that is acceptable to everybody must be reached by the end of this colloquium.
Welcoming and opening address
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the Colloquium. It was during the budget vote debate of the Department (DEA) on 16 May 2018 when a commitment was made to the nation that this Parliament would be working together with the DEA to facilitate a national dialogue on the question of breeding of lions in captivity for purposes of hunting and the lion bone and skeleton trade. Three months down the line, we are gathered here today in fulfilment of that commitment and to interrogate the practice that has gained the reputation of being the most controversial subject in the conservation industry. Under the theme, ‘Captive lion breeding for hunting in South Africa: Harming or promoting the conservation image of the country?’, the greatest and finest brains in the conservation sector both locally and internationally have gathered here to debate over the next two days the desirability of South Africa continuing this practice or reviewing policy or legislation to put an end to this practise.
One thing can be guaranteed, this Colloquium will not be just another talk shop without being followed by action. Meticulous records of the proceedings will be kept and a detailed report will be produced with detailed recommendations to be considered by the PC Committee, after which it will be tabled in the House for adoption. Whatever outcome to the Colloquium, it will be followed up by the Committee with the tenacity of the hungry lion chasing its prey. It is deliberate the theme of this colloquium poses a fundamental question in relation to the conservation image of South Africa.
The Chairperson proceeded to give the backdrop to the international controversy and outcry against the hunting of captive-bred lions. The IUCN’s decision to request the South African government to halt this practice was in response to a motion filed by 7 non-government organizations to secure global conservation support for ethical conservation of South African lions estimated at about 7000 lions in captivity in comparison to about 2000 wild lions. It was at this congress that a move called ‘Blood Lion’ received huge interest. The Committee was part of the delegation at that conference and it could not stomach to attend the evening session when the movie was shown. The delegation thought it best to stay away.
South Africa’s contribution to the IUCN is well-known and highly recognised.
South Africa’s captive lion-breeding industry was dealt another serious and embarrassing blow at the international level when, among others, the Safari Club International, the world’s largest hunting club, finally closed its doors on the future captive-bred lions at their 46th wild lions sport hunting expo in Las Vegas. Dallas Safari Club also rejected the practice, stating the canned lion hunting is not in keeping with its values of ethical and fair chase hunting.
The difference between the Madrid CIC, and that which took place in Honolulu, was that there were no NGOs who were propagating for that decision. It was the international hunting association turning their backs on its own and on a hunting practice they considered to be unethical.
Even though it is in favour of the sustainable use of biodiversity resources, South Africa finds itself increasingly isolated at important international conservation and hunting platforms as a result of this policy stance. Major questions are not only raised in relation to ethical and fair chase hunting considerations, but more concerns are being raised about the absence of scientific evidence showing the conservation value of canned hunting as well as the application of the precautionary principle.
Giving the definition of this term as per the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), the Committee understands the sensitivity around the usage of the term ‘canned hunting’. The primary point of contention regarding captive-bred lions appears to be ethical and welfare matters associated with raising lions specifically to be killed. The potential impact of captive-bred lions for hunting on the wider conservation of lions has been largely overlooked with the exception of attempts to justify the practice of the grounds that it may reduce pressure from hunters on hunts for wild lions. The counter-argument is that reduced demand potentially undermines the price of wild lions hereby reducing incentives for the conservation of wild lions. An additional conservation impact of captive bred lion hunting is through undermining the credibility of trophy hunting as a conservation tool in general at time when there is so much contention around this.
It seems as if South Africa’s conservation reputation is being compromised by this practice which does not seem to benefit the broader conservation benefit but a small number of breeders without proper scientific or conservation basis. Another bone of contention is the breeding of lions for the bone trade. Apparently the government has increased the lion bone quota to be traded and exported. The Committee is expecting a briefing from the Department on what necessitated this increase. Parliament must become particularly concerned when reputable conservation agencies – such as SCI, CIC and IUCN – turn their back and deplore practices. In this Colloquium, all the sides of the argument have to be assessed with cool heads and a sustainable way forward must be crafted.
The Chairperson again welcomed and appreciated all the participants and presenters.
Remarks by Minister
Ms Edna Molewa, Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), said that the DEA is looking forward to the outcomes of this colloquium. It is also important to remind ourselves that if there is a need for policy change, a broader discussion will be needed with all South Africans. This room is a little small for South Africa.
South Africa has a long established record for lion conservation even before its days in the democratic dispensation. It was skewed towards only a few people before the advent of democracy in South Africa. It has now been opened for all the people of South Africa. South Africa is one of seven countries around the world that has substantial lion populations. It is because of South Africa’s track record that this is the case.
All South Africans should be assured that the country’s policies in relation to lion conservation are not only firmly based on scientific evidence, but are in accordance with the prescripts of CITES. At CITES level, South Africa does have resolutions that have been taken as recently as 2 years ago. It may or may not be reviewed at the next CITES.
The Committee’s decision to have this discussion is welcome. This is an opportunity to clarify South Africa’s position around the captive breeding of lions for hunting and for the trade of lion specimens. This position was formulated a while ago through the democratic process. Public representations are awash with slanted and misrepresented information. This is harmful for South Africa in terms of conservation. It is important for us to hear each other very carefully, lest we misunderstand or misrepresent some of the things which are said. These misrepresentations distract from the real discussion and the substantive issue around lion conservation. It is important for this discussion to be scientific and not anecdotal. The African lion is said, according to some reports, not to be facing extinction or an unprecedented crisis from either captive breeding or even the trade in lion bone in South Africa. A IUCN report has found that lions are of least concern in terms of the stability of lion populations. The DEA has set up a body, the Scientific Authority, which has made this determination from a scientific point of view. 83% are in protected areas, including the Kruger National Park, where hunting is not permitted at all. The remainder of the wild animals, 500, are found in small protected areas where lions are being reintroduced and are intensively managed.
In terms of the non-detrimental findings, the Scientific Authority found that there are currently no major threats to the wild lion population in South Africa, they are stable to increasing. All activities involving the African lion, including hunting and trade, are regulated through a permit system. These policies are supported by solid scientific evidence. The authorities are allowing what is called ‘canned lion hunting’. For purposes of records, regulation number 26 of NEMBA was gazetted a while ago. Threatened Or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations is for the threatened species of South Africa, including the Lion. These regulations were established during the tenure of Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk. It was created because there was a recognition that people are creeping in and doing unscrupulous things. This needed to be controlled.
The Minister read from the TOPS regulations.
These regulations were produced to curb all these malpractices. In South Africa, what can be defined as ‘canned lion hunting’ is not allowed in terms of these regulations. Hunting of a lion is part of South Africa’s policy of sustainable utilisation of natural resources. It is contained in the country's Constitution, section 24, and is the only policy that can be practiced right now. This is consistent with South Africa’s multilateral environmental agreements. South Africa is a full member of, for example, CITES. South Africa is still considering becoming a member of CIC. CITES and South Africa’s Constitution speak to the sustainable utilisation of South Africa’s natural resources. Hunting in South Africa is a legal and well-regulated activity. It is subject to a permit being issued in terms of NEMBA and the provincial conservation legislation where it is required.
South Africa’s national and provincial spheres of government have been instrumental in using the hunting industry as a management tool in promoting the growth of the hunting industry. The industry is valued at R6.2 billion. This is a source of foreign exchange, especially with provinces, job creation and community development, especially of the rural areas. In addition to the wild life population, there are an additional 7000 that have been bred in captivity. The captive breeding of lions continues to be misunderstood.
The National Compliance Inspection of Captive-lion breeding facilities in South Africa has been instituted. Phase one is completed and the report will be given to Ministers and Members of Executive Council (MINMEC) soon. The DEA continues to engage with DAFF relating to the welfare matters to be addressed in terms of the APA, 1962. When the industry that is breeding lions took the government report to court, the court said that there is no word ‘welfare’ in the law. Therefore, the DEA cannot deal with matters of welfare as it is not its space. The DEA is gradually integrating matters of welfare into the law so that the Department can enter into this space.
Lions are bred in captivity for various reasons, including but not limited to trophy hunting. Trophy hunting does not pose a threat to the lion population that is out there in the wild. Although more evidence to this effect is needed, captive lion breeding could serve as a buffer to potential threats to wild lions. The concept of ‘canned lion hunting’ is actually strictly prohibited by South Africa’s laws. The government will move against anyone who practices canned hunting. The TOPS regulations laid out the conditions under which lions can be hunted. As with any legal activity, there are those illicit operators. South Africa is doing all it can to stamp out these activities. The legal hunters should not, however, be put into the same categories as unscrupulous actors. There are people who are out there who are poachers. It is important not to mix items at the same time. The government would like to engage with the movie that was mentioned earlier on. South Africa supports the trade in legally acquired specimens such as hunting trophies, skeletons etc. South Africa’s environmental legislation is directed at increasing the involvement of and improving community access to South Africa’s natural resources, while conserving South Africa’s rich biodiversity. Through this beneficiation initiative, DEA contributes significantly to the NDP, which is Vision 2030. The trade in lion originates at least as far back as 2008 and has been steadily increasing over the past decade to supply the demand for bone in Asia. It is necessary to challenge the assertion that the export of lion bone will result in the extinction of African lion. In 2016, TRAFFIC released a report called the Bones of Contention, which analysed the risk associated with the trade in bones. They could find no evidence that South Africa’s legal bone export was negatively impacting wild lion populations. Reports and existing policy documents are the resources used by the DEA until anything else comes to light. The key threat to lions, according to the IUCN, is a loss of habitat, reduction in available prey and conflict with humans. IUCN said that the lion is not ‘endangered’ in South Africa. The few incidents of captive-bred and wild lions being poached is said not to be linked to the lion-bone trade.
The establishment of an annual export quota for the export of lion bone follows a decision made at the COP. Parties at that COP agreed to a zero annual quota of the export of bones. However, parties agreed that South Africa should establish an annual export quota for bones derived from captive breeding facilities. This is what CITES said. The 2018 export quota is based on new evidence from this research project established by SANBI, in collaboration with Wits, Oxford University and the University of Kent. Implementation of the quota for 2018 is managed by DEA. Strict processes must be followed in line with provincial and national regulations to ensure that no illegal trade in lion bone takes place. Parties to COP 2017 further issued an instruction to the CITES secretariat to conduct studies on the legal and illegal trade in lions, including lion bones. The purpose is to ascertain the origin and smuggling routes. SANBI’s study will further strengthen the evidence base for the annual review of the export quota in order to ensure that it is sustainable and not detrimental to the wild populations.
The export quota for lion skeletons was determined after consideration of scientific information that was available and recommended by the Scientific Authority after the resolution at CITES. This recommendation which they made followed an extensive public consultation process and the consideration of inputs from stakeholders, some of them are in this room, as well as consideration of information on the trade data base. Decisions regarding wildlife trade typically involve three institutions, namely, the Scientific Authority, the DEA, and the Minister. The Scientific Authority has made significant progress in improving scientific oversight of wildlife trade and promoting an evidence based-approach. In reaching any decision regarding the hunting trade of rare species, the DEA and, ultimately, the Minister, has to weight up the advice of the Scientific Authority, a key component of how biodiversity conservation integrates with the development imperatives.
Regarding the total ban on the lion bone trade, this is not a simple step and comes with its own set of challenges and consequences. Whatever decision is made requires trade-offs with a set of outcomes. A final decision requires very hard thinking. If South Africa closes down the lion-breeding facilities and bans trade, there are more than 200 facilities and associated staff who will be negatively affected. In addition thousands of lions will have no value and there will be no income. A trade ban only restricts the flow of legal products and on-going demands will be supplied from the illegal sources and syndicates. This may increase illegal killing in the wild, which at present is at very low levels. These networks proliferate and are incredibly difficult to break. It was exactly in 2008 when a moratorium was put on local trade in Rhino bone when, all of a sudden, poaching rose to the levels it is today. A ban could stimulate an illegal trade in lion bones. South Africa has adopted a risk-averse approach that is considered to be in the best interests of the conservation of species for now.
By way of conclusion, Minister Molewa stated that South Africa is one of the world leaders in conservation, in lion and many other species. All members of the public are expected to give the government information that relates to any malpractice involving wildlife.
Department of Environmental Affairs
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, DEA, spoke to the population status of the lion populations in South Africa.
Subsequently, Mr Munzhedzi outlined the Regulatory Framework which structures the international community’s response to lion conservations. Sustainable use is part of conservation. It is defined as the use of biological resources in a manner that would not lead to long term decline; would not disrupt the ecological integrity of the ecosystem in which it occurs; and would ensure its continued use to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations of people.
The wildlife sector comprises 3 sub-sectors: wildlife ranching, wildlife activities, and wildlife products.
Mr Munzhedzi clarified NEMBA’s regulations and objectives in so far as they relate to lion conservation. Section 56 contains a listing of species that are threatened or in need of national protection. According to the TOPS regulations, Lions are ‘vulnerable’, which refers to indigenous species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future, although they are not a critically endangered species or an endangered species.
Mr Munzhedzi elaborated on the legislative requirements, stating, among others, that the TOPS regulations prohibit the hunting of lion (wild or captive-bred) in certain manners (meaning a permit may not be issued).
Mr Munzhedzi broke down the lion court case base on a decision made by DEA in 2007 to institute a prohibition on the hunting of listed predators including lions within 24 month of their release (following public outcry).
Subsequently, Mr Munzhedzi clarified concerns around release period, camp sizes, and hunting methods.
Mr Munzhedzi highlighted the CITES regulations. In 2010, the CITES Regulations, 2010 were promulgated in terms of section 97(1)(b)(iv) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004).
Mr Munzhedzi gave a breakdown of the Provincial Legislative overview.
Prof John Donaldson, Chairperson: Scientific Authority, South African National Biodiversity Institute, gave a breakdown of the role of the Scientific Authority, which was established in terms of NEMBA.
Prof Donaldson explained that the 2017 Non-Detriment Findings for African lion was that it posed no major threats to the wild and managed lion populations within South Africa, trophy hunting of captive -bred lions poses no threat to the wild lion population within South Africa, consumptive use is restricted to private game reserves, and there is a low to moderate risk and trade is not detrimental.
Prof Donaldson gave the background to the 2017 Lion Bone Quota, in which a quota of 800 lion skeletons was established.
Next, Prof Donaldson spoke to the trade-offs which comprise the banning of trade in lion bones versus managing the trade with a quota. Lion bone trade is complex and requires appropriate response.
Prof Donaldson explained that the precautionary principle offers little guidance when competing alternatives all have potential negative consequences. Assessments in 2015 (TRAFFIC/WildCru) and 2016 (IUCN Red List) concluded that the trade in bone from captive bred lion had a negligible impact on the status of wild lion populations in South Africa. The precautionary approach would therefore be to maintain the status quo (neither throttle nor stimulate trade), monitor impacts, increase understanding of the trade and its consequences and adjust management decisions accordingly.
In terms of the 2018 Lion Bone Quota of 1500 complete Skeletons, which was informed by the preliminary outcomes of the SANBI study and other sources, Mr T Motsiane, Deputy-Director: DEA, explained that lion breeders can produce more skeletons than the current quota allows; the number of skeletons exported leading up to the 2017 quota was substantially higher than initial estimates; due to the quota restrictions there appears to be a growing stockpile of bones in South Africa (it appears that traders have been stockpiling skeletons and this is attested by the short period it took to fill the 2017 export quota of 800 skeletons); and there appears to be an increase in poaching for body parts (skull, paws, claws) but little evidence of poaching for bones.
Mr Motsiane explained the controls that apply to the export of lion bones.
Mr Munzhedzi continued outlining the on-going research. Lions are categorised as ‘least concern’ in South Africa. Lions are appendix II listed species. The NDF allows trade as it is not detrimental to the survival of lions in the wild. By way of conclusion, DEA considered a mandate on wellbeing in NEMBA as part of NEMLA Bill 2017; it support an adaptive management approach; evidence- based approached informed by facts and science (International & National) are a priority; so is upholding the basic principle of ‘ensuring the survival of species in the wild’; DEA aims to balance conservation, sustainable use and beneficiation and adopts contextual approaches recognising differing dynamics in countries and regions.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Mr Mooketsa. Ramasodi, DDG: Agricultural Production, Health & Food Safety, outlined DAFF’s regulatory role in captive lion breeding for hunting. His presentation was divided into the introduction and explanation of DAFF’s role in captive lion welfare; the animal welfare definition; existing animal welfare related legislation in South Africa; other important game legislation; proposed guidelines for the welfare of captive lions; categories of captive lion operations in South Africa; other uniform guidelines for all categories; lions released for hunting; opportunities; and the concluding remarks.
Mr Ramasodi explained that this sector is regulated by multiple legislations that spreads mandates between multiple Departments, namely, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). DEA administers provisions of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) and other relevant regulations such as those dealing with Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS). Animal health and welfare legislation is administered by DAFF – Animals Protection Act, 1962 (APA) and the Performing Animals Protection Act, 1935 (PAPA).
DAFF’s role in captive lion welfare
Mr Ramasodi unpacked DAFF’s role in captive lion welfare and spoke to the animal welfare definition.
Existing animal welfare related legislation in South Africa
Mr Ramasodi outlined the existing animal welfare related legislation in South Africa, after which he outlined other important game legislation and the proposed guidelines for the welfare of captive lions. The existing animal welfare related legislation in South Africa is the Performing Animals Protection Act, 1935 (Act 24 of 1935) as amended; Animals Protection Act, 1962 (Act 71 of 1962); Animal Matters Amendment Act, 1993 (Act 42 of 1993); and the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1993 (Act 169 of 1993).
Categories of captive lion operations in South Africa
Mr Ramasodi subsequently highlighted the categories of captive lion operations in South Africa and other uniform guidelines for all categories; lions released for hunting.
Mr Ramasodi delineated the opportunities. These are the development of a widely consulted comprehensive animal welfare legislation; incorporation (in-part or in-toto) of existing private welfare standards; liaise with other departmental structures to incorporate the welfare mandate into existing certification and licencing; developing a ranking system for facilities in terms of welfare, biodiversity, conservation and community empowerment.
By way of conclusion, Mr Ramasodi stressed that, among others, DAFF has a mandate on captive lion breeding and hunting in terms of animal health and welfare and that the successful implementation of this mandate is dependent on the cooperative governance between DAFF and DEA, due to overlapping functions.
Ms Smaragda Louw, Ban Animal Trading (BAT), presented the outcomes of a study entitled The Extinction Business conducted by the EMS Foundation into South Africa’s role in the international lion bone trade, which reveals how the Minister, her Department and conservation agencies support and grow a trade which has strong links to international criminal networks, is providing a legal channel for the trafficking of illegal big cat parts, and is fuelling the demise of wild big cat populations. DEA’s ‘lion’ bone trade damages Brand South Africa’s image and tourism. A vast number of individuals rely on continued employment in the tourism sector. Their livelihoods are in the firing line in order to benefit only the few predatory elite in the ‘lion’ bone trade. Tourism itself is a National Asset. South Africa faces an onslaught of bad publicity because of all the elements involved in this shocking trade. Tourists will rather choose to spend their money elsewhere. A new peer-reviewed scientific report undertaken by the South African Institute of International Affairs reveals that the Big Cat breeders could cost South Africa over R54-billion over the next 10 years in loss of tourism brand attractiveness.
Ms Louw argued, among others that, the Minister this year effectively doubled the 2017 lion skeleton export quota of 800 skeletons to 1 500 skeletons, while in the midst of being served with papers demanding a legal review of her Department’s quota and policy. This incomprehensible decision was made without public consultation. It is also supposedly based on an interim research report, which clearly states that its research sample does not constitute a representative sample of the captive lion breeding industry. By no stretch of the imagination can this interim study translate into a conclusive scientific justification for a lion skeleton quota, and even less, an increase of the quota. Notably, some of the researchers involved in this study have distanced themselves from the decision-making process around the 2018 quota, stating that all the decisions were made by the Scientific Authority and DEA, and that the researchers provided no input on what the quota should, or should not, be.
Among other things, Michelle Pickover, Director: EMS Foundation, requested the Committee to a) place an immediate ban on the lion and other Big Cat bone trade for commercial purposes, including from captive sources; b) bring the criminal aspects of this trade to the attention of other relevant Parliamentary Committees and authorities to ensure that a forensic investigation and financial tracking of the industry is undertaken; c) Urgently ensure that animal protection, welfare, care and respect is included in the appropriate environmental legislation, particularly in relation to the issuing of permits for the keeping, sale, hunting and exporting of wild animals and their body parts; d) Close down the rogue Big Cat captive industry; e) Instruct DEA as a matter of urgency to provide a complete and audited list of all Big Cat breeding and keeping facilities nationally, and to make this list publicly available; f) instruct DEA to convene stakeholder meetings to discuss the dismantling of the captive Big Cat industry, including experts from the fields of animal welfare, sanctuary management and forensics, as well as NGOs.
A video clip was played after which, a petition, signed by more the 250 000 people, was handed to the Chairperson by Khoi San Chief Frits.
Khoi San Chief Frits explained that 1000s of years ago the Khoi San Ancestors used to call lions the sons of God because there was a mutual understanding between the lions and the Khoi people. This is why the lion is a sacred animal to the Khoi people. Not only is the practice of lion-breeding for the purposes of hunting killing Mother Nature, but a sacred animal and the heritage of the San people is being killed. Stop killing what is sacred to the Khoi people and what God has created. Let the animal live because it plays an important part in the Khoi San culture and history.
The regional coordinator of the Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organizations, highlighted, going forward, the need to look at traditional knowledge and what communities’ want, in terms of Ubuntu, where we are looking at human well-being and social development, animal wellbeing and environmental welfare. Moreover, where we are not only looking at economics and what money can be made in such activities, but whether they are morally justifiable? Do our people also want what is happening to happen? Although the 5 freedoms have been highlighted that South Africa is party to in terms the OIE, these freedoms are not enjoyed by these lions, especially the freedom of showing normal patterns of behaviour. Therefore, as this colloquium proceeds, let’s look at the wellbeing of the animal, society and the environment.
Ms Louise De Waal, in terms of lion bone quota, commented that DEA states that they have a system in place for permitting and at-source DNA sampling for whole skeleton exports. However, how do we actually account for those lion bone skeletons that are processed in South Africa and are then exported legally or illegally as lion bone cakes because they will not be counted in the 1500 skeleton quota?
The Chairperson asked what a lion bone cake is?
Ms De Waal explained that this is what they are called once they are processed. They cannot be identified anymore as lion bones because all the DNA has actually been destroyed and, therefore, they can be exported as anything as it is not recognizable anymore as lion bones or any sort of animal product.
Mr Will Smuts, from the Landmark Foundation, asked whether the Committee is aware that two provinces have refused to implement the TOPS regulations and there seems to be absolutely no accountability. The government departments are refusing to move against each other. This could be unconstitutional. The request is that DEA should look into this. One of the controls that seem to be absent is that some statutory bodies are not applying the TOPS regulations when trading in animals takes place.
The Chairperson asked for the names of the provinces?
Mr Smuts responded that it is Mpumalanga and the Western Cape that refuse to implement TOPS.
Mr Smuts continued, furthermore, that the other frustration seems to be with the Scientific Authority and there seeming unaccountability in dealing with these items. They select which experts they would like to engage, disregard others and are unaccountable to releasing reports. Thanks to the Committee for asking for that report. The public of South Africa needs access to these reports. There is also a report on leopards matters in the last few weeks. Can the Committee also look into these concerns?
Mr R Purdon (DA) highlighted that while the DEA says the total population size is 3490 wild lions, with the largest population of 1700 being in the Kruger National Park, the EMS reads that South Africa only has somewhere between 1300 and 1700 adult lions remaining in the wild. There is a huge discrepancy. Who is correct and who is incorrect?
Dr Z Luyenge (ANC) spoke to the need to sensitise communities around the importance of nature conservation in as far as the wild animals are concerned. Growing up in Eastern Cape, he never saw an elephant or a lion in his surroundings. It is only once he went to school that he understood that there is such a wild animal like a lion. However, he was never educated as to how he and his community could benefit from these animals. It is not morally correct for us to plot against these animals. Biblically, we are taught that ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ What is the necessity of this particular plotting against that? It is about our nature, life and love that we should have amongst us. We are coming from the same nature as these animals. It is not fair for us, with all the intellectuals that we have in our country, to converge and determine how many should we kill. If this is not about money or enriching someone, what is it? That compels us to get into this debate at that level? This is a very important debate and sophisticated subject and it is a matter that the majority of the communities in this country do not understand. Yet, we get to a discussion which says let’s get rid of these when we are starting, within our democracy, to understand the importance of these. In the past era, there were no departments of environment. We were never sensitised as to how the environment is important. Let us be serious enough and concerned. One of the speakers mentioned ‘least concerned.’ That ‘least concerned’ about the wild animal is a reality. Let us now be concerned, know more and make a determination if we want to get rid of them. Even if it means that that individual who want to get rich must wait a little bit so that we can all be at the same level of understanding our lions.
Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) highlighted that there are particular questions that must be responded to and that are of concern in this colloquium. First, bearing in mind all the spheres of government, there is a need to understand whether at a regulatory level there are still challenges in terms of the systems that are there and the capacity of government to be able to monitor all these facilities with regards to what is happening both in public and private. Second, there has been a slide referring to the quotas. If this slide refers to the legal activities, at any point has the DEA discovered illegal activities which were exposed? Third, what is the efficiency and effectiveness of the system that has been referred to that seeks to trace the origin of the bones, body parts etc. and whether they are from the lions that were bred in captivity or not? Has the government managed to trace where these bones and body parts are coming from? Finally, it was alleged by two presenters that a report was requested for some transparency from government and that the government was not forthcoming. Is the DEA in the position to respond as to what caused that? Why has there been no cooperation in this regard or with any other stakeholders? Are there any challenges faced by the government in this regard?
Ms Linda Tucker, CEO,Global Wildlife Trust, recalled that it had been previously gazetted in a colloquium chaired by a former chairperson of the portfolio committee that the our government would protect our sacred white lions as a living heritage. Can the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee please consider that gazette? The Global Wildlife Trust has been engaging as a stakeholder in the process since 2002. Today, the organisation has been authorised to speak on behalf of South Africa’s traditional healers or the Tsonga and Sepedi peoples surrounding the Kruger National Park. Whenever a traditional council is called worldwide it is just and right that the silent stakeholder in the debate be granted a chair. Who will speak for the lion? Since the Minister of Environmental Affairs is not here, to the department: Who authorised the legalisation of this lion slave trade? Who authorised the legalisation of the mass killing of South Africa’s lions for blood money? Who legalised the killing of our living heritage? It has not been authorised.
A representative of Future for Wildlife asked for clarity on how the process of public consultation works? A petition for the 800 lion bone quota was forwarded. According to a letter as reported in the EMS Ban Animal Trading Report, SANBI replied that despite the fact that there were more than 1000 emails, Mr Tiane presented a sample of these emails, which range from organizations and individuals opposed to hunting to member of the industry opposed to the quota. Concerns raised included the ethics of hunting and of the lion bone trade, a lack of transparency, a lack of community beneficiation, animal cruelty, a lack of monitoring capacity in government, and impacts of wild populations of lion and other large cats. These important concerns were raised and considered although were many were related to policy and management matters that are beyond the remit of the Scientific Authority. The meeting discussed the present quota and the question of demand and supply. In the same letter, the Scientific Authority was advised that it should not exercise too much control over the market but rather gain a better understanding, the adaptive management that the honourable member was talking about. In terms of demand and supply, is the Scientific Authority a marketing authority? It should not adapt to demand and supply because an ‘authority’ is a person or organization having political and administrative power and control. The Scientific Authority’s mandate is to champion the exploration, conservation, sustainable use, appreciation and enjoyment of South Africa’s exceptionally rich biodiversity for all South Africans. Where is the market in the Scientific Authority’s mission?
The Chairperson said that the Committee expected to receive the report by the EMS Foundation, or at least a summary thereof. There are very interesting insights that emerge from the report. There may yet be an opportunity to launch the report. There is a lot that he needs to know about the Scientific Authority because this is the first time interaction with this entity. The Committee would like a copy of its report before this colloquium is concluded. What is concerning is that it is an interim report. What is the meaning of an ‘interim report’? Does it mean that upon further inquiry upon some of these things it can change? This is significant because there was a very important decision that was taken based on the interim report. He would have expected that a decision of that magnitude would have been time tested and would have been based on whatever science has been produced and that would be the final report. Who are the members of the Scientific Authority and what qualifications do they have so that the Committee can come to understand the diverse nature of the skills mix in that institution? In the view of the Scientific Authority, is there any conservation benefit of the breeding of lion in captivity, especially for the lion bone trade? Does it, as the Scientific Authority, consider that trade to be a conservation activity? Lastly, in increasing the quota from 800 to 1500, there is an argument that suggests that this increase is a response to the banning of trophies hunted from captive bred facilities, especially by the biggest consumer market in the US and other European countries. With this decline in trophy hunting, the animals that are there are therefore used for the lion bone trade because it is a very lucrative market. However, there is also a question of the DEA increasing the quota from 800 to 870. The Extinction Business report states that the permits awarded exceeded the quota by 70. What is the DEA’s response to this?
Mr Munzhedzi responded that in as much as DAFF presented on the Animal Welfare aspects, the DEA also looks at the wellbeing aspects of the main Biodiversity Act. The DEA operates within the legislative framework as it is. In situations where certain things are identified that need to be responded to through legislative means there is a process that also involves Parliament to make certain amendments or to repeal certain things. In this case, from DAFF and DEA’s presentations, when it was said that what was pronounced on what went beyond the current legislative framework or the legislative framework at the time on welfare and wellbeing, the DEA was found wanting because things tested in courts irrespective of how we feel about certain things which is the way things work unfortunately. It is all about what the prescripts are and the DEA works within that to make the necessary amendments, including using the tools of prohibition, banning, limiting, listing and suspending. In terms of the lion bone cake, there have been a number of innovations. The DEA has seen that they are coming in the horns and also in the other specimens that are traded. The DEA tries to be ahead of situations. The DEA will try to find out what it is all about. In terms of the implementation of TOPS and the DEA’s interface with the Provinces, this is one matter that is being attended to. To the amended TOPS, which is being processed, DEA had to add certain things because every year there are new developments. However, this time around the DEA had to follow an entire process which goes to the NCOP to ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. In that regard, the finalization of the current TOPS, the approval and the promulgation thereof, will bring everyone into the same page. DEA does have co-operative governance mechanisms to try to deal with those areas where there are different applications of different things. When the DEA determines a quota, there is a specific time in which the Minister releases a statement to say that there is a particular quota that has been determined on the basis of various factors. This gets communicated. In terms of educating communities, SANParks has a programme called the National Parks week, where the parks are opened up free of charge so that people can interact. The DEA takes the Committee’s position to heart to intensify this process to make sure that people are clear on a number of things, not only regulatory but also exposure to an appreciation of nature. This is part of DEA’s responsibility as a conservation department. Finally, the Commission process which the Minister referred to was meant to visit all captive-bred facilities to ensure that the findings are going to inform the future actions and policy direction in regard to this.
Mr Ishaam Abader, Deputy Director-General Legal Authorisations and Compliance Inspectorate, DEA, explained that the DEA is not aware of this phenomenon concerning lion bone cakes,. The problem with lion bone cakes is that the DNA is destroyed, in which case it becomes irrelevant and difficult to trace. This raises further challenges for the DEA because anything could be taken and include it in the lion bone cake. It does not necessarily have to be lion bone.
The Chairperson asked for more clarity on lion bone cakes.
Ms De Waal explained that her understanding is that there are these processing plants in South Africa. If a lion bone quota for the export of skeletons is set at 1500, while South Africa is processing well above that amount, how many lions are actually being killed for the lion bone trade? These are then exported as these cakes that are then used in traditional medicine in the Far East.
The Chairperson asked whether Ms De Waal has anything concretem Is it a suspicion or allegation? Is there something concrete because the committee would also like to follow it up if there is something like that?
Ms De Waal said that she would try to get the Committee concrete information.
Mr Abader remarked that this would be very useful in terms of DEA investigating them as well. If there are illegal plants DEA would definitely go out and look. Furthermore, the Minister mentioned that the DEA has looked at some of the facilities that were inspected. The DEA looked at the three major provinces, namely, the Limpopo, Free State and the North West. 226 lion breeding facilities were inspected over the two financial years, 2016-2018. In Limpopo, there are 31 facilities, all of which were inspected. In the North West, there are 74 facilities, all of which were also inspected. In the Free State, there are about 170 facilities, of which 121 have been inspected. There are still 49 facilities which the DEA is hoping to finish by the end of this financial year.
The Chairperson asked whether the DEA can give the Committee the inspection reports so that the Committee knows what the inspection entails,
Mr Abader responded that the DEA can provide the Committee the specifics around these matters. In terms of some of the inspection findings, there are inconsistencies with regards to how the various provinces handle matters related to TOPS. In some instances, compliance monitoring is not conducted in facilities after the issuing of permits. The national department functions in concurrence with the provinces. The provinces are almost an autonomous body. In any event, the Minister has instructed the DEA to look at these facilities. Some of the permits have expired. These were never detected until the DA went around to the facilities. Among others, there was also some non-compliance with permit conditions, especially around monthly register submissions and some of the mortalities are not reported to the authorities. There were also some animal welfare concerns, which have been reported to the SPCA. From the perspective of what will be done with them, there has been a follow-up with the provinces in terms of what they are doing or what they will do in terms of each of these. The challenges in relation to why these things were not happening include capacity of the affected institutions in terms of conducting monitoring. There is a lack of approved provincial guidelines in policies for some of the facilities, inconsistencies in terms of permits conditions, unstandardized closure in terms of these. From the perspective of the report, their recommendations were that the national department would assist with enforcement actions against all non-compliant facilities, that there was supposed to be awareness around compliance-promotion that was supposed to be undertaken. The DEA has increased the compliance monitoring undertaken by the provincial authorities for the breeding facilities. There was also a move to standardise guidelines and policies for the enclosure facilities. The provincial authorities have to ensure consistency with the permit conditions. The industry associations should be assisting government in ensuring the members comply with the legislation. In terms of the concerns around the TOPS regulations, the difficulties in inconsistencies in application which exist with regard to the Western Cape and Mpumalanga specifically is that the old regulations were not tabled in the NCOP. Because of the autonomy of the provinces in relation to national, they can still act in terms of their provincial ordinances and this is where the anomaly comes in. Once the new TOPS regulations have been tabled in Parliament in terms of the new system, then the provinces would be bound to follow those regulations. This will ensure that these inconsistencies do not happen. Finally, in relation to compliance and enforcement matters and the 800 and 870 permits, the permits were issued for three countries and DEA’s records show 800. This records will, however, be sifted by the DEA. Moreover, the department does a random testing of the DNA samples when the consignment comes to the airport. A DNA sample is taken of the consignment that is going out and it then gets tested. The same applies to the Rhino horn. The DEA has a data base where it can verify the DNA. That is why the DEA can make links, if there is a Rhino seizure in another country, if it can be traced back to South Africa. The Department has a data base in terms of which it can verify of how rhino bone CITEs reinforcements are implemented.
The Chairperson asked the Department to wrap up the allegation of the 870 versus 800 quota which have been made by the Extinction Business. The Department must substantiate its response. The allegation is that the permits issued at OR Tambo was found to exceed 800.
Mr Wiseman Gqamana, Assistant Director, DEA, responded that all lion bones go via OR Tambo. To the knowledge of the DEA, there is no other exit. The process is as follows. When the Department received the permit, which had just been issued from the province in conjunction with the DEA, it allows the flight agent of the export to notify the DEA 48 hours before the export. There are two processes which are followed. An official would do the verification of the bones before it comes to the airport. All the documentation is given that is required in terms of the export 48 hours before. If the documentation does not comply with the norms and standards, the application is rejected. The booking is reconfirmed and the permit holder will be able to bring the documentation in line with the norms and standards which will be in line with the flight details. This usually happens two hours before the flight departs. Another official takes over the consignment to verify what the other official has conducted in terms of the assessment. The whole consignment and paperwork is looked at. The DNA of the particular piece of the bone is taken to be analysed at the National Zoological Gardens. If everything is fine an endorsement is given for the permit once off. This permit cannot be used twice. In terms of the systems and capacity, the DEA works 24/7 at the entry point but with limited capacity.
Prof Donaldson, in terms of the discrepancies in the number of lions, explained that based on a report from 2016 indicates that there are 3490 wild lions in South Africa, of which there are 1779 adult lions. The other discrepancy in terms of the weight of bones, one of the changes that have happened in the bone trade is a shift from trading in dry bones to trading in wet bones.
After Prof Donaldson explained the mandate of the Scientific Authority, in response to the allegations of being secretive, he clarified that the way it works is that the Scientific Authority reports back to the Minister, not the public. Up to now, this is the procedure that has been agreed. The Minister then makes the information public. The Scientific Authority is very happy with representations. When people approach it, it is very happy to listen to the information that they produce. In relation to the question on the objectives of the Scientific Authority, this entity does not have any institutional framework. The Act provides that SANBI must provide administrative support to the Scientific Authority. SANBI and the Scientific Authority are two separate organs of state. The functions of the Scientific Authority are completely different from what SANBI’s mission is.
The Chairperson asked for a brief explanation of these functions.
Prof Donaldson explained that the functions of the Scientific Authority is essentially to issue non-detriment findings; determine whether trade is detrimental to the survival of species; to advise on exports and determine whether these are of any detriment; to advise, when requested, on captive breeding facilities and whether these met the requirements of CITES; to advise on sustainability and trade; and advise on the issuing of permits.
The Chairperson asked whether there is no specific requirement to look at the conservation matters?
Prof Donaldson explained that the primary aim of the Scientific Authority is to determine when trade is to the detriment of wild populations, not to look at the conservation benefit. In terms of the conservation benefit of lion bone trade, the Scientific Authority has not commissioned any work to specifically evaluate that. It has just taken note of other reports that have made that conclusion. There are other references, however, that it can act as a buffer to impact on wild populations. There is uncertainty as to whether the legal trade reduces the impact on wildlife. There is an acknowledgement that more information is needed to inform decisions in this regard. With regards to the increase of the quota, the initial principle that was being employed to determine the quota was that, until adequate information became available, it was important not to either restrict the trade too much or allow the trade to expand. The initial requests that were received ranged from a request for a zero quota to 3800 skeletons per year. The principle that was adopted was to disrupt the trade as little as possible before the Scientific Authority understood what the trade was. The initial recommended quota was based on a prior understanding of what the trade was prior to the quota, namely, around 800. Evidence from the research study, and other inputs, however, suggests that that trade had been significantly higher and what the Scientific Authority was effectively doing is restricting and throttling the trade with potential consequences. This is one of the rationales for increasing the quota to the level that it actually was before the imposition of the quota in the first place.
The Chairperson said there is need for further engagement. From what is being said, it seems like there is no brief to look at the conservation mandate of the DEA. The non-detrimental findings look at the economics of the trade as opposed to the conservation part of it. The understanding was the existence of the Scientific Authority was to enhance the conservation mandate of the DEA using that as a scientific body to advise the DEA. What is being said is something different. There is nothing conservation about the economics of the industry. There will need to be a separate engagement with the Scientific Authority, especially on its report.
Mr Makhubele asked, while the exit point is OR Tambo, if the DEA is also dealing with illegal activities and whether those were ever discovered and exposed?
Mr Abader explained that, as per the report, there were findings of non-compliance and the DEA is dealing with those. There is an enforcement process that follows the non-compliance.
The Chairperson added that there was also a comment on the criminal, underground illegal networks that are feeding into this trade as well. This has not been rebutted
Born Free Foundation
Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy, Born Free Foundation, commenced by giving a background, mission and vision of the Born Free Foundation, with the focus being on a report entitled “Cash before Conservation - An Overview of the Breeding of Lions for the Hunting and Bone Trade”, which was released in April this year and summarises investigations into the development and impacts of South Africa’s lion breeding industry.
Subsequently, Dr Jones gave a background of the plight of wild lions across Africa.
Dr Jones gave a breakdown of the lion breeding industry. South Africa is not the only country to breed large predators in captivity, but it does have by far the largest captive-breeding industry for lions.
Next, Dr Jones unpacked trophy exports. In terms of trophies, South Africa declared almost 7,000 exports of captive-bred lion trophies between 2006-2015, some 62% of which were destined for the United States.
Concerning the lion breeding industry, Dr Jones argues that far from contributing to lion conservation, the commercial activities associated with the lion breeding industry pose additional threats to wild lions and other big cats through the legal export of lion bones, mainly to Asia.
In terms of lion bone exports, Dr Jones explored the international trade in lion bones and skeletons from South Africa which began around 2008, mainly as an alternative to tiger bone in traditional medicines and tonics.
South Africa’s lion breeding industry, Dr Jones continued, has been the subject of significant international criticism from a great many prominent sources including:
- Government Ministers in Namibia, Botswana, and within South Africa;
- National and international non-Government organisations
- And International scientists.
Furthermore, criticism of the industry, Dr Jones stressed, has also come from within the hunting sector itself.
In terms of official attitudes for the lion breeding industry, Dr Jones argues that Lion breeding industry has received active support from key provincial politicians. Since the failure of attempts to push through restrictive legislation in 2010, the DEA has effectively facilitated the growth of the industry through enabling provinces to issue permits for lion breeding, canned hunting and more recently bone exports.
Serious welfare concerns persist in relation to the rearing of captive-bred lions in South Africa, particularly with the increasing profit-driven commodification of lion products. Recent images of clearly undernourished lions in captive facilities, and news reports suggesting that lion slaughterhouses have been established to facilitate the mass slaughter of lions to supply skeletons for international trade, only serve to exacerbate these concerns.
Concerning Brand South Africa, the fact that South Africa is the world’s primary destination for hunters who wish to hunt captive-bred lions, and is the world’s largest exporter of lion bones and skeletons, alongside the animal welfare concerns around the industry, have resulted in questions about the impact that the captive lion breeding industry is having in South Africa’s international image. In 2005, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk (then South Africa’s Minister of Environment and Tourism) described lion breeding for canned hunting as a ‘cancer’. More recently the current Minister for Tourism made it quite clear that captive-bred lion hunting is damaging Brand South Africa, and questioned whether the country wanted this industry. Significant players in the international tourism industry are beginning to take notice, including collective industry associations such as ABTA in the UK and ANVR in the Netherlands.
By way of conclusion, Dr Jones indicated that Born Free’s co-founder and President Will Travers OBE summarised the organization’s position as follows: “If we are to secure a future for Africa’s lions, the lion breeding and canned hunting industries must be closed down, with responsibility resting squarely with the South African government for ensuring that such a process is conducted with intelligence, humanity, and above all compassion for the animals concerned.”
What is damaging Brand South Africa?
Mr Richard York, Professional Hunter's Association of South Africa, argued that South Africa’s conservation image is not being tarnished by the breeding or hunting of lions, but rather by key individuals profiteering from the focused attack on Brand South Africa.
South Africa’s tourist numbers?
Mr York highlighted that tourist arrivals in South Africa averaged 522583.99 from 1979 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 1598893 in January of 2018 and record low of 37430 in June 1979.
Vision of PHASA
Mr York highlighted that PHASA’s vision and objectives is through industry cooperation to develop meaningful solutions for wild, wild managed and captive bred lions in accordance to the Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for the African Lion.
Subsequently, Mr York unpacked the key opportunities of captive lion breeding in so far as Biodiversity conservation, economic development, social development, and assistance with management capacity are concerned.
The South African Predator Association (SAPA)
Mr. Kirsten Nematandani, President: South African Predator Association, addressed the question: where in the process is the human fear factor built in the animal? Unlike what some of the captive lion antagonists are promoting, SAPA members are breeding, raising and keeping their lions in Provincial government approved keeping facilities, built according to or better than the specifications of each Provincial Biodiversity Management authority . Animals are wisely raised and sustained for a period of three to five years thereafter; the animals are release for hunting purposes according to the guidelines of the SAPA Norms and standards for the hunting of captive lions and of the Provincial Biodiversity Management Authority.
SAPA members, Mr Kirsten continued, raise lions for the purpose of hunting these animals. These animals were raised in situations where they had limited contact with people, other than the caretakers. Thus, lions raised in captive facilities see, through their lifespan, less people than a lion that was born and raised in some “wild” area or National parks like Kruger National Park.
A lion, Mr Kirsten highlighted, can “sense” the fear of a person and then shift its focus more towards that person, enforcing its dominance over that person. People that are “working” with lions, are seldom afraid of lions, but carry a huge amount of respect for these animals. Experience has proved that lions that were raised in captive facilities, with limited human impact, are fearful of people. This is very similar behaviour to their “wild” lion counterparts. It is indicated in literature that some lions ‘loose’ their fear for people and may become “man-eater” lions.
Captive lions that are released for hunting cannot be claimed generically as lions that “has lost their fear” of humans. The hunt of a captive lion can each be classified as a unique experience - as lions differ from each other in behaviour patterns, fight or flight response, personality type, fitness levels, natural movement patterns, response on stress and levels of tolerance. The one thing that we as SAPA members can clearly indicate is that: a drugged lion cannot fight. We as SAPA members condemn the hunting of captive lions that are drugged or chemically tranquilised. We hunt animals that are not under the influence of any tranquiliser.
In conclusion, Mr Kirsten said that the captive lion industry in South Africa is a well regulated, manageable industry that contributes way more positively to South Africa than negatively, pleading with the Committee to assist in maintaining this industry for South Africa.
Custodians of Professional Hunting And Conservation – South Africa
Mr Paul Stones, Custodians of Professional Hunting And Conservation – South Africa, gave the background of the association, focusing on Conservation through Sustainable and Responsible Utilisation.
Mr Stones then unpacked the Partnerships In Wildlife-Based Tourism.
Mr Stones dealt with what happens if the country loses the contribution of hunting. With the transformation agenda of the biodiversity economy strategy – this may have major implications for the potential future contribution of hunting to the economy and communities.
Mr Stones said that the bedrock of socially responsible hunting is the constitutional imperative of justifiable economic and social development, highlighting that perception determines the reputation (and therefore sustainability) of hunting & captive game/lion breeding.
The criteria for hunting to be seen as responsible (i.e. sustainable and socially responsible) is that it has to be biologically sustainable; not substantially alter processes of natural selection and ecosystem function; maintain wild populations of indigenous species with adaptive gene pools; and not contribute to substantially manipulating ecosystems or elements in ways that are incompatible with the objective of supporting the full range of native biodiversity.
Captive lion breeding, Mr Stones argued, only fulfils the first criteria, namely, that it is biologically sustainable.
Subsequently, Mr Stones dealt with the attributes relating to ecological and evolutionary functioning.
In terms of the reputation of hunting, while lion is among the highest income generators, the income generated has declined from 195 million (2014) to 111 million (2016).
According to the Price Water House Coupers Sustainability Survey 2002, Mr Stones commented, ‘enhanced reputation’ is the main reason why respondents have adopted sustainable business practises.
Mr Stones continued that IUCN WCC 2016 voting results confirm that 72 countries and 409 national and international non-governmental organisations, perceived both “canned” and “captive-bred” hunting as undesirable hunting practices.
Mr Stones then indicated which international and African hunting organizations reject the practice.
Mr Stones concluded that conservation and the biodiversity economy needs hunting. Hunting can only be sustainable if practised responsibly. Responsible hunting must:
- Promote conservation
- Be ecologically sustainable
- Be economically and socially justifiable
International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC)
Dr Ali Kaka, Regional Director, CIC, outlined the mission and vision of the CIC, a Worldwide Community for the Conservation of Wildlife through Sustainable Use.
Subsequently, Dr Kaka gave the backdrop to the issue of captive lion breeding for hunting purposes.
Next, Dr Kaka threshed out what the IUCN says about the captive lion breeding for hunting industry.
In terms of how it harms the animal, Dr Kaka explained that animal welfare NGO’s are using captive-bred lion (CBL) shooting to mislead the ill-informed public to assume lion hunting in general is like CBL and that the volumes shot reduce the number of lions living in the wild.
In terms of how does it effects South Africa, South Africa has legalised something which is considered unethical by even pro-hunting organisations and countries, including the respected global conservation organisation, IUCN. The South African conservation success, rightly or wrongly, will be questioned and smeared.
Concerning a solution, the CIC propagates the “African Hunting Charter”, which contains 13 principles, “to streamline and to raise standards of hunting in Africa, where well-managed and well governed hunting is the norm in all countries in Africa”.
By way of conclusion, captive lion breading may be legal, but it breaks moral and ecological basis and boundaries; it is bad for the reputation of South Africa at the global level; and is not good for the reputation of hunting, which is already demonized globally by false information: “we must be more responsible and propagate the good image.” Furthermore, if we follow the principles of convenience and of maximizing profit, hunting, with all the arguments in support of it, will still be doomed and in danger of becoming a thing of the past.
Comments from the floor
Ms Audrey Delsink, Executive Director: Humane Society International, referred the gathering to a nationally representative poll in a study conducted by IPSOS which gauged South Africans opinions towards the captive-breeding industry. South Africans, by more than a 3 to 1 margin, agreed that the industry is harming South Africa’s international reputation: 65% strongly agree and 21% strongly disagree. The survey also shows that 77% of South African strongly agree with conservationist will stimulate market demand and will increase the poaching of wild cats and lions. This comes off the back of SAIIA’s report. It finds that the captive breeding industry is less than 2% of South Africa’s tourism revenue. It also unpacks the so-called ‘community benefits.’ South Africa and its reputation as a tourism conservation leader cannot be dictated by the supply chain and the handful that control this industry.
Mr Ross Harvey, Senior Researcher: South African Institute for International Affairs, gave a breakdown of SAIIA’s report, which is divided into two parts. Firstly, it finds that the conservation and the economic benefit claims made by the industry are questionable. The second part of the report tries to understand the opportunity costs and the negative externalities associated with lion captive breeding. The reputational damage associated with this industry is real. The study projects a R54 billion loss to South Africa’s tourism industry over the next 10 years as a result. On the basis of the research, there is data that exists about this industry and yet it is clear that this industry’s conservation value is limited. The economic significance of the industry is severely limited too, especially when it comes to the negative impacts it can have on ethical hunting and South Africa’s brand value.
The Chairperson asked that the report be forwarded to the Committee.
The Chairperson highlighted that this has been a fruitful interaction. The Committee is a bit more informed around this practice. This Committee would like to be briefed on the study by the Scientific Authority as it was used to come to a very key decision by the Executive. The Legislature would want to interrogate that report. From the information, there is overwhelming evidence that there is really no conservation value in the practice of captive lion breeding for hunting and for the lion bone trade. Neither does it add value to our tourism mandate. It is very clear that this kind of practice is really doing serious damage to brand South Africa internationally. The situation as it is isn’t sustainable. A solution that is acceptable to everybody must be reached by the end of this colloquium.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Captive Bred Lion Hunting presentation
- Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) presentation
- Professional Hunter's Association of South Africa presentation
- Ban Animal Trading & EMS FOUNDATION input
- Dr. Ali Kaka – CIC Ambassador for Africa presentation
- South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association input
- Born Free Foundation presentation
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