Hunting in Greater Kruger National Park: SANParks & Mpumalanga Parks Board

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

12 September 2018
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs received a briefing from the Department of Environmental Affairs, South African National Parks (SANParks) and Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency (MTPA) Board on matters arising from the recently held Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding, particularly hunting in the Greater Kruger National Park (KNP) and the implementation of TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) regulations.

Concerns were raised, both in terms of the law governing hunting in the Kruger National Park and the contractual arrangements between the Kruger National Park and the Association of Private Nature Reserves (APNR), particularly after the recent hunting of a male lion which took place in Umbabat Private Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga on the 7th of June 2018.

The Members were concerned that ten years after the promulgation of the amended TOPS regulations in 2008, Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency is still not complying with the regulations, especially those relating to hunting of listed species in the regulations like lions, based on a flawed technical argument that the regulations are in conflict with the Provincial Act as they have not been taken through the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The Committee directed that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) should ensure that these regulations are processed through the National Council of Provinces before the end of the year and that the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency should ensure compliance with these regulations by January 2019. Baiting as a form of hunting of TOPS-listed species should cease immediately.

The Committee urged the Minister of Environmental Affairs to speed up realising full compliance with these regulations, through the MINMEC (Ministers and Members of Executive Councils Meeting) process to have a uniform standard for the whole country.

The agreement between the Kruger National Park (KNP) and Association of Private Nature Reserves (APNR) concluded in 1996 concerned the Members. They felt the agreement needs to be revised to ensure that there is a sharing of benefits arising from the collapse of the fences in the western boundary of the Kruger National Park in the interest of the broader society. The Committee believes that matters of transformation and beneficiation should be considered in this agreement. The Committee directed SANParks to develop a concept paper on this matter for discussion with the Committee in October/November 2018. The committee will hold public hearings to determine the best way forward after its engagement with SANParks.

The Committee also wants discussions to take place around the current hunting protocol that allows hunting of animals in the Greater Kruger National Park because of an open system arising from the taking down of the fences between the Kruger National Park and Association of Private Nature Reserves. The Committee wants this protocol to be interrogated to properly account for this system, for which the Kruger National Park prohibits hunting inside the park, but nonetheless, animals are hunted when they roam over to private nature reserves.

Members sought more information on what happened when Provincial and National legislation were in conflict, who were the “some” that were benefitting from the current hunting regulations, the levels for the certificate of adequate enclosure, if SANParks was considering dropping the fences in light of public comments received, and whether the Department of Environmental Affairs ever did a thorough cost-benefit study to ensure that at the end of the day, the parks did not lose.

Members were taken through the responses to the submission to the Committee by Dr Kinnock on the claim of trophy hunting.

Meeting report

Opening remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson welcomed the Members and apologised for arriving late; “I got caught up in other things this morning.” He proceeded to outline the order of presentations arising from matters arising from the colloquium held recently.

The Chairperson conveyed the apologies of the Minister for Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, who was in hospital following her contracting of a viral infection from her visit to China and had been admitted in hospital ever since. He added that she had even been admitted into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at one point and wished her a speedy recovery and conveyed the Committee’s best wishes. The Chairperson proceeded to convey the apologies of the Deputy Minister for Environmental Affairs Ms Barbara Thomson who was attending Cabinet Committee meetings on ICTS (Information and Communication Technology Services).

The Chairperson gave the apologies of the Director-General in the Environmental Affairs Department, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba who was out of the country for the Second Joint Bureau of the United Nations General Assembly in preparation for the UNEA (United Nations Environment Assembly) Conference. She left on 04 September 2018 and would be returning on 14 September 2018. He noted it was the same apology given the previous time.

The Chairperson relayed the apologies of several Members and the SANParks CEO who was attending a meeting in Mpumalanga.

 

Briefing by the South African National Parks: - SANPark’s response to claims of trophy hunting in the Greater Kruger National Park.

Mr Glenn Phillips, Managing Executive: Kruger National Park (KNP), SANParks, outlined the procedure followed in the Greater Kruger hunting process as outlined below;

  • Ecological studies, including census reports;
  • Specialists reports, including any veterinary reports, if required;
  • Signed protocols;
  • Post-season compliance reports;
  • Service level agreements (e.g. In the case of LEDET co-managed areas);
  • Post off-take reports;
  • Entities Management Plans/ Elephant Management Plans (made available); and
  • Any further due diligence reports, as required.

 

Some of the responses to issues raised by Dr D Pinnock (Environmental Journalist). This was in a submission to the Portfolio Committee on the claims of trophy hunting.   

 

Legislation which is contradictory or not applied

 

All hunting taking place in the Mpumalanga Province, including in the areas known as the Greater Kruger is regulated in terms of the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act, Act 10 of 1998 and the relevant Regulations to the Act.

 

Non-compliance, non-transparency and questionable trophy hunting practices

 

Could you elaborate on non-compliance, non-transparency and questionable hunting practices and provide proof thereof, so that this could be addressed.

 

Reputational damage caused by canned hunting to all hunting in

called "canned hunting these private reserves, particularly the hunting of lions.

 

Please note that there is a clear distinction between so called "canned hunting" and the legal hunting of wild lions in Mpumalanga.

No canned hunting is taking place on any of the reserves within the APNR. This is a misrepresentation of the facts.

The APNR will tell you they need to trophy hunt to support antipoaching.I would reply: How come Sabi Sands (SS), which is a grouping much like yourselves, finds no need to hunt?

The business models of the SS and the ANPR cannot be compared, but are supported/described according to their respective management plans, as per their constitutions, and for the reasons for which these areas were declared for.

A range of conservation-compatible models, not limited to tourism, is beneficial for the conservation and socio-economic outcomes of the Greater Kruger. There is no similarity between the business models of the SSW and the APNR.

Here's the first issue: In terms of the Game Theft Act 105 of 1991, wild animals in this country actually don't exist. This is because it deems any animal adequately fenced in on private or public property to be owned and therefore no longer wild.

We do not agree with this statement. It is our interpretation that only when game is kept or held on land that is adequately enclosed on private or public property are they deemed to be owned, but the game remains wild. All other game not sufficiently enclosed are deemed to be wild.

Land shall be deemed to be sufficiently closed if, according to a certificate of the Premier of the province in which the land is situated, or his assignee, it is sufficiently enclosed to confine to that land the species of game mentioned in the certificate.

As there are no unfenced areas in SA, there are no wild animals. Hunting and facilities like lion bone abattoirs, are therefore farming issues.

We do not agree with this statement. There are indeed fenced areas that are not sufficiently enclosed in South Africa and therefore there are indeed wild animals that are not sufficiently enclosed.

As an open system, neither the Kruger National Park nor the APNR have certificates of adequate enclosure. These areas are not considered as farming areas, but are listed in the National Protected area registered, and governed through the environmental legislation (and not the Agricultural legislation).

As animals step over the invisible, unfenced line from the national park, their status is claimed to change from res publicae (owned by us all) to res nullius and trophy hunters can shoot them.

The above is not a legal interpretation.

Neither the Kruger National Park nor the APNR have certificates of adequate enclosure. Therefore neither has control over the movement of the animals and they move freely from area to area.

All animals in a national park are, for as long as they occur in the national park, deemed to be public assets held in trust by the State for the benefit of present and future generations as part of the public estate.

The conservation areas bordering the KNP in the west are not National Parks, and are declared through the provincial legislation as Nature Reserves. The assets are not part of the KNP public estate. Once the animals cross the unfenced boundary, they are therefore not in the National Park anymore.

                                    (See document for all the responses to issues posed by Dr Kinnock)

Discussion

The Chairperson asked what happened when the Provincial and National legislation were in conflict.

Mr Phillips responded that the courts usually consider if that specific piece of legislation had been tabled and approved in the NCOP. The amendment in question did not go through the NCOP.

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) asked why they did not go through the NCOP.

Mr Phillips responded that some of the proposed amendments would ensure that they always go through the NCOP, but he was a litigation lawyer and not an expert in that field.

The Chairperson commented that what comes from Parliament cannot be changed anywhere else because Parliament was the supreme legislative body of the Republic.

Mr Phillips requested the Committee to organise for a public hearing to gather views from the various stakeholders sooner rather than later.

Mr B Holomisa (UDM) asked for clarity on the statement made; “some are benefitting while some are not”. He asked who are the “some” that are benefitting”.

Mr Mark Piers, Director, Legal matters, DEA, replied that white landowners were the ones benefitting especially in terms of hunting and the dropping of fences. Section 8, Sub-section 3 of the Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), recognises that there would be the possibility of conflict between National and Provincial legislation. The legislation says that in such cases, the Minister must submit all conflicting legislation to the NCOP for approval. 

Mr Phillips added that in 2007, the legislation and amendments went through the NCOP, but in 2008, one specific amendment regarding the baiting of lions did not go through the NCOP.

Mr RK Purdon (DA) asked for the section number and sub-section quoted by Mr Piers.

Mr Piers reiterated that it was Section 97, subsection 3A, that says that any regulation must be submitted to Parliament.

The Chairperson added that the submission to Parliament is not for Parliament to approve, rather just for their record keeping. 

 Mr Purdon asked for clarity about the levels for the certificate of adequate enclosure because it must vary if you have for example, an elephant or lion.

Mr Piers agreed and said that one lists the species they have on the certificate and therefore the fencing requirements would vary based on the species and the Premier considers this before granting the certificates.

The Chairperson asked that the minutes from the meeting on lion hunting be availed to the Committee to facilitate understanding.

Mr Makhubele wondered whether  when an animal jumps over a fence and was there  to be hunted,  was this not a way for the authorities to promote hunting.

 

Briefing by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA): MTPA’s response to matters raised in Dr Pinnock's submission to the Committee. 

Mr Riaan de Lange, Head Professional hunting, MTPA, outlined the MTPA’s response to matters raised in Dr Pinnock's submission to the Committee, Process flow - procedures leading up to the approval of the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) hunting quotas and the lion hunt. He also relayed the apologies of the CEO for not being present in the session.

The MTPA is the official nature conservation body for the province of Mpumalanga and deals mainly with the Green Issues (Biodiversity Conservation) as opposed to the Provincial Department which deals mainly with the Brown Issues (Environmental Policy, Planning and Coordination, Waste pollution, Air Quality Control, Impact Management, Environmental Empowerment, etc.)

The MTPA currently applies the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act, Act 10 of 1998 and the relevant Regulations and is not TOPS compliant. The MTPA is the Issuing Authority for the Associated Private Nature Reserves.

On the matter raised by Dr Pinnock about whether legislation  is contradictory or not when applied, all hunting taking place in the Mpumalanga Province, including in the areas known as the Greater Kruger, and is regulated in terms of the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act, Act 10 of 1998 and the relevant Regulations to the Act. They sought elaboration on non-compliance, non-transparency and questionable hunting practices and ask that proof be presented so that it could be addressed.

There is a clear distinction between so-called "canned hunting" and the legal hunting of wild lions in Mpumalanga. No canned hunting is taking place on any of the reserves within the APNR. This is a misrepresentation of the facts particularly with the claim of reputational damage caused by canned hunting to all hunting in these private reserves, particularly the hunting of lions.

The business models of the SSW and the ANPR cannot be compared, but are described according to their respective management plans, as per their constitutions, and for the reasons for which these areas were declared. A range of conservation-compatible models, not limited to tourism, is beneficial for the conservation and socio-economic outcomes of the Greater Kruger. There is no similarity between the business models of the SSW and the APNR.

Land is deemed to be sufficiently closed if, according to a certificate of the Premier of the province in which the land is situated, or his assignee, it is sufficiently enclosed to confine to that land the species of game mentioned in the certificate. Only when game is kept or held on land that is adequately enclosed on private or public property are they deemed to be owned, but the game remains wild. All other game not sufficiently enclosed are deemed to be wild.

As an open system, neither the Kruger National Park nor the APNR has certificates of adequate enclosure. These areas are not considered as farming areas but are listed in the National Protected area registered and governed through the environmental legislation (and not the Agricultural legislation).

According to the Game Theft Act, an animal's wild freedom ends the moment someone encloses it within a fence or pen or shoots it. In that instant, it becomes private property.

The MTPA and SANParks responded to questions posted by several newspapers, SABC (South Africa Broadcasting Corporation) and accommodated an interview with Mr Adam Cruise, a colleague of Dr Pinnock at the Conservation Action Trust.

The TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) Regulations of 2007 allows for baiting of lions. The TOPS Amendment of 2008 does not allow baiting; however, the Amendment has not been signed off by the NCOP (National Council of Provinces).

The MTPA Act allows for baiting. The provinces of the Western Cape and Mpumalanga are not TOPS compliant. In any case, the TOPS Amendment has not been signed off by the NCOP. Therefore, the Amendment is not applicable.

Photos provided show that the hunted lion is not "Skye". If the lion was Skye, he was below the permitted age to be hunted, which constituted a permit violation.

The hunting quota on both elephant and buffalo were lowered and amended for the 2018/2019 hunting season in the Umbabat Nature Reserve.

Income generated from hunts is ploughed back into conservation management and security. South Africa, as one of the world's key wildlife countries, needs to be able to control where it takes place and what is hunted. To clean up the image tarnished by canned hunting, MTPA must take radical steps. No canned hunting is taking place in the Greater Kruger or in Mpumalanga for that matter. The hunting of wild lions is legal in South Africa. The lion hunt in Umbabat was not illegal.

Procedures prior to the approval of the APNR hunting quota

  • Annual game census for all entities conducted towards the third quarter every year.
  • Specialist studies relating to several species ongoing throughout the year. Lion, hyena buffalo etc. looking at amongst others, numbers, sex, and age classification of species, herd and pride dynamics etc.
  • Hunting off-takes meeting held in the fourth quarter. Attended by all APNR entities, external ecologists I scientists, KNP (Kruger National Park) and provincial conservation authorities.
  • The off-takes requests of each of the entities are discussed in detail considering census results, current veld conditions and ecological status of the reserves, and specialist reports on specific species, etc.
  • Consensus on species and numbers are reached based on the aforementioned subjects and sustainability.
  • Each entity submits a request and supporting documentation (census reports, specialist reports, signed hunting protocol, postseason compliance reports, etc.) to the KNP (Kruger National Park) for support.
  • Following the KNP's support, the final requests are then submitted to the MTPA Scientific Services for approval of the quotas.
  • Once the off-takes quotas are approved permits are issued on application by the relevant entities
  • Following the hunting season, a post season off-takes meeting is conducted to scrutinise compliance with the approved quotas and protocol.

The 2018 Lion Hunt summarised

  • Prior to the intended lion hunt, the MTPA received a permit application and issued a permit in terms of the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act, Act 10 of 1998 Section 13(b) (iii) and the relevant Regulations.
  • The meeting to discuss the intended lion hunt was held in the Timbavati PNR at Chimanimani on the 25th of May 2018
  • All the reserves, i.e. Timbavati PNR, Klaserie PNR, Umbabat PNR and Balule PNR, lodges, KNP, Provinces and more specifically the reserve representative that would attend the hunt was present.
  • The hunt was discussed and on request of one of the lodges indicated that there is a specific male lion that they would not want to be hunted, as they view this lion with its pride with their guests.
  • One picture that clearly indicated the facial features of this lion was submitted to assist with the identification of the lion.
  • The Umbabat management indicated that they would do all that was humanly possible not to hunt this lion.
  • The condition to hunt the lion on bait was intended to enable the professional hunter and reserve representative, and give them a fair opportunity to ensure that the lion hunted, is not the lion indicated on the picture.
  • The Section Ranger adjacent to the KNP was informed of the intended hunt.
  • The hunt took place in accordance with the relevant legislation and the Greater Kruger Hunting Protocol.
  • The lion was successfully hunted on the 07 June 2018.

Discussion

Mr T Hadebe (DA) asked the Department whether they did a thorough cost-benefit study to ensure that at the end of the day, the parks did not lose. In his view, it seemed that the reserves next to the parks were given an unfair advantage over those located further away. Also, their regulations document totally prohibits baiting and poisoning of animals, yet the presentation showed that baiting was allowed.

Ms J Edwards (DA) asked if SANParks was considering dropping the fences in light of public comments received.

Mr Purdon asked if the presenters were referring to the Northern parts of the Western Cape. He continued to ask who monitors the process of the clarification of mandates. As for MTPA, he said they have seen no reference to any studies other than a reference to the previous census. He added that he was not convinced the baiting was in accordance with the hunting protocol and asked if the lion in the presentation that had been hunted down was indeed Skye.

Mr Makhubele asked about the elephant that was used for baiting, and whether it was used in this way because elephants were in oversupply. He wondered if Provinces were taking advantage of the regulations and loopholes available. On the ownership and constitutionality of wild animals, whether they compensate people if wild animals escape the park bounds and destroy property or harm human life and whether there was uniformity on how this compensation was applied. He commented that proper public hearings on this matter did not occur as it was done during the apartheid period; therefore, there was a need to have the public hearings now.

The Chairperson asked what DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) was doing to ensure the regulations are taken through the NCOP, particularly because it has been over ten years since it was promulgated (in 2008).

Mr Piers said the agreement to drop the fences was signed in 1996, to have an open system of animals moving, and to regulate the pressure in the parks. The Minister works with the MEC’s and there are a few processes that need to be finalised before the amendments are sent through to the NCOP and these processes are defined in law.

The Board is in the Province and was committed to comply with the regulations without waiting for the NCOP approval. It would then immediately be implemented. On the baiting topic, it was only that one incident; therefore, there was no need to dwell too much over it.

Mr Riaan added that in the Act, with regards to the baiting of the lion, Section 30 allows for baiting of wild animals under specific conditions and with a valid permit. He added that the various entities are willing to open their books and reveal all income generating activities and the specific figures. There were no minutes taken at the meeting on lion hunting.

Mr Makhubele asked whether Skye the lion was ever spotted again.

Mr Riaan confirmed that there were no repeated sightings of Skye to date. He mentioned that animal dynamics are such that lions are prideful creatures and a lion can move into a pride and destabilise it, kill the previous dominant lion and his cubs, and take the lionesses. All this can be done to assert his dominance over the pride of lions.

The Chairperson asked about revisiting and revising of the 1996 Act to consider the broader interests of the South African society and the State. This is to ensure the questions of transformation and benefit sharing agreements are taken account of. There is no doubt that private reserves are taking advantage of the current situation and system. There needs to be equity. The environment is a concurrent function, but the National Government must set the minimum norms and standards while Provinces do the planning and implementation functions. The overarching policies must be set nationally, and loopholes in the understanding of this need to be attended to and corrected by the relevant Minister. This process should ideally commence before the end of the year. He asked the DEA to come up with a concept paper to present to the Committee. He clarified that they as a Committee have no problem with hunting as a means of the sustainable use of South Africa’s natural resources, as it brings in revenue, but it must be done in a sustainable and equitable way.

The meeting was adjourned.

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