Captive Lion breeding: DEA progress report; Rhino Demand Management; with Minister

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

12 March 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

ATC181108: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs on the Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: harming or promoting the conservation image of the country, held on 21 and 22 august 2018, dated 8 November 2018

The Committee was briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on its progress in implementing the recommendations of the colloquium on captive lion breeding, and the various aspects of rhino demand management.

South African National Parks (SANParks) reported that the status of the African mammal population since 1970 had been on the decline. Lions had been classified as vulnerable under the African mammal population category in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species 2016. In the 2016 report, South Africa’s lion population was of least concern, as the population was increasing. In Southern Africa, the population grew by 8%, while in sharp contrast, the populations declined by 59% in Eastern Africa and 66% in West and Central Africa. SANParks was not involved in captive lion breeding or the management of captive bred lions.

The DEA described the proposed amendments to legislation in respect of listed threatened or protected species (TOPS), with specific reference to the breeding of black rhino and white rhino and listed large predators. The authority had to refuse to issue a permit for breeding of those specimens unless the applicant could demonstrate how the breeding in captivity of such specimens would contribute to the conservation of the particular species. The intention was to move away from breeding on a purely commercial basis. A high level panel (HLP) would function as an advisory committee and would review the existing policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros. The guiding principles would be obtained from the Constitution and the related statutes.

A Member said it was shocking that 88 lion breeding facilities in various provinces had been found to be in non-compliance, and that there were facilities that did not have permits. She asked what processes were available for the provinces to ensure that this did not happen again -- for example, by way of regular inspection. It was also shocking that some of the legislation dated back to 1962 and 1935, and yet it was 2019. Another Member was critical of the Department’s response to a Committee resolution that, as a matter of urgency, it should initiate a policy and legislative review of captive lions and the lion bone trade with a view to putting an end to this practice. The Department had talked only about how they would initiate the review, but had not mentioned how they would put an end to the practice.

The Committee heard that the demand for rhino horn at the international level was fueled by buying power, class and recreation. In 2014, the price of rhino horn had reached US$65 000 per kg -- almost twice the price of gold -- but by 2017 it had fallen by 70% to roughly half the price of gold. Research had been conducted in several countries to check the demand for rhino, rhino horn and rhino products. In Vietnam, rhino products’ use had increased in the past 15 years. The main use was as a party drug, a health supplement, a hangover cure and a luxury product. The study had established that regulation rather than prohibition could be the best solution, and that the demand was reversible. In 2017 stricter cross border laws, especially to China, had been enacted.

Members urged the government to sustain a strong political will, to make addressing rhino crime a non-negotiable, high profile national priority. The Chairperson concluded the meeting by commending the DEA and SANParks on their efforts to reduce rhino poaching.

Meeting report

Minister’s introductory remarks

Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Environmental Affairs, highlighted three issues in her introductory remarks. These were the work being done by the Department and the government on the review of policy and the multilateral issues; the inclusivity emanating from the issues raised in the colloquium; and thinking beyond the current situation, which was sustainable development. She said the solutions should be in the interest of preserving, conversing and promoting bio diversity. There were opportunities that existed to grow the economy. There was also the need to preserve the South African heritage and eliminate the illegal trade of rhino horns.

Status of African Lions

Mr Fundisile Naketeni, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): South Africa National Parks (SANParks) began the presentation on the status of the African lions. He said that the mandate of SANparks was well articulated. An eco system approach had been adopted. There were species of special concern where, if need be, an intervention should be carried out, like for rhinos. SANparks did not deal with components of breeding, but could be a source to repopulate. The lion population trends in South Africa were growing, but not in other parts of the world.

Dr Luthando Dziba, Head: Conservation, SANParks, defined the term ‘wild lions’ as those lions that completely fulfilled their role in biodiversity processes and were largely unmanaged and existed only in formally proclaimed national parks and game reserves. Conservationists did not actively manipulate their vital rates and lion demographics. He defined ‘managed lions’ as lions that had been re-introduced into smaller fenced reserves. They were managed to limit population growth and maintain genetic diversity. The managers actively manipulated some vital rates and demographics. He defined ‘captive lions’ as lions bred exclusively to generate money, where managers actively manipulated all vital rates and demographics. 

The status of African mammals’ population since 1970 had been on the decline. The decline in Western Africa was significant compared to the decline in Eastern Africa. Southern Africa contributed significantly to the population of lions, by over 74%. Lions had been classified under the category of vulnerable under the African mammal population in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species 2016. The population was declining in fragmented small populations but did well when they lived in areas. In the 2016 report, South Africa’s lion population was of least concern as the population was increasing. In Southern Africa, the population grew by 8%, while in sharp contrast, the populations declined by 59% in Eastern Africa and 66% in West and Central Africa.

He said that the population of wild lions in unfenced populations in Central, East and West Africa between 1993-2013 had declined from 4 500 to 2 500. In Southern Africa, the population had remained stable since the year 2000. Managed lions in fenced populations had shown a modest increase from 2 500-3 000, at an average of 25%.  For Asian lions in India, for example, there had been a significant growth in the population since 1993.

The status of wild lions in the national parks were as follows:

  • Kruger National Park – 1 700
  • Associated Private Nature Reserves – 300
  • Kalahari Gemsbok National Park – 246
  • Greater Mapungubwe – 10  
  • Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park – 120
  • Managed wild lions in private reserves -- 500
  • Captive lions in breeding facilities – 6 000.

Dr Dziba concluded his presentation by stating that SANparks was not involved in captive lion breeding or the management of captive bred lions.

Implementation of resolutions from colloquium on captive lion breeding

Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director General: Biodiversity and Conservation, DEA, said the presentation would focus on the committee resolutions from the colloquium. It would also provide the progress on the policy and legislative review of captive breeding of lions for hunting and lion bone trade; the call for auditing of captive lion breeding facilities throughout the country; awareness of private lion and cheetah cub petting and walking farms in the country and its regulations; the DEA and DAFF interface and programme of work intended to address animal welfare and health issues; and finally, reconsideration of the decision to increase the lion bone trade quota from 800 (2017) to 1 500 lion skeletons (2018).

Mr Munzhedzi highlighted the mandate of the DEA, with particular emphasis on the need to protect the eco system and promote bio diversity management. He also provided the mandate of equitable sharing among stakeholders, with the benefits arising from the use of biological resources and the role of corporate governance between the provinces and national government. The mandate of the DEA was to provide for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to assist in achieving the objectives of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA).

He gave a further brief on the mandate of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) with reference to the Animal Protection Act, 1962, which defined an animal to include any wild animal, wild bird or reptile which was in captivity or under the control of any person. The Act did not define welfare or wellbeing, but there was an explicit reference to the prevention of cruelty to animals for which the Minister, among other issues, may make regulations. The Act mandated the Minister to gazette prohibitions on the killing of an animal with the intention of using the skin or meat or any other part of such animal for commercial purposes.

The proposed amendments to the NEMBA Act included the definition of the term ‘well being’ as a state where the living conditions of a faunal biological resource were conducive to its health, in line with the proposed mandate to regulate the well-being of faunal biological resources. Also proposed was a mandate to prohibit an activity that may negatively impact on the wellbeing of a faunal biological resource.

Ms Magdel Boshoff, Deputy Director: DEA, described the proposed amendments to legislation in respect of listed threatened or protected species (TOPS). She highlighted the breeding of black rhino and white rhino and listed large predators. She said that the authority must refuse to issue a permit for breeding of those specimens unless the applicant could demonstrate how the breeding in captivity of such specimens would contribute to the conservation of the particular species. The intention was to move away from breeding on a purely commercial basis. There was also an exclusion of restricted activities involving any dead lion specimen from the exemption from permit requirements.

Mr Munzhedzi continued with the presentation and highlighted the new developments in the policy and legislative review. On 25 February 2019, the Minister had published a Government Gazette Notice No. 42247 inviting members of the public and organisations to nominate persons to be considered for appointment as members of the High Level Panel (HLP). The HLP would function as an advisory committee and would review the existing policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros. The guiding principles would be obtained from the Constitution and the related statutes.

Mr Sonnyboy Bapela, Chief Director: Compliance Monitoring, DEA, presented on the auditing of the captive lion breeding facilities. He said that the DEA was instructed in 2015/2016 to check on the compliance of the owners of the lion breeding facilities. As the national Department did not issue these permits, its role was to co-ordinate the inspection of these facilities by provincial environmental management inspectors. The enforcement was conducted by the officials at the provincial level. He said that 227 lion breeding facilities had been inspected in the Free State (111), Limpopo (31), North West (74) and Eastern Cape (11).

Mr Bapela said that 88 lion breeding facilities were found to be non-compliant. In Limpopo, out of the 31 facilities that were inspected, six were found to be in non-compliance with both TOPS regulations and permits. One facility had been closed down by the environmental management inspectors (EMIs), and five facilities were brought into compliance. In North West , all 74 facilities were inspected, 20 were found to be in non-compliance with both TOPS regulations and permits, 13 facilities were brought into compliance, three facilities were closed by EMIs, three farms were sold to the government and enforcement was initiated by EMIS in four facilities. In the Free State, all 111 facilities were inspected. 62 facilities were found to be in non-compliance of both TOPS regulations and permits. Most facilities were found to be operating with expired permits. One facility was closed at the beginning 2018, three facilities no longer conducted lion breeding operations, and all expired permits were renewed.

Ms Olga Kumalo, Director: DEA, presented on lion and cheetah cub petting and walking farms in the country, which was not restricted in the NEMBA Act. All provinces did not issue the permits for these activities, although there were provinces which had cub petting and walking farms, like in North West and Limpopo. The activity of petting and walking was not allowed in the Western Cape and Northern Cape -- they had only the wild lions, so these activities could not take place. In the Eastern Cape there was one facility that had captive lions, but the activity of petting and walking the lions did not take place. In Limpopo, the permits issued for breeding indicated that petting and walking would not be allowed, but facilities could obtain Performing Animals Protection Act (PAPA) licences from magistrates to allow them to do petting or walking. In the Northern Cape, petting and walking did not take place. In Gauteng there were eight facilities where such activities would take place -- for example, at weddings -- though it was restricted to lions of up to six months of age and cheetahs up to one year old.

Mr Munzhedzi continued with the presentation on the welfare legislations in place. He referred to the Animals Protection Act, 1962 (Act 71 of 1962), which provided for the prevention of cruelty to animals,  where the Minister may make  regulations relating to ill treatment, neglect and confinement; the Performing Animals Protection Act, 1935 (Act 24 of 1935), which applies to any animal that is used for exhibition, training or display purposes (with or without monetary compensation); the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1993 (Act 169 of 1993), which gives SPCAs powers to enforce the Animals Protection Act and the Biodiversity Act; and the TOPS regulation which allows for registration of the Captive Breeding Operation.

Regarding the high level coordination for animal welfare and health, he said that the areas of work included the establishment of a joint task team in wildlife and welfare issues to meet twice a year and interface when the need arose. The compliance and enforcement would involve joint inspection by the DEA, the DAFF and the NSPCA to meet twice a year and when required. The strategic/operational issues would require the highest level of interface at the DEA and DAFF, meeting once a year.

Mr Munzhedzi concluded the presentation by presenting on the lion bone trade quota. He said that there had been a reconsideration to keep the quota in 2018 at the same level as it was in 2017. The 2019 quota would be determined with public consultation by the Scientific Authority, which would assist the Department by considering what would be determined and by facilitating how the allocation was going to be done moving forward.

Discussion

The Chairperson commended the Department on responding to the Committee’s recommendations, particularly on the review and appointment of the HLP to look into the recommendations of the colloquium and the lion bone quota.

Ms J Steenkamp (DA) referred to the four provinces where the 227 lion breeding facilities were inspected, and asked the Department to clarify how many facilities there were collectively, and how many had been inspected. She said it was shocking that 88 lion breeding facilities were found to be in non-compliance, and that there were facilities that did not have permits. She asked what processes were available for the provinces to ensure that this did not happen again -- for example, by way of regular inspection. It was also shocking that some of the legislation dated back to 1962 and 1935, and yet it was 2019. She asked the Department to give an indication when the Scientific Authority would make the recommendation to the Minister on the lion bone trade quota. She referred to the status of African lions, and asked what the growth percentage had been previously, and how the illegal lion bone trade had affected South Africa.

Mr R Purdon (DA) said that he did not share the Chairperson’s enthusiasm for the report. He referred the Department to the Committee’s resolution of the report, which stated that the DEA, as a matter of urgency, should initiate a policy and legislative review of captive lions and the lion bone trade with a view to putting an end to this practice. The Department had talked only about how they would initiate the review, but had not mentioned how they would put an end to the practice. The Department had not mentioned that the 2017 quota was based on existing trade volumes and the 2018 quota was based on an incomplete report. He added that this had been the subject of a High Court action, whose status had not been given.

He asked if the public had been involved in setting the terms of reference for the HLP, and whether the requests from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had been considered. He said the Department had failed to provide the list of the lion breeding facilities that had been inspected. On the mandate of the DAFF, there was no clarity about the need to protect the eco-system. He asked the DEA to give clarification on the indigenous bio resources. He also sought clarification on a grey area on how the breeding in captivity of such specimens would contribute to the conservation of the particular species.  On the audit, he questioned the ability of the Department to govern the skeleton export quota. He asked whether permits for lion and cheetah cub petting were issued in the Free State.

He added that there was a ‘red light’ on the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which gave SPCAs powers to enforce the Animals Protection Act, considering that the Access to Information Act had to be invoked by the SPCA to find out where these facilities were. The Scientific Authority 2019 quota was to be determined by public consultations, yet it required the Authority to report directly to the Minister, and he asked how the Authority would achieve this. He concluded by stating that the report was weak.

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) asked whether penalties had been paid by the non-compliant lion breeding facilities, which were operating with expired licences.

Department’s response

Mr Munzhedzi responded that the onus was on the owner who was applying for a licence to demonstrate that the facilities for lion breeding contributed to conservation, although there should be clear criteria to analyse the response. Regarding the High Level Panel, there was an open call in the gazette and an advertisement in the newspaper setting out what the members of the panel were expected to do. The deadline for nominations was 27 March 2019, and many people had expressed their interest. In respect of the High Court case, the legal department -- whose members were not in attendance -- were best placed to give a response.

Mr Bapela, responding to the question of the audit of the facilities, said that the national government did not have a database of how many lion breeding facilities there were, as it did not issue the permits -- the mandate was at the provincial level. However, the national government would request the provinces to furnish a list of their facilities. He added that there were only four officials at the national level who were responsible for conducting bio diversity inspections, and only one official in each province who was mandated to carry out the inspections. Capacity was an issue. He did not have information as to whether penalties had been issued to those who had expired permits.

Ms Boshoff responded to the question about the legislation in regard to TOPS. The NEMBA Act acknowledged that there was a need to conserve the eco systems, and the Minister had the power to prohibit certain activities that threatened the eco system. On the question as to whether lion bones could be regarded as an indigenous bio resource, she provided the relevant definitions in the Act and inferred that they did fall in that category, but the Act could be more specific. On the case involving the NSPCA, she said that it sought to set aside the 2017/2018 quota, and the hearing was scheduled for 2 May 2019.

Mr Mpho Tjiane, DEA, responded to the question on the Scientific Authority, and said it was responsible for advising the Minister on the quota. The Department requested the Authority to advise on how the annual quota should be determined. This was determined by continuous research on what was happening around the world. For 2019, the Scientific Authority would engage in public consultation before making the recommendation.

Ms Kumalo responded that in the Free State, the permits for walking and petting lions and cheetahs were not issued to the facilities.

Dr. Dziba responded to the question on the historic growth of the lion population. He said that in the 1900s, the lions were in their historic range but after the 1950s they had been introduced to some of the parks. By 2000, the Mapungubwe National Park had lions coming in from Botswana. Since 1990, lions had been introduced to 45 parks and game reserves. Human population factors, trade in lion bones and other parts for traditional medicine, had contributed to the depletion of the population. Populations were growing in reserves that were properly funded, fenced and where conservation practices were properly managed.

Mr Joel Mamabolo, Director: DAFF, confirmed that the Animal Protection Act had been enacted in 1962, but there was an Animal Welfare legislation bill that had been drafted in February 2019.

Mr Purdon said that he was struggling to understand how captive lion breeding could contribute to the eco system, and the issue about indigenous lion bones. He asked Mr Bapela to clarify how the expired permits were renewed if there was non-compliance, and whether issues of animal welfare were checked. He also asked for clarification on the SPCA Act.

Mr Bapela said that there was one facility that did not consider the welfare of the animals, but the SPCA had taken up the issue as it was in their mandate.

Mr Mamabolo said he did not have full details on the NSPCA’s ability to enforce the Act.

The Minister said that with regard to animal welfare, there would be an interaction with the SPCA to deal with areas of the Animal Protection Act and captive breeding facilities.

The Chairperson commented that the Department was on the right path in reviewing the outcome of the colloquium on the policy and legislation review, and the review of the quotas.

 

Rhino demand management

Ms Rose Masela, Chief Director: Biodiversity and Conservation, DEA, said rhino management was subject to different types of demands. One was by the locals, which was affecting communities in South Africa, and was driven by the greed for money and socio economic circumstances, particularly in areas abutting parks. There was the demand by industry related to hunting and related equipment to create profits. The demand at the continental level was conservation-based, with the need to create tourism. The demand at the international level was fueled by buying power, class and recreation. In 2014, the price of rhino horn had reached US$65 000 per kg -- almost twice the price of gold -- but by 2017 it had fallen by 70% to roughly half the price of gold.

She referred to the legal demand creation for hunting and ranching purposes, and the income generated from the trophy animal species. Research had been conducted in several countries to check the demand for rhino, rhino horn and rhino products. In Vietnam, rhino products’ use had increased in the past 15 years. The main use was as a party drug, a health supplement, a hangover cure and a luxury product. The study had established that regulation rather than prohibition could be the best solution, and that the demand was reversible. In 2017 stricter cross border laws, especially to China, were enacted.

Japan was considered the number one consumer for rhino horn in Asia throughout the 1970s. It was branded and available in pharmacies. Japan had rectified this in 1980, which had caused them to have demand reduction strategies. There was no banning, but there was control. In South Korea the demand grew in 1980, and there were over the counter sales. A ban was introduced in 1993 in South Korea. Taiwan was the biggest rhino consumer from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, which had over the counter sales. When the Taiwan market peaked, Zimbabwe had lost most of its rhinos. The Taiwan government had prohibited sales in 1992.

Ms Masela said that China had been a minor consumer in the 1970s and 1980s, but had become more active in the 1990s. China had ratified the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and imports were banned in 1981 and exports in 1988. The stockpiles were not destroyed but sealed. 25 years later, the ban was removed. Hong Kong was a major global trading hub, as it was a conduit to China. As a result of South Africa’s cooperation with China, there had been positive feedback from Hong Kong in its response to correspondence.

She further highlighted that Yemen was a large user during the 1970s and 1980s, when rhino horn was used for the carving of traditional dagger handles known as jambiya. Yemen had ratified CITES and banned rhino trade.

Ms Masela said demand management may be achieved through advocacy, education and awareness. CITES provided for the development of policies to reduce the demand for rhino products, conducting research and the strengthening of legal deterrence.

The Department has been undertaking research with different stakeholders. The proposed technical reference group had interacted with experts in the field of demand management. Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) had been reached on bio diversity, conservation and wildlife. There had been law enforcement awareness, and road traffic officer awareness. Demand was underpinned by trade and use, and both had legal and illegal aspects.

South Africa had initiated engagement to look into the implementation of the recommendations to improve the South Africa/Vietnam rhino horn trade.  Specific recommendations were directed at South Africa, while others were directed at Vietnam. The recommendations considered that there must be penalties and legislation to deal with the illegal rhino horn trade.

The CITES Standing Committee from 1 to 5 October 2018 had provided demand reduction strategies to combat illegal trade in CITES-listed species.

The DEA would pursue partnerships with NGOs on demand management as recognised by CITES to curtail costs, and would have government to government engagements on progress and recommendations for resolutions from CITES. It would draw from the lessons learnt and marketing partners in both China and Vietnam to assist with understanding consumer patterns.

Discussion

The chairperson asked Ms Masela to comment on the current stockpiles.

Mr Purdon commented on the recommendations directed at South Africa in particular, to sustain a strong and high level political will to make addressing rhino crime a non-negotiable, high profile national priority.

Department’s response

Minister Mokonyane said that one of the best deterrents was behavioural change. There was a need to review the interventions that had been taken into consideration, such as good governance and better management systems. Deterrence aspects in terms of legislation needed to be identified by the various departments to ensure better interaction. The Department of Justice and the South African Police Service (SAPS) should improve their database on these cases.

Dr Dziba stated that there was a vault for the current stockpiles, and technology investments had been made. There was need to have a centralised storage facility controlled by the defence force. It should be declared a national key point to avoid the threat of someone flying into it or a hostage situation taking place. He commented that there had been high conviction rates, but on appeal the convictions had been dropped.

Ms Masela said that one of the aspects in the technical reference group was to engage in the behavioural aspects. Cambodia would be included in the research.

The Minister stated that the statistics on progress to minimise losses had been presented.

The Chairperson concluded by stating that the Committee had been engaged with the issue of rhino poaching for a long time, and that there had been a downward trajectory in the demand for rhino products. He commended the efforts made by SANparks to stop the poaching of rhinos.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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