14 Jul 2020
The Committee convened in a virtual meeting to hear the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ presentation on the norms and standards for trophy hunting in South Africa, to be issued in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act. The presentation highlighted the advancements that had been made in leopard conservation and stressed the need for legislation to manage the use of leopard skins and specimens for cultural practices, as there was currently no legislative guidance in this regard.
The Minister expressed government’s position of using resources sustainably, and advised the Department to liaise with the National House of Traditional Affairs to strike a balance between preserving cultural practices and conserving threatened animals.
The Chairperson welcomed Members and extended welcoming remarks to Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, her Deputy Minister, the Director-General of the Department, and his Deputy.
She said that delegates from the provinces had been invited to the meeting, and noted the presence of delegates from Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Western Cape. The Chairperson noted apologies from the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) officials, as they were presently attending another meeting.
She invited the Members to approve the adoption of the agenda.
The Members adopted the agenda without any amendments.
The Chairperson invited Minister Creecy to make opening remarks.
The Minister briefly thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to address the Committee, and asked the Department to commence with the presentation.
Norms and standards on leopard trophy hunting
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), opened the Department’s submission on the norms and standards on leopard trophy hunting in South Africa.
He informed the Committee that leopards were particularly desirable for trophy hunting, as they were a member of the Big Five “must see” animals for tourism. Owing to this added publicity and attention from tourism, leopards had become vulnerable and had been listed in the first phase of the endangerment lists. For this reason, additional measures were necessary to protect leopards from extinction. Leopards were currently not permitted to be used for commercial trade.
Ms Magdel Boshoff, Deputy Director: Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS), Policy Development, DEFF, presented on the draft norms and standards in terms of section 9 of the Act. She said the aim of the presentation was to highlight some concerns and inform Members of the scientific authorities’ findings on the impact of international trade on threatened or protected animals. She clarified that international trade entailed the export and import of specimens.
The presentation was based on the best available information from the South African Scientific Authority. The non-detriment finding (NDF) that was published in 2016 had indicated that habitat loss and human encroachment was one of the factors that threatened leopard populations. The Scientific Authority’s findings also reported that other factors contributing to the decline of leopards included poor trophy hunting practices, and the killing of leopards for cultural practices.
The NDF had indicated that there was currently no accurate data on the exact leopard population, due to the nocturnal nature of leopards and the lack of information on population dispersal.
There were additional inherent biological factors that made leopards susceptible to endangerment, such as their low reproduction rate and high sensitivity to human activity.
Ms Boshoff said that the erroneous hunting of female leopards due to poor specimen hunting practices was especially detrimental, as it also resulted in the loss of cubs. The Scientific Authority’s policy recommendations and quotas were based on the national leopard monitoring framework, which was used to monitor the leopard population trends.
She explained that in order to address the high impact of trophy hunting, hunting quotas only allocated were to hunting zones that had reported a growing leopard population. A key area in trophy hunting norms and standards was that only male leopards of seven years and older may be hunted. The Scientific Authority considered the age of seven would be the age by which male leopards were most likely to have produced a successful litter of cubs, and which would be able to produce cubs of their own. There was also a clause in the norms and standards that prohibited hunting in a zone where an erroneous female leopard killing had occurred, to allow the population to recover.
The norms and standards required hunters to prove that they could determine the age of a leopard. If the client was not certain of the age of the leopard, they were required to submit a photograph of the leopard to a panel of experts. The Department had committed to printing information pamphlets to educate people on how to identify the age of a male leopard.
Ms Boshoff reported that the norms and standards also required hunting zones to provide information on the hunts, and particularly whether an under-age leopard had been hunted. There was also a mandatory inspection of the trophy by environmental management inspectors (EMI) 24 hours after the hunt to ensure that the hunter was not in breach of the trophy hunting guidelines. The Ministry had briefly considered using the words “mature male” in the norms and standards, but it had been agreed that this term was vague. The legal advisory in this regard had stated that it was lawful for the Ministry to ask hunters to provide information on how they had assessed the leopard’s age when under-aged leopards were killed.
There was a lack of legislative guidance in determining who the recipient of a hunting quota should be, as it was unclear whether hunting quotas should be allocated to landowners or to leopard hunters.
The Department had suggested that trail cameras be used as a norm to assess the age of the leopard, as it was often difficult to distinguish between six-year-old leopards and seven-year-old leopards.
Ms Boshoff said that biodiversity was an area of concurrent legislative competence according to schedule four of the Constitution, which meant that both the national and provincial governments had the authority to make legislation and regulations on the matter.
She concluded that the purpose of acquiring the National Council of Provinces’ (NCOPs’) approval in this regard was to give the norms and standards more leverage, should conflict emerge.
The Chairperson opened the Committee’s deliberations on the matter.
Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) asked whether there was a timeframe to develop the leopard hunting zone. She noted the poor management of leopard hunting, and asked who would be held accountable for implementing and upholding the norms and standard within the leopard hunting zones. She asked how the Department intended to improve leopard hunting management, given the poor track record mentioned in the presentation.
Ms L Bebee (EFF) said that leopard skins were used as a sign of power and prestige amongst traditional communities, and asked whether it was illegal to own any leopard skin specimens. Was there any local demand for leopard skins? She asked for more information on the management of the local demand for leopard skins, and asked what the 2020 quota was.
A Member asked about the compensation paid to EMIs, and who was responsible for their wages.
Mr A Cloete (FF +, Free State) asked about the use of leopard skins for cultural uses, and whether this could be a legislative gap. How could the loophole be remedied to protect leopard populations?
A Member asked about the use of leopard skins in traditional rituals and medicine, which led to a massacre of leopards for their skins, and asked how this matter could be addressed.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and her Deputy Minister for attending the meeting, and asked them to make final remarks before departing from the meeting.
Minister Creecy commented that the Department should open a dialogue with the House of Traditional Affairs regarding the cultural use of leopard specimens. Government’s position on this matter was sustainability and that there had to be a balance between conservation and sustainable use. She asked the Committee to keep this balance at heart in their deliberations and drafting of legislation.
Mr T Matibe (ANC, Limpopo) shared the same sentiments as the Minister, and said that the matter of the cultural use of leopard skin as a symbol of chieftainship and power was urgent, as its current unregulated use could result in the mass slaughter of leopards.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) asked how the Department curbed dishonesty in its online tests.
Mr Munzhedzi referred Members to the detailed presentation document, and said it addressed the questions that Members had raised.
Mr Smit continued that quotas were determined on an annual basis by the Scientific Authority and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Panthera. The zoning and recommendations were based on the Scientific Authorities’ findings and were usually qualified by their data. He commented that with the employment of technology, the available data on the leopard population was becoming more accurate. The Department had stated that it was guided by the Scientific Authority on the quotas, but had been unable to provide an exact quota number at present.
Mr Munzhedzi shared Minister Creecy’s sentiments on sustainable use, and clarified that the allocation of quotas was done by the provinces.
He said he was unable to respond on the timeframe, as this was still being determined.
He said the demand was monitored through the quota system, as hunters were required to report on whether their quotas had been used and resulted in successful trophy hunting. This data was collected and used by the Scientific Authority to determine the number of remaining leopards and monitor the demand for leopard trophy hunting. The success of the leopard trophy hunting project was dependent on rigorous data collection and monitoring.
The EMIs of the conservation authorities were designated by the provinces, and were also included in the norms and standards document.
Responding to Mr Cloete’s question, he said the Minister’s guiding comments to engage with the House of Traditional Affairs was an adequate response in this regard.
Ms Boshoff responded on the timeframe for the implementation of leopard hunting zones, stating that there were already established leopard hunting zones that were operational. She clarified that the quotas that had been approved had been within the boundaries of leopard hunting zones.
She reiterated that the quotas were allocated and monitored by the provinces. This was aimed to allow for a variety of different approaches that would be responsive to any issues that may arise. The provinces had their own procedures to allocate their hunting quotas.
She said that although it was not illegal to own leopard skin, it was a statutory requirement to have a permit to possess a leopard skin.
There was no legislative guidance on the killing of damage-causing leopards. The Department aimed to mitigate illegal killing by promoting reporting. It had found that allowing leopard trophy hunting allowed for tolerance of damage-causing leopards, and mitigated the illegal killing of leopards.
She explained that the online test had to be done in the presence of a provincial authority.
She responded that EMIs were government employees, as per the Environmental Management Act, and were therefore compensated by the departments that had employed them. The act required EMIs to be sufficiently trained to enable them to perform their duties.
As there were no additional questions, the Chairperson released the Department’s delegates from the Committee meeting, and commenced with the second part of the meeting.
Ms Labuschagne asked whether the Department had already presented the norms and standards to the provinces, asking for clarity on what the process and protocol going forward was.
The Chairperson said she was not certain, and asked the Committee Secretary to advise on the matter.
The Committee Secretary said that he had received the briefing, which stated that the Committee ought to write to the provinces to consider whether the draft legislation was in conflict with any other provincial legislation and revert back to the Portfolio Committee to adopt the norms and standards and regulations pertaining to threatened animals in the same way it was done with the norms and standards on elephant populations. He reiterated that the provinces still had to be briefed on the matter.
Report of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy on legislation relating to the tabling of the List of Threatened Terrestrial and Freshwater Species and Regulations related thereto in terms of Section 8(3) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA)
The Chairperson noted that five provinces’ representatives were present, and asked Members to adopt the Committee report on the list of threatened or protected terrestrial and freshwater species and regulations.
The Committee Secretary clarified that the matter to be adopted was the Committee report on the threatened species.
Ms Bebee moved the adoption of the report.
Mr Matibe seconded
The Committee’s report was adopted.
Report of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy on legislation relating to the amendments to the Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa (the Elephant N&S), developed in terms of Section 8(3) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA)
The Committee proceeded to consider the adoption of the elephant management norms and standards, and asked the Committee Secretary to read the recommendations.
The Committee Secretary read the recommendations.
Ms Labuschagne wanted to confirm whether the provinces had considered whether there was any conflict in the elephant norms and standards. She was uncertain whether the provinces were permitted to change the norms and standards.
The Chairperson said that the Department had presented to the provinces, and asked the Committee Secretary to advise on the matter.
The Committee Secretary said that the letter that was addressed to the provinces had been written by the Chairperson of the Council, and the Committee had made a separate recommendation.
Ms Labuschagne noted that the letter of the Chairperson of the Council was referred to the provinces at the same time as the Committee’s legislation recommendations. She asked that the purpose of the Committee’s position should be reiterated in their correspondence with the provinces to ensure that all protocol was observed, to ensure that there was no conflict in the legislation once it was drafted. She clarified that she was not disputing the “correctness” of the process, but rather whether all protocol had indeed been observed to prevent litigation against the Committee, and that the Committee’s position had been stated.
Mr Matibe shared Ms Labuschagne’s concerns and said that her recommendation would ensure that there was no time lapse.
Mr Cloete said that the Chairperson’s role was essential in liaising with the provinces and ensuring that all protocols had been observed.
The Committee Secretary said that he had captured Members’ concerns and that the Committee’s official correspondence would voice the Committees’ position and ensure that all protocol had been observed.
Mr Matibe clarified that the provinces had already made their submissions and concurrence in terms of their mandate. The Committee had to vote on the report, and it was not necessary for the provinces individually.
The Committee Secretary confirmed that the report that needed to be adopted was a Committee report and the requirements for adoption were simply a quorum of provinces, and for a Member to move to adopt the report, and a seconder.
The Chairperson thanked Members for their responses and asked them to consider the adoption of the elephant norms of standard.
Mr Matibe moved the adoption of the report.
Ms Bebee seconded the motion.
The Committees’ report adopted.
Adoption of minutes
The Chairperson directed Members to the adoption of the Committee’s minutes.
Ms Bebee moved the adoption, and Mr Cloete seconded.
The minutes were adopted.
Ms Labuschagne said that at the beginning of this term of Parliament, a decision had been made that anything in the Committees, except S 75 decisions, should be voted for by the provinces. The decision today that the norms and standards need not be voted by the provinces may be in conflict with that decision, and she asked the Chairperson to ask the Parliamentary Legal Services to advise on the matter at the next Committee meeting.
Mr Cloete said he shared Ms Labuschagne’s concerns.
The Chairperson noted Ms Labuschagne’s concerns, and said that the legal advisor would be present at the next meeting to provide clarity to prevent litigation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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