Current state of Captive Lion Breeding in SA; National Veld and Forest Fire A/B: motion of desirability & deliberations

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

29 November 2022
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee met virtually to receive a briefing from the Conservation Action Trust (CAT) on the current state of Captive Lion Breeding in South Africa.

South Africa is one of only a few African countries that allow the breeding and keeping of predators in captivity. There are 366 captive facilities registered in South Africa under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) of 2019.

Committee Members were worried about the lack of urgency and response by the Department on the lion captive industry. Members asked if all the affected stakeholders were consulted. The Committee asked how best they could assist CAT in stopping lion carcasses and bone exploitation. The Department asked if the lion breeding facilities are audited. Committee Members were also concerned about the exposure of the workers in the industry to zoonotic diseases. The Department asked the representative from Conservation Action Trust if there are any facilities within the captive lion industry willing to voluntary exit.

The Committee would invite the Wildlife Ranching Association of South Africa to present on lion breeding and canned hunting to the Portfolio Committee. The Committee wanted to know the priorities of the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, regarding animal welfare. The Committee suggested that the Department of Labour deal with occupational and safety issues affecting the captive lion breeding industry workers. The National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was asked to intervene and also the epidemiological section of the Department of Health.

The Committee moved for the desirability of the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill. The Committee also accepted amendments of clause-by-clause deliberations on the Bill. 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Committee Secretary, Ms Tyhileka Madubela, asked the Portfolio Committee to nominate an acting Chairperson, as the Chairperson was unavailable to attend the meeting.

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) nominated Mr P Modise (ANC). Ms N Gantsho (ANC) seconded the nomination.

Mr P Modise accepted the nomination.

There were apologies received from the Deputy Minister, Ms Maggie Sotyu, and the Parliamentary Legal Advisor. The Minister is attending a press conference. She might be in the meeting if time allows.

The acting Chairperson asked for the agenda of the day to be adopted. 

Ms S Mbatha (ANC) moved for the adoption of the agenda.

Mr N Singh (IFP) seconded the motion to adopt the agenda. He further said that it was unfortunate that the Executive would not be able to attend the meeting. “I hope that the Parliamentary Liaison Officer will note and pass the message to the Minister and the Deputy Minister.”

Briefing by the Conservation Act Trust: current state of Captive Lion Breeding in South Africa
The presentation was delivered by Mr Tony Gerrans, Executive Director at Humane Society International (HSI/ Africa).

The captive lion industry
• South Africa is one of only a few African countries that allow the breeding and keeping of predators in captivity
• There are 366 captive facilities registered in South Africa in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act - NEMBA [2019]
• 194 lion skeletons and carcasses were exported from South Africa through OR Tambo in 2019
• The estimated captive lion population may be as high as 10 000 – 12 000
• Wild lion populations have however declined by 43% over a 20-year period [2016]
• South Africa may only have around 3 000 lions left in the wild

Captive lion welfare harms
Repeated warning notices to breeders by the National Council for SPCAs (NSPCA) highlight inadequate standards of:
• Diet
• Hygiene
• Shelter
• Enclosure design
• Vet treatment
• Enrichment
• Unregulated slaughter
• Contraventions of Section 2 of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962

Other harms to SA’s public interest include:
▪Zoonotic disease risk
▪ Illegal trade
▪ Cover for poaching of wild animals
▪ No value to conservation
▪ Few, dangerous jobs

SA’s interventions: parliamentary resolutions (2018)
A parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Environment hosted a colloquium in August 2018 on captive lion breeding. The final report called for the urgent … Initiation of policy and legislative review of Captive Breeding of Lions for hunting and lion bone trade with a view to putting an end of this practice… And to ascertain the conformity with the current threatened or protected species regulations and other applicable legislation in light of ongoing and increasing disquiet about the captive lion breeding industry. These resolutions were accepted by National Assembly.

The Lion Bone Judgment
NSPCA v Min & DG of Environmental Affairs & SA Predators Association [2019] ZAGPPHC 367: The quota is a signaling to the world at large and the captive lion industry in particular that the state will allow exports in a determined quantity of lion bone. … [I]t cannot be correct to assert that such signaling can occur at the same time as indicating to the world at large and to the same industry that the manner in which lions in captivity are kept will remain an irrelevant consideration in how the quota is set… [S]imply put if as a country we have decided to engage in trade in lion bone … then at the very least … our constitutional and legal obligations that arise from Section 24, NEMBA and the Plan require the consideration of animal welfare issues.

Call for action from NGOs, scientists and tourist industry (2020)
▪NGO appeal for closure of captive lion breeding industry and associated activities
▪Open letter from the African Lion Conservation Community to Minister Creecy urging an end to South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry
▪115 tourism organisations call on Minister Creecy, and the respective Provincial Nature Conservation Authorities to: a) declare a zero CITES export quota for lion bones; b) declare a moratorium on lion breeding in captive breeding and tourism facilities; c) no further permits to be issued for new facilities; and d) bring an end to captive lion breeding and all its associated spin-off industries as the Department was instructed to do through the implementation of the National Assembly Resolutions.
Findings and recommendations of the High-Level Panel (HPL)

▪The HLP recommends, “The ending of certain inhumane and irresponsible practices that greatly harm the reputation of South Africa and position South Africa as a leader in conservation”
▪ “The captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly. The panel recommends that South Africa does not captive breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially”
▪On 2 May 2021, Minister Creecy announced that “The panel envisages secured, restored, and rewilded natural landscapes with thriving populations of elephant, lion, rhino and leopard as indicators of a vibrant, responsible and inclusive, transformed and sustainable wildlife sector”

The current status of captive lion breeding, 17 months later
 • Immediate actions of HLP have not been implemented
• Captive lion breeding continues
• No permits have been revoked or amended
• No effect has been given to recent court judgements regarding addressing animal welfare
• Illegal exports of lion bones have been found since the publication of the HLP report
• Confusion Terms of Reference for the Ministerial Task Team to Identify and Recommend Voluntary Exit Options and Pathways from the Captive Lion Industry, in S2.4 state, Develop agreed guidelines for ensuring lion welfare and well-being in any remaining captive lion facilities that do not take up the option of voluntary exit

Provincial departments
•Lack of Standard Operating Procedures
• Convoluted and decentralised permitting systems
• Conflicting provincial regulations: legal loopholes and unregulated growth
• Provincial resources insufficient for adequate oversight of conservation or welfare in-depth case study of the Free State
• 11% of 5,000 microchips could not be traced through the system
• 200 microchip numbers may have been reused on captivity, euthanasia or transport permits

•Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) implement the immediate actions recommended by the HLP and the resolutions of Parliament
•DFFE extend protection to all big cats in captivity
•Expedite the joint Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALLRD) DFFE joint workstream for welfare of wild animals (Resolution of NA)
•The Minister of DFFE request the Minister of DALRRD to regulate in terms of S10 of the Animal Protection Act to ‘prevent the suffering of wild animals’
•The Minster of DFFE introduce regulations in terms of NEMBA to prohibit activities affecting the well-being of wild animals, and use these powers to address the ongoing suffering of captive lions.
•Convene an Animal Welfare Colloquium  to address how the One Welfare principle can be adopted into wildlife management in South Africa (previously on agenda but not held)

[See presentation document for more details]

Mr D Bryant (DA) asked Mr Tony Gerrans if South Africa has an option for voluntary exit for captive lion breeders. Can they be offered an amnesty? He said the Committee asked for a Lion Breeding Task Team to be inclusive and involve captive lion breeders, lion protection associations, veterans and non-governmental organisations. Do you have an idea of how far the lion task team is? Were other industry role players consulted?

Mr N Singh (IFP) asked if the Department can respond to audit issues to allow a fuller discussion with both the CAT and the Department. Can the Department respond to some of the questions raised in the presentation?

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked if CAT is against canned lion hunting or all lion hunting. Should hunting wildlife not be banned completely? Wildlife is public resources, and no one must think they have a right to keep or hunt animals.

Ms Mbatha expressed her dissatisfaction with captive lion breeding reporting and progress. How best can the Committee assist CAT in stopping lion exploitation of carcasses through OR International Airport? She thought the Department had implemented all the recommendations for the High-Level Panel but has failed the Committee thus far. She said that the Committee recommended the High-Level Panel (HLP) reporting to the National Assembly.

Mr Singh agreed with Ms Mbatha, and said that he has been serving this Committee for a while – the issues raised today are not new. “There have been grandiose responses about things that are going to be done. Panels were set, and implementations were suggested. We have heard today that we failed on the implementation side.”

He asked Mr Gerrans if he was aware of any audits conducted by the Department, regarding the 366 licensed captive lion breed facilities in South Africa. Does the Department monitor these facilities? Have you been informed by the Department why it could not fulfil all the recommendations made during the HLP reporting? He asked the Department and CAT. How long will the conservation challenges experienced by the lion breeder exist? “We cannot allow the non-implementation of the recommendations to continue in this fashion. We as the Portfolio Committee are not respecting the binding resolution by the National Assembly. Something serious must be done within strict timeframes.” He concluded that it is sad that the Minister and the Deputy Minister are not available to answer the political questions raised today.

The acting Chairperson said CAT has previously raised the risk of TB and other illnesses exposed by the workers who process the lion bones. Is that still a concern? How many people are affected? He asked if CAT has noticed any move against harmful lion practices by the Department since the National Assembly resolution in November 2018. He asked the Department if it acted in relation to the National Assembly resolution.

Mr Gerrans said that the voluntary exit of captive lion breeds is a co-tenant of the Department's strategy. He said that there are 300 to 400 jobs at stake and any exit from this industry would result in job losses. A voluntary exit must negotiate a pathway for business to transition from harmful captive lion breeding to something else. The welfare community had proposed the working plans to the Department to end the industry on two occasions when there were 3 000 lions and in 2020. He added that the scale of the problem continues to increase and it will become more difficult and costlier to end the industry promptly.

CAT thinks a voluntary exit is a useful tool to facilitate the closure of the industry, especially the smaller lion captive breeders. He stressed that the voluntary exit alone will not be enough because some of the businesses in the lion industry are well established, with large infrastructure and animals. Some of the businesses have been permitted by the provincial government, hence the first recommendation from the HLP Report was to put a cap on the permit and conduct audits to understand the extent of the legality of the business operations. He said that the Lion Breeding Task Team would be launched soon and CAT is aware of some of the people who have been conducted to be part of the group. “However, it has been 19 months since the HLP recommended urgent interventions. The other four interventions are related to putting a cap on the industry’s growth without complicating the exit trajectory. Without the animal census, welfare audit and the moratorium on new facilities,  animals and breeding, this problem will just continue to escalate – which is what we believe has been happening since the production of the HLP.” He said that the policy framework is appropriate with the exception of clause 2.4, which is confusing issues and contemplating that some of the businesses will be allowed to continue.

He said that the Portfolio Committee could assist by encouraging the Department to implement the recommendations from his presentation with urgency. He said that CAT is mindful of some complexities in implementing some of the recommendations because there is still confusion about who bears the welfare mandate, between the DALRRD and DFFE. “We think this issue requires some bilateral discussions. The welfare and conservation communities are willing to play their part”. He said that CAT is unaware of any audits implemented besides the HLP report's recommendation. He said he is concerned that many captive facilities are not fully compliant and continue to kill these animals. “We are not aware of any monitoring of the industry outside the work of the NSPCA. They were only able to visit hundreds of these facilities in a year, indicating that the whole industry is not covered at all. Therefore, the audit and monitoring framework remains inadequate.” He added that the lack of implementation arises from the complexity of ending an industry that has been substantially permitted by the provincial government in the past. CAT is asking for no issuing of new permits to allow a natural sun setting of the industry and no future growth.” He said that the employers in these industries are minimum wage workers who face substantial hardships with the jobs. “From time to time, there are reports in the media, of people who have been injured or killed by these wild animals. The level of work is not regulated, and the rights of the workers are not well protected.” He said there is no evidence of action from the Department of Labour or any other government bodies regarding protecting workers in the lion captivity industry. He added that there is a broad consensus in captive lion breeding that this type of hunting is morally and practically unacceptable. The lions are totally vulnerable and have zero possibility of an escape. He said that some hunting organisations had even viewed this type of hunting with distaste. Mr Gerrans said that South Africa has robust mechanisms. 

and laws to manage the hunting of specific species under the Biodiversity Act. “I would suggest that we do not confuse the question of active lion breeding industry with the broader questions of whether wild animals are public resources or property of the land owner. I would be pleased to have this discussion in a separate meeting with the Committee”. He recommended that the Committee must engage with the Department and welfare organisation to fast-track the recommendations. The Committee should also foster stronger relationships between the DFFE and DALRRD, and ensure that the DFFE respects its timeframes. He concluded that the task team should not have an open-ended mandate but should enforce stipulated timeframes to finalise the implementation and the mechanisms of HLP.

Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General, DFFE, said that a lot of the issues had been put forward by the presenter. She asked for the Department to be given an opportunity to respond comprehensively on this matter. She confirmed the commitment of the Department and the Minister in relation to the captive lion industry. She highlighted that there had been some progress made and the Minister has highlighted some of the elements of implementing the HLP recommendation. The DFFE has prioritised taking the White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use forward, as it will serve as an overarching government policy that deals with the issues of conservation and sustainable use, taking into consideration the duty of care of animals and well-being. She said that animal welfare is a mandate of DALRRD with the DFFE through a memorandum of understanding. There is an implementation plan with the DALRRD on dealing with animal welfare. She added that the Minister had established a panel in government to look into voluntary exit of captive lion breeders and ensure that all the HLP report recommendations are implemented. “We also need to ensure that we safeguard those jobs and come with other alternatives. We agree that voluntary exit will not be the only option. We would develop different models and plans to deal with bigger lion captive breeders to implement the best possible solutions”.

Ms Frances Craigie, Deputy Director-General (DDG):  Regulatory Compliance, DFFE, said there had been many discussions on the working groups that deal with compliance and enforcement around the auditing of the captive lion breeders. Audits have been conducted in the Free State, in collaboration with the NSPCA. She said that the Department is looking into developing a compliance strategy in line with the Lion Breeding Task Team to avoid contradicting the team's mandate. An Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI) Lekgotla was held on 14 November 2022, on enforcing compliance of the lion breeding industry. Four Paws were invited to the Lekgotla but could not make up. All the provincial authorities were present.

Timetables were set, and compliance strategies were developed. DFFE has also visited tiger facilities. The Department undertook a search and seizure process in 2021 at a particular house, and arrests were made. The Department also worked with the Vietnamese sting operation to seize the containers transporting lions last year.

Ms Flora Mokgohloa, DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation, DFFE, said that she would appreciate a report from the presenter so that the Department can analyse and provide comprehensive answers. The task team is likely to start its work before the end of this year. She noted the numerous issues raised by CAT on the Animal Protection Act. She recommended CAT share the presentation with DALRRD because non-compliance with the Animal Protection Act is their mandate. “We are not aware of any lion canning in the country. If there is, that is an illegal activity. If there are any recent incidents, we would welcome information and submit it to our regulation and compliance team.” There are 366 captive lion breeding facilities with approximately 7 979 lions. There are about 2 256 wild lions with limited habitat management.

She highlighted that there is no interbreeding between captive lions and wild ones. She also added that there had been no impact of poaching of wild lion populations. The Biodiversity Management Plan for lions is being developed regarding wild lions. After the White Paper finalisation, the Department can proceed with policy intervention regarding lions, in collaboration with DALRRD. Any welfare matters raised through the DFFE by welfare organisations are escalated to DALRRD. DALRRD is also in the process of amending the Animal Protection Act in consultation with the DFFE. She also asked to be given an opportunity to provide a comprehensive presentation of the interventions of the DFFE on captive-bred and wild lions. She asked how old the circulated footage was. “As far as we are aware, management authorities have not issued any permits since 2017/18. Therefore, no new facilities were opened. However, we welcome any information.” She added that there would be a compliance enforcement programme in 2022/23 with DFFE, management authorities, NSPCA and DALRRD to deal with animal welfare concerning Animal Protection   Act and NEMBA.

Follow-Up Questions
Mr Paulsen said that he is concerned that the DDG said she is unaware of any canned lion hunting taking place in the country, yet the presentation says otherwise. He asked Mr Gerrans to provide the Committee with the names of the facilities that are breeding lions in captivity for the purpose of hunting.

Mr Bryant expressed that he was disappointed by the response from the Department because they knew that this briefing would take place. He said it appears that the government officials are unprepared to answer the questions raised. The Portfolio Committee should ask questions and receive responses during the meeting. “Otherwise, what is the purpose of these meetings? We might just as well submit written questions. The Department is not taking this seriously”. He agreed that the White Paper is a very important piece of legislation and that does not mean that strategies cannot be executed in the interim. How many members have been selected as part of the task team? He said the Minister said that the DFFE received 40 Curricula Vitae (CVs), and there is no set date for the task team’s first meeting. Do you have any idea when this meeting will occur?

Mr Bryant said that the Task Team would have a short period to complete its work during the parliamentary process next year. He suggested that the Committee invite the Wildlife Ranching Association of South Africa to present on lion breeding and canned hunting to the Portfolio Committee. “We all watched that video, which I believe took place during 2018/2019 in a tree in a back garden, in which a lion was shot for more than 10 times. That, for me, is a canned hunt. I am very confused that the Department said that they have no record of canned hunting, unless the video was shot in a different country. But it was taken in South Africa.” He emphasised that DALRRD was supposed to take the lead on animal welfare legislation, and he urged the Committee to prioritise this legislation during the first quarter of next year.

Ms Mbatha thought that the Department would respond to some of the issues presented by CAT, including the arbour house issue, which is the responsibility of DALRRD and the zoonotic diseases. She said the previous presentation on captive lion breeding reflected on how the meat from the shot animals is donated to the neighbouring communities. “I am not surprised that the workers who dresses the bones get tuberculosis and other diseases from wild and tamed animals. I do not see the Department say anything about that. I am worried because it seems like the Department did not know that there will be this presentation”. She was worried about the joint compliance programme to be conducted in 2022/23 – she called for continuous and unannounced programme audits. She added that this joint programme must be monitored on a short-term basis to facilitate easier audits. She suggested the Department of Labour, which deals with occupational health and safety issues affecting the captive lion breeding industry workers. She requested NSPCA and the epidemiological section of the Department of Health to intervene. Can all these departments present in one meeting?

Mr Singh suggested that the first Committee meeting next year should be on the briefing by the DFFE on the comprehensive response to the questions raised today. In the meantime, any relevant information can be sent to the Committee. He asked if there is an association for the 366 captive lion breeding facilities. Are there any representatives that speak on their behalf? “We need to hear part of their story”, he added.

The Acting Chairperson agreed with the second taking of the issues in line with the responses provided earlier. He agreed with Mr Paulsen, and pleaded with CAT to provide any information on illegal captive lion breeding. He suggested that the Committee conducts an oversight visit to the areas affected with the relevant departments. He also agreed with Mr Singh that a story has two sides. He said that the Committee should be unequivocal and stretch for implementation of the HLP recommendations and all the related policies regarding captive and wild lion breeding. He asked the Department to have a comprehensive presentation on the captive, canned and wild lion breeding with clear progress on the biodiversity management plan. “We cannot have continuous conversations until our term comes to an end with no action”.

Mr Gerrans said that the lion bone judgement makes it very clear that the animal welfare legislative mandate in South Africa is with DALRRD, while the administration is shared between different departments. “The judgement, in our view, hold the DFFE and other departments responsible for considering animal welfare and protection in policy and implementation.” He said that CAT would be pleased to be given an opportunity to brief this Committee and DALRRD. He said that the relationship signed through an MOU between the DFFE and DALRRD regarding this issue is still at its early stage, and it is nowhere near maturity to functionally deal with the issues at hand. He added that he would be disappointed if no implementation in the captive lion breeding industry was made until the finalisation of the White Paper. He added that the presentation shared today has proved that the captive lion industry is not sustainable and abuses some of the wildlife resources of the country.

The DG said that the Minister had been consulting individuals to form the lion breeding task team, and 40 CVs were received. The Department will appoint about eight members to form part of the Task Team. The Minister has committed to a meeting before 14 December 2022. The Minister will take the panel and the task team through their key responsibilities, within set timeframes. She added that abettors are the responsibility of DALRRD. The Department is ready to deliver a comprehensive presentation during the last quarter of the financial year dependent on the portfolio’s allocated time.

Ms Mokgohloa said that matters related to animal health, abettor regulations, animal meat, and zoonotic diseases are regulated by DALRRD.

The Chairperson asked the Secretariat to put it on record that DFFE is shifting goalposts. “Clearly, when we are going to meet DALRRD, they would also tell us that some matters are the DFFE’s responsibility.” He asked the Secretariat to find time in the Committee’s hectic programme to schedule a meeting between DFFE and DALRRD. The Chairperson also supported Mr Bryant’s suggestion to schedule a briefing with the Wildlife Ranching  of Southern Africa.

Motion for desirability on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill

The motion of desirability was adopted.

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Clause-by-Clause deliberations

The Department took the Committee through a presentation on the clause by clause – deliberations on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Act.

[See presentation]

Ms Vinolia Grootboom, the Senior State Law Advisor, said that her office has discussed with the Department and agreed on the amendments. “We have nothing to really add to what the DFFE mentioned. We have indicated to the Department that we are here to assist the Portfolio Committee with A-list and further processing of the Bill”.

The Parliamentary Legal Advisor was absent to comment.

Mr Bryant has no objection to the proposed amendments but thought it worthwhile to mention the amount of work that the officials concerned have put in during the public hearings. He said he is heartened that the issues raised by the concerned stakeholders during the public hearings have been considered during the drafting and newly proposed amendments.

Ms Grootboom highlighted that words in brackets are deleted in the new amendment. She said that the proposed A-list would be sent to the Committee to be considered before the Members return to Parliament.

The meeting was adjourned.



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