Sharika Regchand, News24 | May 5, 2021
Minister Barbara Creecy’s announcement recently that South Africa will no longer breed captive lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially has been welcomed.
The minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, Creecy, instructed her department to put processes in place to halt the sale of captive lion derivatives (including the appropriate disposal of existing lion bone stockpiles and lion bone from euthanised lions), the hunting of captive bred lions and tourist interactions with captive lions.
This comes after the release of a report of the 2019 high-level panel that was appointed to review policies, regulatory measures, practices and policy positions that are related to hunting, trade, captive keeping, management and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
Creecy said the panel identified that the captive lion breeding 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 negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade.
Dr Louise de Waal, director and campaign manager of Blood Lions (whose goal is to bring an end to canned hunting and the exploitative breeding of lions and other predators on farms across SA), said that the organisation has campaigned against this “cruel and unethical industry” and its spin-off activities for many years.
“We are extremely happy by the minister’s decision to bring an end to the commercial captive lion breeding industry”, said de Waal.
Currently, 8 000 to 12 000 lions and thousands of other big cats, including tigers and cheetahs, are bred and kept in captivity in more than 350 facilities in mostly the Free State, North West, Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces, she said.
These predators are bred for commercial purposes, including interactive tourism, “canned” hunting, lion bone trade and live exports.
Global animal welfare organisation, Four Paws, has also welcomed the minister’s decision.
Fiona Miles, director of the organisation in SA, said, “We commend the minister and her department for taking this brave decision and offer our full support for her and her team for the mammoth task that lies ahead.”
She said the “one welfare” approach and minimum norms and standards for welfare are among the key recommendations, along with considering the delegation of powers for welfare inspections to a broader group of suitably qualified people.
In terms of captive rhino, Creecy said the panel made recommendations as to how partnership with private owners of rhino can lead to strong conservation outcomes for the species, while enhancing potential benefit streams.
“We have accepted that the country adopt the recommended positions on ivory and rhino horn trade, such that we will not be making proposals to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) for further trade in these derivatives until certain conditions have been met.”
She said South Africa protects the largest component of the world’s rhino population and intend to play a global leadership role in this.
“For elephants, although we hold a relatively small portion of the population, South Africa wants to play a key role to bring African consensus on ivory trade in the interest of ivory trade on elephant.
“We will be initiating a participatory process, with recognition of the important role and contribution by private owners, including some major ecotourism-based rhino populations, to rhino conservation, to find win-win solutions to safeguard rhino conservation and broaden and deepen the bio-economy associated with rhino,” said Creecy.
She said the implementation of the panel’s recommendations will greatly transform the practices within the wildlife industry, enhance conservation of our environment and these species, invigorate the rural economies, as well as empower traditional practices, leadership, and healers.
“Work has already begun, on a draft policy position that covers the key policy implications of the recommendations, which will shortly be published for public participation.”