South Africa Curbs Canned Lion Hunting

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, February 20, 2007 (ENS) - There will be no more canned hunting of large animals in South Africa after June 1, South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk announced today. A canned hunt takes place on a fenced piece of private property where a hunter can pay a fee to shoot a captive animal.

Minister van Schalkwyk today published regulations covering threatened and protected species. The regulations are the result of three years of consultation between government, civil society, the wildlife industry and animal welfare groups, the minister said.

"We are putting an end, once and for all, to the reprehensible practice of canned hunting," said van Schalkwyk, who is himself a hunter.

"South Africa has a long-standing reputation as a global leader on conservation issues," van Schalkwyk said. "We can not allow our achievements to be undermined by rogue practices such as canned lion hunting."

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Captive-bred lions in South Africa (Photo courtesy SanWild)
While the hunting of captive bred predators has not been completely stopped, the new rules will make it tougher to qualify for hunting permits.

"The regulations specifically prohibit hunting large predators and rhinoceros that are 'put and take' animals," said the minister. "In other words, a captive bred animal that is released on a property for the purpose of hunting within 24 months."

The regulations make allowance for the shooting of a captive raised animal two years after it is released, because then it is presumed to be wild.

But conservationists object to that loophole in the new rules. Louise Joubert of the San Wildlife Trust, which lobbied for tougher regulations, said once a lion is used to being cared for and fed by people, it is never again truly wild.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, is also concerned. "To introduce captive bred predators into the wild without adequate preparation will result in suffering and starvation before being hunted. These animals will not adapt to the wild and be able to hunt without a proper protocol of supported release, said Neil Greenwood, campaign researcher for IFAW.

Animal Rights Africa spokesperson Steve Smit says the new regulations do not prevent the practice of canned hunting in any way. He claims the Department of the Environment and Tourism marginalized animal rights groups in the drafting of the legislation and instead consulted with only provincial conservation authorities and the hunting industry.

"Between them they have agreed on legislation that panders to the profit-driven bloodlust of the hunters and breeders," says Smit.

Chris Mercer of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting is concerned that conservation officials may fail to enforce the new regulations.

"The same conservation officials that created the problem of canned hunting in the first place have been given the task of enforcing the regulations," says Mercer.

Overall, Greenwood said IFAW is encouraged by the new legislation. "However we remain deeply concerned with the welfare of between 3,000 and 5,000 captive bred predators currently held in facilities throughout South Africa."

"Some breeders may not qualify for licences in terms of the stringent new regulations and will therefore be faced with the dilemma of what to do with these lions, cheetahs and other predators, said Greenwood.

The South African Predator Breeders' Association, SAPBA, has said that breeders may have to euthanize the estimated 3,000 captive bred lions in the country, many of which were bred to supply the canned hunting industry.

SAPBA was established last May to convince Minister van Schalkwyk not to ban canned lion hunting and breeding, but to merely regulate the industry and "rid it of unethical operators."

SAPBA is critical of the new regulations, saying they will result in the total destruction of a "legitimate and sustainable industry that is of national importance."

Minister van Schalkwyk said today that "the regulations signal the start of a cleanup of the hunting industry. They lay the basis for a well regulated and ethical hunting and game farming industry in South Africa."

The regulations introduce a uniform national system for the registration of captive breeding operations, commercial exhibition facilities, game farms, nurseries, scientific institutions, sanctuaries and rehabilitation facilities.

These institutions will be required to meet strict criteria. For the first time, provision will be made for the recognition of hunting organizations and the application of codes of ethical conduct and good practice.

Hunting thick skinned animals and large predators with a bow and arrow will be prohibited, and hunting from vehicles will no longer be allowed.

For the first time, said the minister, nationally listed species will have uniform conservation status across the country.

van Schalkwyk

South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk participates in the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
"The same legal standards will apply throughout the country, closing loopholes and removing discrepancies between provinces," he said.

A broad range of restricted activities will now require permits.

"The illicit trading of endangered fish, bird and plant species, like cycads, will be rooted out," said the minister. "Government will have new muscle to ensure that our biodiversity is utilized in an ecologically sustainable way."

In order to meet South Africa's commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, the government is establishing a national scientific authority, to replace the current fragmented system.

The new regulations are available online at: www.environment.gov.za