South African Panel Recommends Canned Hunting Ban

PRETORIA, South Africa, October 25, 2005 (ENS) - A panel of experts hand picked by the South African environment minister has recommended that the hunting of any animals that originate from intensive wildlife production systems be banned. Since captive-bred animals are the ones used for trophy hunts in fenced areas, called canned hunts, the panel is advising that canned hunts should be prohibited in South Africa.

The panel also recommended the prohibition of hunting in South Africa's national and provincial parks.

van Schalkwyk

South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk (Photo courtesy UNEP)
Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk received the panel's report today. He appointed the panel in April to investigate and report on the issues of canned hunting of large predators, which he called a "despicable practice."

"One of the major recommendations that has been made is the prohibition of hunting of any animals that originate from intensive wildlife production systems. This already takes us further than the calls made for preventing the canned hunting of large predators alone," Schalkwyk said.

The panel was also asked to consider trophy hunting in the buffer zones around South Africa's national parks where fences have been removed.

“It became clear at the first meeting of the Panel that the issues at hand were much broader than just canned hunting and trophy hunting,” said the minister. “Hunting remains an integral part of South African life, and properly regulated it can make a substantial contribution to conservation management and economic growth."

"The unfortunate reality however is that hunting, at present, is not well regulated," Schalkwyk said. "With different policies set by different provinces, each with differing capacity to enforce them, there have been gaps and loopholes that have allowed abuses like canned hunting to exist unchecked."

For this reason, the minister explained, he decided to broaden the investigation of the Panel to review the hunting industry as a whole – including its importance to our economy, the practices within the industry, and the impacts of hunting on conservation and biodiversity.

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A hunter poses with his trophy lion in South Africa. (Photo courtesy Outdoor Safaris)
The Minister also requested that the panel develop draft Norms and Standards for the regulation of professional and recreational hunting.

In its report released today, the panel recommended a ban on captive breeding, except for scientific and conservation purposes.

The panel recommended transformation of the South African hunting sector through processes like a Black Economic Empowerment Charter and Scorecard. The government should formally recognize selected hunting organizations as professional bodies to accredit hunters and enforce codes of conduct and ethics in hunting, the panel said.

It is also recommended that a research forum, funded by a conservation levy on hunting permits, be established under the South Africa National Biodiversity Institute to coordinate the research needed for a more scientific approach to wildlife management.

The findings and advice of the panel were informed by public input as well as commissioned research – with 41 written submissions, 28 oral submissions, and four research papers were commissioned and considered by the Panel.

The Minster promised that the government "will act to eliminate rogue hunting practices, like canned hunting," but he said that to do so the government needs a detailed regulatory system. He said, "This report will make a significant contribution to the process of putting one in place."

Kukuzans Hunting Safaris and Tours is one company that offers canned hunts in South Africa. Lions that are roaming in fenced areas of 2,000 to 20,000 hectares are hunted on foot, the company says on its website.

"There is always a member from Nature Conservation in attendance to ensure that these Lions are not drugged, and that the hunt is completely ethical, fair and legal. This way we can assure you of a good quality animal in advance, on a seven day safari," Kukuzans says.

"Realistically," says Kukuzans, "one only has to look at the game ranching and hunting set-up in South Africa and Namibia, to realize that it is very unlikely that free roaming lion would still exist on a huntable scale."

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Hunter with a lion he has shot on a Kukuzans hunt. (Photo courtesy Kukuzans)
"Therefore, it would appear that most lion offered for hunting are, or have at some stage been captive, and have been released onto an adequately enclosed area to be hunted, Kukuzans says. "The value of ordinary game makes it unlikely that any economically minded game rancher will allow lion to roam freely on his ranch while waiting for a foreign hunter to come on safari!"

In announcing the formation of the panel in April, the minister said, "Our department is not, in principle, opposed to regulated, responsible hunting, but we believe that a framework is needed to bring greater clarity to issues like hunting and harmonizing land-use practices in areas adjoining national parks. Our new legislation will bring legal certainty to these issues in the future - ensuring that such relationships are dealt with in clear and defined contractual terms."

By early next year Schalkwyk said he will publish a departmental draft of the Norms and Standards for public comment. "We will then, in partnership with the provinces, craft national hunting regulations based on these Norms and Standards, which we will aim to also publish for comment in the first quarter of the year,” he said.

On the issue of canned hunting of large predators, draft Norms and Standards already have been gazetted for public comment. Speaking in Parliament in April, Schalkwyk said, "The public response has been overwhelming on an issue that is loaded with emotion and sentiment."

Considering the public comments and a report on the extent and scope of canned hunts in all nine provinces, the minister concluded that the draft Norms and Standards "do not go far enough to remove this cancer from our society."

"Definitions and the scientific base need to be tightened, monitoring, enforcement and compliance needs to be made more implementable, and sufficient powers need to be reserved by the national government to impose a partial or full moratorium on any hunting of large predators should specific provinces fail to successfully implement these standards," he said.

In commenting on the draft canned hunting Norms and Standards, the SanWild Wildlife Trust said that "the captive lion breeding industry that breed lion almost exclusively for the purposes of hunting, presented no conservation value at all. The industry has a purely commercial value benefiting a handful of mainly white South Africans."

The African wildlife conservation organization Born Free Foundation explains that it is not just the death of the captive-bred animals that outrages opponents, but the whole process.

"In the case of lions, the breeders usually remove the cubs when they are three-four days old. This is extremely stressful for the lioness, with her deeply ingrained maternal instincts but it does induce her into another oestrus cycle making her more receptive to mating," Born Free explains.

Sex culling favoring male lion cubs takes place at this stage, the organization says. Hunters like to kill male lions because their manes look impressive in the final photo of the hunter standing beside the body, so most of the female cubs may be killed.

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Dr. Crispian Olver, a former director-general of the South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, chaired the expert panel on hunting. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
"In the trophy hunting of wild lions, this adult male selection can have far-reaching impacts on pride dynamics," Born Free says. "If the dominant male of a pride is killed, this leaves the way open for pride take-overs by male outsiders, who will usually kill the cubs of the previous dominant male, to bring the lionesses into season again. This means that he will sire his own cubs, rather than bringing up the cubs of another male. Ultimately, therefore, the death of just one "trophy" can result in the premature deaths of many lions."

Chaired by former Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Dr. Crispian Olver, the panel includes Khungeka Njobe (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), Tony Frost (WWF), Nick King (Endangered Wildlife Trust), Stewart Dorrington (Professional Hunters Association of South Africa), Marcelle Meredith (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Dr. Shibu Rampedi (Limpopo), Professor Koos Bothma (Centre for Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria), Dr. Holly Dublin (Chairperson of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN - representing international conservation), Lambson Maluleke (Community Representative), Mlamleli Pukwana (Food and Allied Workers Union), and a legal advisor.