Parliament’s environment committee has accused the departments of environment and agriculture of dragging their feet over the ending of captive lion breeding and canned hunting.
In a special session on captive lion breeding this week, all members of Parliament’s environment committee expressed disappointment at the Department of Environment’s failure to implement its own recommendations to phase out the practice.
Members across all party lines grilled representatives of the department who, they said, came unprepared and whose answers to their questions were unacceptable.
The department’s Flora Mokgohloa said she was unaware that canned hunting was taking place as it was illegal and had no evidence that wild lions were being poached.
“Enough is enough,” said committee member IFP’s Narend Singh, “the department is not taking our or its own High Level Panel recommendations on this and it’s unacceptable.”
Dave Bryant of the DA accused the department of fobbing off the parliamentary committee and Nazier Paulsen of the EFF said that all hunting of lions should be outlawed. Singh demanded a full report on the issue from the department early next year. Committee chair Ntibi Modise agreed and suggested that committee members make unannounced visits to breeding facilities.
The discussion followed a presentation by Tony Gerrans, director of the Humane Society International-Africa, initiated by the Conservation Action Trust. He told the committee there were 336 captive facilities breeding between 10,000 and 12,000 lions in mostly poor conditions. There were only around 3,000 wild lions — a reduction of 43% over a 20-year period.
Breeders had received repeated warnings from the NSPCA over breeding conditions, which included inadequate diet, hygiene, shelter, vet treatment, enrichment and slaughter. He said poor conditions increased the risk of zoonic (animal-to-human) diseases and breeding farms provided a cover for the illegal trade of animal parts and the poaching of wild lions.
Captive lions were of no value to conservation, he told parliamentarians, and breeding farms provided few and often dangerous unskilled jobs. The industry was also inflicting reputational damage on the country’s tourist industry.
Following the 1997 Cook Report, documentaries like Blood Lions and Lions, Bones and Bullets, Unfair Game and various scathing books, there was no shortage of bad publicity to deter potential visitors. The breeding industry was also undermining post-Covid economic recovery.
Direct demands by the environment committee were being blatantly ignored, it appeared. These included a 2018 parliamentary colloquium which called on the environment department (DFFE) to “initiate a policy and legislative review of… breeding lions for hunting… and lion bone trade with a view to ending this practice” and to conduct an audit of lion breeding facilities to ensure that they complied with legislation.
The DFFE was also to “present a clear programme of work on how they intend to address animal welfare and health issues” which straddled the mandates of the environment and agriculture departments, outlining clear timeframes for achieving this. These resolutions were endorsed and accepted by the National Assembly.
This position was amplified by the High Level Panel on the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinos, which recommended “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 industry, it said, posed risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funded 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.
Despite these injunctions, said Gerrans, the departments had failed to halt the sale of lion derivatives, the hunting of captive lions, tourist interaction with lions, the issue of hunting permits to shoot captive lions, prohibition of continued breeding or put in place sterilisation or euthanasia.
“Captive lion breeding continues… no permits have been revoked or amended, no effect has been given to recent court judgments regarding addressing animal welfare and illegal exports of lion bones have been found since the publication of the HLP [High Level Panel] report.”
He called on the departments to immediately:
- implement the actions recommended by the HLP and the resolutions of Parliament;
- extend the protection to all big cats in captivity;
- regulate the Animal Protection Act to prevent the suffering of wild animals;
- introduce regulations to prohibit activities affecting the wellbeing of wild animals and the suffering of captive lions; and
- convene an Animal Welfare Colloquium to address how the One Welfare principle can be adopted into wildlife management in South Africa.
The chairperson, Ntibi Modise, concluded by airing his frustration with the two departments concerned.
“I want it put on record that we can’t be meeting with the DFFE (Environment) and they tell us the issue belongs to DALRRD (Agriculture) who, when we meet them, they say the problem belongs to the DFFE. We must meet them together so they can point fingers at each other (in our presence). Maybe then we will get solutions.” DM/OBP
Original article: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-11-29-political-parties-agree-captive-lion-breeding-must-end/?refresh=cache