Animal Rights Africa (ARA) has just released a key report which takes an in-depth look at hunting activities in South Africa. The Report is available online.
South Africa has the largest hunting industry in sub-Saharan Africa. It is Africa’s most popular destination for foreigners wishing to kill anything from elephants to duikers. South Africa also has a large domestic recreational hunting industry. In addition bushmeat hunting, usually referred to as ‘poaching’, takes place in many parts of the country.
South Africa remains the world’s top ‘canned’ lion hunting destination, the rhino hunting permit system has been repeatedly abused in recent years to launder horn into the illegal medicine market in the East and some hunters are shooting animals which live in the Kruger National Park and cross unfenced boundaries into private and provincial nature reserves.
Over 1000 lions were killed in 2008 at a time when most people believed the industry had been stopped. It has not and still continues pending a court appeal. The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has no current figures for the number of lions hunted.
According to research by the University Of North West in Potchefstroom, of more than a million wild animals are killed by hunters every year, some for meat but some just because they have large horns, tusks, or ‘pretty’ coats. Some, like African wild cats and genets, for example, are killed simply for fun and target practice. The Government supports this killing, arguing that hunting in South Africa is in line with concept of ‘sustainable utilisation of natural resources’. Ethics and scientific justification appear not to come into it.
Some hunters themselves argue that quest for increased economic returns and bigger trophy animals sometimes override what they view as “accepted practice”. Some private farms are overstocked and also populated with species that do not occur in the region in order to generate greater hunting income, hybrid and colour-variant animals are specially bred for hunting despite the disapproval of formal hunting organisations and in many instances animals have no chance of escape and are shot under conditions that amount to ‘canned hunting’.
But despite the size of the hunting industry in South Africa it is poorly monitored, partly because many provincial departments are cash strapped and many experience skills shortages. The overall picture of what happens in the hunting industry is further clouded by poor record-keeping at provincial and national government level. Animals are suffering extensively as a result.
Although South African National Parks (SANParks) has regularly denied that animals from the Kruger National Park are shot in provincial and private nature reserves that share unfenced boundaries with the Kruger, international hunters boast that they have killed elephant and buffalo which have crossed from the park. In the past SANParks has claimed that these animals are res nullius (i.e. they belong to no-one) once they leave the formal Kruger Park area and enter provincial and private reserves but this argument is irrational bearing in mind that: SANParks has agreed that the Kruger’s boundary fences be removed to allow the movement of animals; acknowledges that animals do indeed move freely between the areas; sits on management committees of these reserves; and also helps decide the hunting quotas.
Said ARA spokesperson, Michele Pickover, “SANParks recently acknowledged, contrary to previous denials, that animals move freely between these areas. However it refuses to publically acknowledge they may be shot. It is astounding that South Africa’s precious heritage, in the form of animals that move across imaginary boundaries from the Kruger National Park (which is widely regarded as a national asset and one of the jewels of the country’s conservation programme), are intentionally being allowed to be hunted and killed for profit with the fervent support and consent of the South African government and all its conservation agencies. Ordinary South Africans should be extremely concerned.”
The argument here is not whether hunting is legal in South Africa, it is whether SANParks is fulfilling its mandate to protect animals within National Parks. Allowing animals to be shot in areas which, as tourist operators, some hunters and SANParks themselves advertise, are part of an unfenced natural area which forms the Greater Kruger National Park is, we believe, a contravention of this mandate and the organisations’ responsibility to the people of South Africa in terms of the Protected Areas Act, 57 of 2003 (as amended by Act 31 of 2004), which prohibits certain ‘extractive activities’ in national parks, including hunting.
If the Government approves of the hunting of animals that cross from Kruger into provincial and private reserves they should proudly say so publicly – in other worlds Government must tell South Africa and the world that they don’t mind if national assets are killed for the enrichment of a few hunting outfitters and entertainment of a handful of rich foreigners.
Hunting, and the ethics of allowing it, in South Africa is in urgent need of widespread public scrutiny, debate and action. Urgently needed are new, ethics-based approaches to wildlife conservation. However, the way conservation is currently practiced in South Africa has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.
ARA believes hunting is an incorrect strategy to preserve Africa’s wildlife heritage and to promote ecotourism. Moreover, humanity has a duty of compassion and humanity towards animals and also at stake are issues of justice. The time is overdue for individuals, civil society and governments to recognise animals as complex, living beings, rather than as tools, objects and trophies.
Based on our Report, ARA believes that:
1. The entire concept of res nullius in relation to national, and provincial parks, needs to be scrapped.
2. There should be a national public consultation and review process of the 1996 Agreement signed between the National Parks Board (now SANParks) and the APNR, including the 1993 removal of the fences between the APNR and the Kruger National Park.
3. There is an urgent need for a widespread and public debate on the concept of sustainable utilisation in relation to hunting.
4. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive, transparent and public examination and investigation of the hunting industry. Should this study be undertaken the South African public will be appalled at what happens in South Africa’s bloody and ruthless hunting industry and will call for a speedy end to a practice which has no place in the modern world. The South African government should impose a moratorium on hunting until the findings of this public enquiry have been released.
5. Given that it is non-consumptive, ethical wildlife ecotourism which is a sustainable strategy to protect wildlife while also meeting human needs the government should be switching more land to photographic use and away from hunting.
6. Government conservation agencies (provincially and nationally) must publicly make available, through websites, up-to-date applications for hunting permits and hunting statistics.
7. Tourists need to be more proactive in informing themselves about which hunting and breeding destinations in South Africa are doubling up as ecotourism destinations and avoid choosing such places.
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