Canned lion hunt­ing dam­ag­ing Brand SA

Why is the gov­ern­ment pan­der­ing to a hand­ful of right-wing breed­ers and hunters’ greed at the ex­pense of our rep­u­ta­tion as a coun­try that pro­motes eth­i­cal and au­then­tic tourism?

The Mercury - - NEWS - Shannon Ebrahim

ANY­ONE who has watched the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed doc­u­men­tary Blood Li­ons will agree that the prac­tice of hunt­ing cap­tive bred li­ons is cruel, bar­baric and macabre. Two years ago the South African gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ted to mount­ing public con­cern over canned lion hunt­ing.

Fol­low­ing stake­holder con­sul­ta­tions in 2015, the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs (DEA) largely ig­nored the in­put of con­ser­va­tion groups, and sided with the breed­ers who raise li­ons in cages in or­der to be shot and killed by for­eign thrill-seek­ers.

The irony is that the breed­ers and hunters from 200 farms across the coun­try are known for their re­ac­tionary views.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence, nearly all of these op­er­a­tors come out of the apartheid era,” says lead con­ser­va­tion­ist Ian Mich­ler who fea­tured in Blood Li­ons. “With a very nar­row, con­ser­va­tive and util­i­tar­ian ap­proach to wildlife and the en­vi­ron­ment, they are now mak­ing huge prof­its by, charg­ing up to $50 000 (R680 000) to kill a black-maned lion.

“Most of these char­ac­ters have never cared for animal rights, nor for hu­man rights for that mat­ter.”

It seems this is a fine ex­am­ple of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal.

Why is our gov­ern­ment pan­der­ing to the greed of a hand­ful of right-wing breed­ers and hunters at the ex­pense of our rep­u­ta­tion as a coun­try that pro­motes eth­i­cal and au­then­tic tourism, and en­gages in the re­spon­si­ble util­i­sa­tion of wildlife? Why are we pre­pared to en­dan­ger Brand South Africa as well as our lion pop­u­la­tion that is fac­ing the high risk of ex­tinc­tion, and set­ting quo­tas on sell­ing their body parts – all for the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit of few breed­ers?

South Africa is left with only around 3 000 li­ons in the wild, while 8 000 are be­ing bred in cap­tiv­ity in or­der to be shot by hunters, the ma­jor­ity of whom come from the US.

Two to three cap­tive li­ons are killed every day in South Africa.

The well-fi­nanced and united front put for­ward by the breed­ers has con­vinced the DEA of the myth that the breed­ing of cap­tive li­ons helps to save the wild pop­u­la­tion.

All the con­ser­va­tion­ists agree there is no ev­i­dence to back that up.

A num­ber of ex­perts say cap­tive lion breed­ing for hunt­ing has in­creased the cases of wild lion poach­ing as breed­ers need a con­stant sup­ply of wild li­ons to stop in-breed­ing.

Last month the DEA set a quota of 800 lion car­casses of cap­tive bred li­ons that are al­lowed to be ex­ported an­nu­ally.

All ex­perts agree this will prob­a­bly pro­mote the de­mand in Asia, as lion parts are highly sought after for use in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine as they are be­ing used as a sub­sti­tute for tiger bones.

Dur­ing the 2015 stake­holder con­sul­ta­tions, the DEA fo­cused on the South Africa Preda­tor As­so­ci­a­tion (a pri­vate body set up to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of breed­ers), the Confederation of Hunters As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa, SA Hunters and Game As­so­ci­a­tion of SA, and the Pro­fes­sional Hunters As­so­ci­a­tion of SA.

Ac­cord­ing to Karen Trendler, who was in­volved in the mak­ing of Blood Li­ons, the 2015 con­sul­ta­tions were largely one-sided and the in­put of con­ser­va­tion­ists was ig­nored.

There is not one con­ser­va­tion group that sup­ports cap­tive lion breed­ing for hunt­ing pur­poses. Among those that have come out strongly against it are the African Lion Work­ing Group (com­pris­ing 100 reg­is­tered sci­en­tists), En­dan­gered Wildlife Trust, Pan­thera, Wild­lands, Wild Cat Con­ser­va­tion Group, In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (key global con­ser­va­tion lead­ers), the In­ter­na­tional Fund for Animal Wel­fare, Four Paws, Coali­tion Against Lion Hunt­ing, the NSPCA, and the Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional.

When En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Edna Molewa was in­vited to at­tend the screening of Blood Li­ons at the Dur­ban In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in 2015 she de­clined, but the Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment of Botswana flew in for the screening. The Pro­fes­sional Hunters As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa also at­tended and has since come out strongly against preda­tor breed­ing and hunt­ing, say­ing: “It is clear the prac­tices are no longer de­fen­si­ble.”

SA Out­fit­ters, a pro­fes­sional hunt­ing body, also put out a strong state­ment in July op­posed to the hunt­ing of cap­tive-bred li­ons.

Un­for­tu­nately the DEA has bought into the spu­ri­ous claim of the breed­ers that the in­dus­try is a source of job cre­ation and con­trib­utes to lion con­ser­va­tion. Noth­ing can be fur­ther from the truth. At most the in­dus­try cre­ates around 300 direct jobs, and far greater em­ploy­ment would be cre­ated if the breed­ing farms went back to be­ing maize and cat­tle farms.

Trendler says the in­dus­try doesn’t ben­e­fit com­mu­ni­ties and the work­ing con­di­tions on the breed­ing farms are some of the worst in terms of labour re­la­tions.

Mich­ler says cap­tive li­ons can never be re­leased into the wild as they are ge­net­i­cally con­tam­i­nated, a dan­ger to hu­mans as they are no longer afraid of them and they would not sur­vive due to be­ing out-com­peted by other li­ons and hye­nas.

The World Wildlife Fund in South Africa has clearly stated that there is no con­ser­va­tion ben­e­fit to cap­tive lion breed­ing and hunt­ing, and it is un­eth­i­cal.

The mes­sage be­ing cre­ated is that “South Africa is al­low­ing Africa’s most iconic species, a mag­nif­i­cent apex preda­tor to be bred and con­fined to cages in or­der to be killed by rich for­eign­ers,” says Mich­ler. Im­ages of South Africa’s cap­tive li­ons which are fed and main­tained poorly, and rarely re­ceive vet care, are be­ing screened through­out the world.

As Derek Hanekom ad­mit­ted when he was Min­is­ter of Tourism, the in­dus­try is dam­ag­ing Brand South Africa.

The DEA is swim­ming against the tide. Ac­cord­ing to a poll con­ducted by con­ser­va­tion group Four Paws, 76% of South Africans be­lieve that cap­tive lion hunt­ing is un­eth­i­cal. In 2013 Botswana banned all tro­phy hunt­ing. In 2015 Aus­tralia, France and the Nether­lands banned all im­ports of lion tro­phy from South Africa. And last year US Fish and Wildlife is­sued a di­rec­tive against im­port­ing cap­tive-bred lion tro­phies, and in­cluded lion on its en­dan­gered species list.

There needs to be a South African so­lu­tion to this tragedy. At the end of the day it comes down to an is­sue of moral­ity, and Brand South Africa is at stake.

Ebrahim is In­de­pen­dent Me­dia’s group for­eign ed­i­tor.

to be stuck in such a sit­u­a­tion (as a refugee) … the lone­li­ness is dif­fer­ent.”

The Ro­hingya youths have es­tab­lished their lit­er­acy and em­pow­er­ment ini­tia­tives partly be­cause of gaps in ser­vices and the lack of stay­ing power of many aid or­gan­i­sa­tions. They de­scribe a lack of funds as pre­vent­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and ex­pan­sion.

“The chal­lenge with this job is that for me to help such peo­ple, it re­quires money,” one ex­plained, “but in my com­mu­nity peo­ple are il­lit­er­ate and poor. How will they pay?”

More­over, these self-or­gan­ised com­mu­ni­ties can ex­ac­er­bate – or cre­ate – com­mu­nity hierarchies, dis­crim­i­na­tion and ex­clu­sion. As an­other refugee in Delhi ex­plained: “The com­mu­nity lead­ers are se­lected on the ba­sis of their con­nec­tiv­ity with the NGOs.” This so of­ten means men with a com­mand of English.

While self-or­gan­ised groups pro­vide es­sen­tial safety nets for refugees in Delhi, they are clearly not a re­place­ment for gov­ern­men­tal and NGO ser­vices. In­dia not only ur­gently re­quires a ro­bust, in­clu­sive le­gal frame­work that pro­tects refugees, the gov­ern­ment and NGOs also need to re-ap­proach how they can bet­ter sup­port vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties.

This in­creased sup­port re­quires the gov­ern­ment to change its re­stric­tive po­si­tion on hu­man­i­tar­ian and de­vel­op­ment NGOs. Too many are be­ing weak­ened or closed down with re­cent changes in laws reg­u­lat­ing for­eign fund­ing. Many ar­gue this is driven by ide­o­log­i­cal mo­tives to quash dis­sent. This is ex­ac­er­bat­ing the pres­sure on al­ready vul­ner­a­ble refugee com­mu­ni­ties to make their own safety nets. – The Con­ver­sa­tion

Field is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Jin­dal School of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, OP Jin­dal Global Univer­sity.

PIC­TURE: EPA

Ac­tivists demon­strate against canned lion hunt­ing out­side a pop­u­lar lion park near Jo­han­nes­burg. South Africa is left with only around 3 000 li­ons in the wild, while 8 000 are be­ing bred in cap­tiv­ity in or­der to be shot by hunters, most of whom come from the US, says the writer.

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