‘She’s not the only grin­ning idiot’

SA loses more than 700 mostly cap­tive-bred li­ons a year to hunters in a R9bn-a-year in­dus­try

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - SHEREE BEGA

EVIL. Sadis­tic. Mass mur­derer. A bar­baric and dis­gust­ing blight on civil­i­sa­tion. This week, the hunter – US TV pre­sen­ter Melissa Bach­man – be­came the hunted.

It started on Face­book when Bach­man, the pre­sen­ter of a TV hunt­ing show and self-pro­claimed “hard­core hunter”, posted a smil­ing por­trait of her­self, gush­ing over a tro­phy lion kill in Lim­popo.

“An in­cred­i­ble day hunt­ing in South Africa! Stalked in­side 60 yards on this beau­ti­ful male lion … What a hunt.”

The pho­to­graph prompted out­rage and a fierce online pe­ti­tion call­ing on the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs to bar Bach­man from re-en­ter­ing the coun­try, de­cry­ing her as an “ab­so­lute con­tra­dic­tion to the cul­ture of con­ser­va­tion”. More than 300 000 have signed.

The celebrity hun­tress went to ground, shut­ting her Face­book page and re­strict­ing her Twit­ter ac­count. Hate mail has flooded into the Maroi Con­ser­vancy in Lim­popo, which fa­cil­i­tated her dream lion hunt.

“Next time you’re in our hood, please pop on down to Cape Town,” in­vited @Stroobz in an “open let­ter” prey­ing on Bach­man. “There’s a cou­ple of re­ally great folk dish­ing out ex­cel­lent hugs. With knives.”

For the SA Preda­tor As­so­ci­a­tion, which farms 5 000 “ranch li­ons” – cap­tive-bred for the hunt­ing in­dus­try – the anger is mis­di­rected: “It’s as if this lion is the last nail in the cof­fin of the African lion as a species.

“It comes from peo­ple that are to­tally mis­in­formed or… with a mind­set cre­ated by Walt Dis­ney,” said its pres­i­dent, Pi­eter Pot­gi­eter, who said Bach­man’s hunt was le­gal and a “clas­sic walk and stalk hunt, the ba­sis of the fair chase mode of hunt­ing. Ele­phant, lion and buf­falo and all other game are hunted in South Africa in a re­spon­si­ble and sus­tain­able man­ner… South Africa’s hunt­ing in­dus­try has en­gi­neered the sur­vival of sev­eral game species on the brink of ex­tinc­tion.”

The SA Hunters and Game Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, which pushes for a “re­spon­si­ble and le­gal” trade in lion bone, agrees. “It’s true that the hunt­ing of li­ons, leop­ards and ele­phants elicit strong emo­tions among an­i­mal lovers who do not un­der­stand the del­i­cate bal­ance and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of con­ser­va­tion, or the re­al­ity of ‘what pays, stays’. With­out hunters, South Africa would not be the world leader in con­ser­va­tion that it is to­day.”

The cap­tive-lion hunt­ing in­dus­try has ex­ploded since a De­cem­ber 2010 court rul­ing that partly favoured preda­tor breed­ers when the Supreme Court of Ap­peal found no ra­tional foun­da­tion for the stip­u­la­tion by for­mer En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Marthi­nus van Schalk­wyk that farmed preda­tors must fend for them­selves in an ex­ten­sive wildlife sys­tem for two years be­fore they can be hunted.

A re­port by the uni­ver­si­ties of Pre­to­ria and Cape Town, big cat body Pan­thera and Sweet Briar Col­lege, US, found the cap­tive-bred lion hunt­ing in­dus­try had grown “to the point where al­most twice the num­ber of lion tro­phies are ex­ported from South Africa as from all other African coun­tries com­bined”.

In 2009 and 2010, 833 and 682 lion tro­phies were ex­ported from South Africa. At least 645 bones/sets of bones were ex­ported in 2010, 75 per­cent to Viet­nam and China.

The farm­ing and hunt­ing of li­ons rakes in R9 bil­lion a year, say hunt­ing ad­vo­cates, with the in­dus­try strictly reg­u­lated and canned hunts ex­plic­itly for­bid­den. It costs from $13 500 (R136 700) for a lion hunt.

Chris Mercer of the Cam­paign Against Canned Hunt­ing said most wildlife hunted were “canned” to a de­gree. “Canned hunt­ing is any hunt where the tar­get an­i­mal is un­fairly pre­vented from es­cap­ing the hunter ei­ther by phys­i­cal con­straints (fenced en­clo­sures) or by men­tal con­straints ( be­ing han­drea­red and ha­bit­u­ated to hu­mans).”

“If you take that def­i­ni­tion, which I think meets the pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of canned hunt­ing, all hunt­ing of cap­tive bred an­i­mals is canned hunt­ing in SA… th­ese an­i­mals live their life in a cage and then they’re shot. It’s a par­ody of con­ser­va­tion. It’s ghastly.”

Mercer said lion farm­ing was a dan­ger to the fu­ture of wild li­ons of which there were fewer in South Africa than rhino – less than 3 000 roam fenced-in re­serves.

A re­port re­leased ear­lier this year by Pan­thera showed how bleak the out­look is for Africa’s li­ons, with nearly half fac­ing near ex­tinc­tion within the next 20 to 40 years with­out ur­gent con­ser­va­tion mea­sures. Fewer than 30 000 re­main in Africa in a quar­ter of their orig­i­nal habi­tat.

For Pro­fes­sor Craig Packer of Sweet­briar Col­lege, one of the au­thors of the cap­tive- bred lion study, South Africa’s wild li­ons are in good hands. “In com­par­ing the sta­tus of wild li­ons across the en­tire con­ti­nent, South Africa’s pop­u­la­tions are all thriv­ing. All of the parks are fenced and well man­aged. The SA lion farms ap­pear to be sat­is­fy­ing most of the de­mand for lion bones in Asia. I’ve not heard of any sig­nif­i­cant threat to wild li­ons from in­ter­na­tional trade for lion parts.”

The preda­tor as­so­ci­a­tion says ev­ery ranch lion hunted “saves” one in the wild. “The 4 000 to 5 000 ranch li­ons rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant lion pop­u­la­tion in the broader con­text of dwin­dling num­bers of the free roam­ing pop­u­la­tions,” adds Pot­gi­eter, who says cap­tive-bred li­ons can be suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced into the wild, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to re­pop­u­late lion habi­tats and re­serves in Africa.

Packer has doubts. “There aren’t very many li­ons left in the wild, so if canned hunt­ing were banned tomorrow, there’s no pos­si­ble way the same num­ber of wild li­ons would be shot. Farmed li­ons would only be suit­able for re­pop­u­lat­ing wilder­ness ar­eas if all the li­ons in Kruger, Pi­lanes­berg, Madikwe and Hluh­luwe- iM­folozi were to go ex­tinct. Re­pop­u­la­tion ef­forts have been suc­cess­fully con­ducted in many parts of SA, but th­ese al­ways in­volved truly wild li­ons – cap­tive li­ons are to­tally un­suit­able. SA’s wild li­ons are in no dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion, so the farm­ers’ claims are mere hyper­bole.”

Karen Trendler, a wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ex­pert, fears au­thor­i­ties have done lit­tle to po­lice the cap­tive lion in­dus­try, es­pe­cially in Lim­popo, North West and the Free State. “We do not want to see our wildlife farmed like do­mes­tic an­i­mals, which have been do­mes­ti­cated over thou­sands of years.

“This is a re­ally a sick and sor­did in­dus­try,” adds Mercer. “They’ve de­lib­er­ately pro­moted, never mind al­lowed and per­mit­ted, canned hunt­ing un­der the mis­guided be­lief that an­i­mal wel­fare is a bour­geoisie white con­cern which is unAfrican. You can’t just look at (Bach­man) in iso­la­tion. Take your anger from the ob­vi­ous un­sport­ing ex­e­cu­tion of a cap­tive an­i­mal by any­one who has a fin­ger big enough to pull a trig­ger and re­mem­ber this is hap­pen­ing all the time. The anger one feels to­wards her, the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion that one takes in so much cru­elty, is no dif­fer­ent to the grin­ning id­iots with their un­for­tu­nate vic­tims who are hunt­ing lion in SA ev­ery day.”

OUT­RAGE: Melissa Bach­man’s pic­ture of her­self with the lion she killed at the Maroi Con­ser­vancy.

ZE­BRA IN THE CROSSHAIRS: Bach­man hunts at the Maroi Con­ser­vancy.

CROC­O­DILE KILL: Melissa Bach­man bags a dan­ger­ous rep­tile.

AND AGAIN: Bach­man shoots an Alaska Black Bear.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.