Animal waste of use to muti trade
Body parts of hunted game can provide sustainable supply
● Hunters, game ranchers and traditional healers want to establish a new trading scheme for wild animal waste products and to test the market at a pilot sale in KwaZuluNatal this month.
Thousands of privately owned game animals from several species are hunted or slaughtered commercially for trophies, skins or meat every year — but the remnant body parts are often discarded because they have little commercial value to hunters.
However, some of these unused body parts — including bones, hooves, horns, skins, fats and oils — are in high demand by traditional healers in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere, and a new, regulated market could help to meet this demand and also relieve pressure on wild species that are hunted or trapped illegally for traditional medicine.
A study commissioned by the department of trade & industry suggests that more than 26-million South Africans use traditional medicine, mostly derived from wild plants and some animals.
The study was done in 2007 and showed then that the trade was valued at about R2.9bn a year, representing 5.6% of the national health budget at the time.
Pieter Swart of the South African Taxidermy & Tannery Association, who met nearly 200 traditional healers at a wildlife compliance and awareness workshop in Ulundi last month, said hunting associations and wildlife ranchers had established a new forum to explore commercial opportunities with Zululand healers.
“We are setting up a pilot project where our unused game products can be made available for sale.
“We have a lot of products that we think healers would like to use, and which can be obtained in a legal and sustainable manner instead of going to waste,” he said.
Swart hopes to hold a pilot sale before the end of the month, either at Ulundi or Nongoma in KwaZulu-Natal, to gauge demand.
“We are just waiting for a final wish list of products and quantities from healers which we can supply from a central facility in Gauteng, along with wildlife permits and other documentation to certify that the products were obtained legally.
“We can also certify the product origin so that healers know that the fat comes from an eland, rather than a cow, for example.”
Swart said it was difficult to establish the scale of demand for animal parts in the preparation of traditional medicine but his company, Afrikan Traders Online, believed there were more than 1,000 traditional healers and traders in the Zululand region alone.
Little research exists on the value and quantity of wild animal products in traditional medicine but there has been extensive research on the plant-based market.
Myles Mander from the Futureworks consultancy group conducted a study in 2007 which suggested that South African trade in mainly plant-based traditional medicines was worth about R2.9bn a year.
Mander and his colleagues estimated that more than 72% of the country’s black African population used traditional medicine — amounting to more than 26-million consumers at the time.
“The diversity in consumers shows that consumption of traditional medicine is a common practice across most sectors of the black African population, and that traditional medicine use is not confined to poor, rural and uneducated users.”
Mander also noted that traditional medicines were often more expensive than Western medicines supplied at local govern- ment clinics, dispelling the myth that traditional medicines were a cheaper alternative to conventional medicines.
However, he warned that the supply of material from about 771 wild plant species was not sustainable.
“Almost all the plants are harvested from the wild, with popular species becoming locally extinct and being traded at very high prices.”
Dlozelihle Buthelezi, a traditional healer at the Mona market at Nongoma, said several traditional healers found it difficult to get permits for certain animal products.
The Mona market is one of largest traditional pharmacies in the country, with up to 3,000 traders offering a variety of products for sale — including plants, roots and animal parts — to inyangas and to collectors who then resell these products at the Warwick Avenue market in Durban and at the Faraday and Mai-Mai markets in Johannesburg.
“How do you get a permit for an elephant bone, as an example?” asked Buthelezi.
“At the moment, the only way to get such a bone is through poaching. We don’t want that. We would like to get them legally.
“We are not interested in rhino horns because they are not used in traditional Zulu muti but sometimes we use rhino fat, and a healer has to hide that at the moment, even if the rhino died naturally.
“So we would like to get parts from certain animals that have died naturally or were hunted legally.”
Sifiso Miya, a deputy director of the national department of environmental affairs who addressed healers at the Ulundi workshop, said the possession and sale of wild animals and plants were regulated by several laws, including the Threatened or Protected Species regulations, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species known as CITES, and the Traditional Health Practitioners Act.
“The department and provincial conservation departments have been receiving increasing complaints from the public about a number of threatened species that are being illegally sold at muti markets around the country.
“In light of these, the department has been conducting compliance-awareness workshops to empower traders in the traditional medicine industry by providing knowledge about environmental laws and to enable them to play a meaningful role in the conservation of the country’s biodiversity,” Miya said.
Environmental officers wanted to promote sustainable use and ensure that traders selling threatened or protected products obtained the necessary permits, he said.
It was difficult to estimate the current number of permits, as most were issued separately by the nine provincial conservation agencies, he said.
However, annual permit costs ranged between R50 and R100 a person, depending on the products traded.
“We are also training more staff to raise awareness and to monitor compliance with laws, before we move into the enforcement and prosecution phase,” Miya said.
We have a lot of products that we think healers would like to use
South African Taxidermy & Tannery Association