"The panel recommends that South Africa does not captive -breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially," says Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. PHOTO: Department of Environmental Affairs/Twitter

SOUTH Africa must bring an end to canned lion breeding for hunting and lion bone trade, according to Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy.

Creecy was speaking on Sunday during the release of the High Level Panel report on the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.

The report has recommended that Parliament must review policies, regulatory measures, practices and policy positions that are related to hunting, trade, captive keeping, management and handling of the country’s Big Five.

“I have today, 2 May 2021, released the report of the High-Level Panel that was appointed to review policies, regulatory measures, practices and policy positions that are related to hunting, trade, captive keeping, management and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros,” said Creecy.

According to the report of the Portfolio Committee, which was later adopted by Parliament, there was a predominant view that the captive lion breeding industry did not contribute to conservation and was doing damage to South Africa’s conservation and tourism reputation.

The report further states that captive lion hunting for breeding purposes was threatening to harm the proud conservation image of the country, and the Brand South Africa.

“The Portfolio Committee, therefore, requested the department, as a matter of urgency, to initiate a policy and legislative review with a view to putting an end to this practice,” said Creecy.

“Given that there were a number of other burning issues related to other iconic species such as rhino (escalating poaching, rhino horn trade), elephant (ivory trade), and leopard (threats such as illegal offtake of damage causing leopards, poorly managed trophy hunting, trade in leopard skin for religious and traditional use) the department decided to include these in the terms of reference of the Panel in order to get a holistic view of the pertinent issues.”

The Portfolio Committee noted that this practice has attracted a considerable degree of international outcry against it, from both the pro-sustainable use groups, comprising mainly the hunting associations, and the anti-sustainable use groups, consisting of animal welfare non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

According to Creecy, the panel’s report envisages “secured, restored, and rewilded natural landscapes with thriving populations of elephant, lion, rhino, and leopard, as indicators for a vibrant, responsible, inclusive, transformed, and sustainable wildlife sector”.

Creecy said the report contained a clear vision, with 18 goals and 60 recommendations.

“I must say it is remarkable that a group of people with different views on the management of these iconic species was able to achieve consensus on all recommendations, except those recommendations that deal with captive lion and rhino breeding,” she added.  

“In terms of captive lion and captive rhino breeding, where there were majority and minority recommendations, and having applied my mind, we will be adopting the majority recommendations on these issues.”

Creecy said in adopting the report’s recommendations, it was important to indicate what the key outcomes for the country would include:

  • The development of a shared vision for the sector;
  • Improved policy and legislative coherence, which will provide certainty and a stable base for growth and development;
  • Better balancing our economic, social, cultural and natural heritage needs, including re-imagining the role of protected areas, both state and others, in contributing to ecologically sustainable rural development;
  • Placing communities living with wildlife at the centre of our thinking so we focus on enhancing human-wildlife co-existence, and transformative approaches to access and benefit sharing for communities living on the edges of protected areas;
  • A renewed focus on transforming the ownership and management of the commercial wildlife economy particularly in the eco-tourism and authentic hunting sectors;
  • The ending of certain inhumane and irresponsible practices that greatly harm the reputation of South Africa and the position of South Africa as a leader in conservation; and finally,
  • Contributing to ensuring Africa’s coherence and unity in relation to conservation; sustainable use and management of these species.
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