The South African National Parks (SANParks) has welcomed the report of a High-Level Panel into the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
The panel was appointed by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy to review policies, regulatory measures, practices and policy positions that are related to the hunting, trade, captive keeping, management and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
SANParks Chief Executive Officer Fundisile Mketeni said as the body tasked with the conservation of the country’s natural heritage, SANParks sees the release of the report as a historic moment that will assist in enforcing responsible management of wildlife in the country.
“This report will assist in building capacity for key decision-makers to understand wildlife legislation and to support responsible wildlife management and environmental sustainability,” Mketeni said.
Creecy released the report on Sunday. The panel recommended that South Africa halt the captive breeding of lions, keeping lions in captivity, and using captive lions or their derivatives commercially.
SANParks welcomed the prohibition set on canned-lion hunting.
“This paves a positive trajectory for South Africa considering the damaging view many tourists and conservation bodies held against these kinds of activities.
“However, SANParks hopes that the anticipated resultant growth in tourism will not only save jobs but will create new opportunities for those who depended on values chains linked to canned-lion hunting,” said Mketeni.
He said the country had found itself on a collision course with many partners in conservation including environmental non-governmental organisations, other member states in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and nature lovers who found activities such as captive breeding, of wild animals’ problematic in various ways.
“I have no doubt that this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, we will work hard as a collective to achieve the recommendations of the High-Level Panel report,” he said.
In addition, SANParks will play a critical role in supporting the implementation of the recommendations for the protection of iconic species which were the focus of the report such as rhino, elephant, leopard, and lion.
“SANParks will do everything within its power to support the transformation of the wildlife sector. The wildlife economy can play an important role in community development, particularly those communities living adjacent to national parks.
“If we are to hand over a better future to our next generation, it is imperative to enhance the responsible management of our protected areas and the conservation of these four iconic species.
“We take note of the great work done by the panel and we support the key recommendations which, in our view, will go a long way towards aligning our country’s protected areas with international best practice by giving effect to our national legislation,” Mketeni said.
The appointment of the Panel by the Minister in October 2019 came after the hosting of a colloquium on captive lion breeding in August 2018, which recommended an end to lion breeding in South Africa.
It was also in response to a number of emotive and complex conservation and sustainable use issues being raised by the public, particularly those involving keystone species.