State drags heels on lax laws
Eastern Cape is a hotspot for captive lion hunting and trade in bones
Despite a commitment from a parliamentary committee to take steps to eradicate canned and captive lion hunting in South Africa, the practice appears to be continuing unabated.
This comes after the emergence of a new report showing how lions are shot by hunters and their bones are used for “medicine” in southeast Asia.
The results of the year-long investigation, funded by British politician and philanthropist Lord Michael Ashcroft, were published in the UK’s Daily Mail last weekend.
Conservation groups estimate there are some 8,000 lions in captivity bred for bone, hunting, tourism and research in South Africa. Only 3,000 live in the wild.
Research by the North West University indicates the annual amount spent by trophy hunters in SA is about R3.6bn.
The Ashcroft probe into canned hunting, whereby predatory animals are bred in cages or fenced areas to be shot, is highly relevant to the Eastern Cape.
Ian Michler, whose conservation work is documented in the award-winning film Blood Lions, says the province is a hub of the industry. “We are fully aware that the Eastern Cape is a hotspot for captive lion hunting and the lion bone trade. One of the big issues is that this takes place on private property, and the state is very reluctant to clamp down in case they violate property legislation,” he told the Dispatch on Friday.
Michele Pickover, of animal protection organisation the EMS Foundation, said she has tried in vain to establish exactly who was practising canned hunting in the Eastern Cape, but has never received answers from the department of environmental affairs (DEA). “I just couldn’t get it right. There was no response at all,” she said.
This is despite EMS, together with Ban Animal Trading, presenting a comprehensive report to parliament in August showing how suspected crime syndicates were taking advantage of what they said were SA’s lax laws in terms of the lion bone trade.
A public outcry resulted in the government overturning a decision to increase the annual quota for lion skeletons to 1,500. The figure was returned to the 2017 figure of 800, although the lobby groups want the trade scrapped completely.
In November, parliament’s portfolio committee on environmental affairs acknowledged that captive lion breeding and hunting was doing “serious” damage to the country, as environmentally conscious international visitors were put off by the practice.
However, hunting in general has some economic spin-offs. NWU’s 2016/17 study on tourism, released in November, found the hunting industry created 31,500 jobs in the Northern Cape, Free State and Limpopo.
The Ashcroft report, compiled by a team of undercover investigators, showed that:..