South Africa moves on canned hunts–can rules be enforced?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2006:

PRETORIA–Six weeks of public comment on
government proposals to reform the South African
trophy hunting industry are expected to end in
mid-June 2006 with the recommended reforms on the
fast track to adoption–almost 10 years after the
British TV expose series “The Cooke Report”
brought to light the abuses that the proposals
Introducing the proposed “National Norms
and Standards for the Regulation of the Hunting
Industry” and accompanying “Threatened and
Protected Species” on May 1 at the De Wildt
Cheetah & Wildlife Centre, west of Pretoria,
Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van
Schalkwyk predicted that they might be in effect
before the end of the year.

Among the proposed reforms, breeding
threatened or endangered large predators such as
cheetahs, lions, or leopards expressly for any
type of hunting would be prohibited. Captive-bred
predators who are released to the wild would have
to be at large for at least two years before they
could be hunted. Hunting on private land that
borders national or provincial wildlife reserves
would require ministerial authorization. Hunters
could no longer use weapons that might cause
animals prolonged suffering.
“We are making sure that the hunting
industry is based on integrity and the best
practices that we can defend,” Van Schalkwyk
said. “Canned hunting, especially of lions,
have done South Africa a lot of damage. We have
heard of examples,” Van Schalkwyk added, “where
rhinos have been killed with crossbows or bows
and arrows, which is totally inhumane.”
Van Schalkwyk spoke a week before Mike
Cadman of The Sunday Independent disclosed the
March 10 shooting of one of the best-known lions
in South Africa by an unsportsmanlike trophy
hunter. The case became a cause celebré.
“Property owners and conservation staff
at the exclusive Umbabat, Timbavati, and
Klaserie private nature reserves that border
Kruger National Park told The Sunday Independent
about their anger at the killing of the lion,
considered to be a major tourist attraction, and
the subsequent wounding of a one-tusked bull
elephant by a Spanish hunter,” Cadman wrote.
“The lion, one of a well-known pair dubbed the
‘Sohebele brothers,’ had been photographed by
thousands of foreign tourists and featured
regularly in e-mails sent out by several lodges
to their former guests around the world.”
While the lions had wandered into an area
where they could legally be shot, they spent
most of their time in protected habitat, and
were accustomed to human observers.
The surviving “Sohebele brother”
reportedly defended his fatally injured comrade,
even when the hunter “repeatedly drove a tractor
at the lions in attempt to separate them,” said
Cadman. “Rangers later reported that the
remaining male had become so afraid that in one
instance it had swum across a river to avoid
game-viewing 4x4s.”
The elephant, shot three times in the
head on March 24, disappeared into thick brush
and was neither dispatched nor retrieved.
The furor over the lion and elephant
shootings overshadowed allegations of poaching
against two Kruger National Park field guides,
after two carcasses of rhinos were found in early
May with their horns removed. Van Schalkwyk
told the South African parliament that 79 animals
were poached within Kruger during fiscal year
2005-2006, up slightly from 73 poached in the
preceding year.
The major question that poaching in
Kruger raises is whether hunting regulations can
be enforced anywhere in South Africa.


Early response to the Van Schalk-wyk
proposals from both animal advocates and hunting
promoters appeared to be mostly guardedly
positive, but the size of South Africa and size
of the hunting industry make enforcing any
regulations difficult without overwhelming
cooperation from within the industry itself.
Approximately 9,000 hunting ranches and
game farms in South Africa provide from 39,000 to
54,000 animals per year (sources differ) to be
killed by an average of about 7,000 visiting
hunters each year–more than half of them from
the U.S.
Generating revenues of about $280 million
a year, the South African hunting industry
employs about 70,000 people.
Lion hunting is among the smallest parts of the
industry, in numbers of animals killed. Just
190 lions were shot in 2004, and 209 in 2005,
of about 2,500 to 3,000 believed to be held in
About as many lions remain in the wild in
South Africa, more than 2,000 of them in Kruger
National Park and adjacent nature areas. Hunting
is not allowed in the South African National
Parks, but hunting concessionaires often set up
beside parks to take advantage of animals, like
the “Sohebele brothers,” who cross the
boundaries. “The Cooke Report” documented
hunting concessionaires in the act of luring
trophy animals past downed park fences.
As the typical cost of shooting a lion in
South Africa is about $17,000, lion hunting
alone is worth about $3.3 million per year.
Leopards are less commonly shot, with
only 45 killed by visiting hunters in 2004,
according to the wildlife trade monitoring
network TRAFFIC, but the cost of killing a
leopard is circa $5,500.
Other animals targeted on South African
hunting ranches include captive-bred pigeons and
quail, baboons, giraffes, elephants,
hippopotamuses, mongooses, porcupines,
warthogs and zebras.

Looming disaster

The most immediate concern of animal
advocates in response to the Van Schalkwyk
proposals was what would become of all the lions,
leopards, cheetahs, and other captive-bred
predators who are now at hunting ranches and game
“That’s a looming animal welfare
disaster,” SanWild director Louise Joubert told
Cadman of The Sunday Independent. “If the
government is really serious about shutting down
the canned hunting industry, I can’t see how
they can handle all these animals–there is no
space for them. One breeder called and said that
if the regulations forced him to close down his
operation, he would dump 80 lions between the
ages of a month and a year at my gate. I’m not
sure if he was joking but that shows just how big
the problem is.”
“The government needs to clean up the
mess it has allowed to develop,” said Jason
Leask-Bell, South Africa director for the
International Fund for Animal Welfare, “but if
animals must be destroyed, it must be done
humanely. The industry must be closed down,”
Leask-Bell emphasized, “but it has been allowed
to grow so big that we now have another animal
welfare issue to deal with.”
“The first aim is to stop breeding
predators for hunting,” Endangered Wildlife
Trust director Nick King told Cadman. “It may be
possible to place some of the animals in
sanctuaries or zoos,” King suggested, at best a
faint hope. “Killing them should be considered
only as a last resort.”
What to do with surplus lions was already an issue.
“South Africa’s game reserves have
secretly started culling lions in an attempt to
tackle what they claim is a growing population
crisis,” revealed Steven Bevan of the Sunday
Telegraph in December 2005. “One of the largest
private reserves in the country, Welge-vonden in
Limpopo province, covering more than 130 square
miles, has confirmed that it has destroyed a
lioness and her four young.
“Two other reserves–Entabeni, also in
Limpopo, and Phinda in KwaZulu-Natal–said they
will be forced to cull if they cannot sell
surplus animals. Madikwe in North West Province
confirmed it is an option they will have to
consider. The reserves say they have no choice
but to kill healthy animals as numbers have grown
beyond their capacity– and they cannot sell them
because there are too many on the market.”

Public relations

Harsher criticism of the Van Schalkwyk
proposals came from Chris Mercer of
<>, a retired attorney and
frequent ANIMAL PEOPLE book reviewer, who
formerly co-directed the Kalahari Raptor Centre.
Mercer called the new hunting regulations “an
elaborate public relations exercise.
“Originally the South African government
tried to bypass the new laws requiring public
participation, in order to protect the hunting
industry,” Mercer charged. “We commenced legal
proceedings. At the last minute before service
of legal process, the Government announced the
public participation process” now underway.
“However, regulations which entrenched
and expanded canned hunting had already been
drafted,” Mercer alleged. With the use of
cunning legal drafting artifices which give the
appearance of banning the most cruel practices,
nothing will change. You can still shoot captive
bred lions for pleasure and a trophy. You can
still set a pack of dogs on them. You can still
bait them with a carcass and hide nearby with
your bow and arrow or hand gun. Restrictions
which look good on paper are utterly
unenforceable, and therefore meaningless–which
is exactly why they have been included in the new
“It is the cruelty which offends the
public,” Mercer said, calling for “a complete
ban on all trophy hunting.”
“It is important to define canned hunting
accurately in order to meet public concerns,”
Mercer continued. “Canned hunting is hunting of
an animal who is unfairly prevented from escaping
the hunter, because of either physical or mental
constraints,” including both fencing and
habituation to humans.
“All trophy hunting is canned,” Mercer
said, “because there is no true wilderness left
in South Africa and all hunting takes place in
fenced areas from which the animal cannot escape.”
Van Schalkwyk introduced his proposed
reforms shortly after Mercer and partner Beverly
Pervan “dipped into our savings to pay for me to
travel around the U.K.” on a 30-stop speaking
tour, Mercer recounted, “because no other
wildlife organization was pro-actively
campaigning against all trophy hunting, and it
seemed to us that the plight of the lions was
being lost among all the other animal welfare
issues worldwide.
“There was a clear need to expose the
doctrine of sustainable use for what it is: a
policy devised for the worldwide benefit of an
obscenely wealthy but harmful hunting industry,”
Mercer asserted.
“We hoped that my visit might act as a
catalyst for change, galvanizing the various
animal rights and animal welfare organizations in
Britain and Europe to take action to ban the
import of all wildlife trophies from Africa.”

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.