South Africa: Vet Slams Advice On Canned Hunting
Cape Argus (Cape Town)
28 June 2007
John YeldCape Town
A senior state official with substantial wildlife experience, particularly in lion management, has slammed the advice given to the government which formed the basis of new regulations to prevent "canned" lion hunting.
Dr Dewald Keet, the chief state veterinarian in the Kruger National Park, said in an affidavit that the panel of experts appointed to advise Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk on the hunting of big predators had no specialist knowledge themselves and had "completely ignored" the advice of lion experts in compiling their report.
The panel's report was used in the formulation of new endangered species regulations, issued under the Biodiversity Act, which include tough measures to outlaw "canned hunting" and closely regulate captive lion breeding.
Keet's affidavit is particularly embarrassing for the government because it is one of several affidavits filed in support of the High Court action being brought by the SA Predator Breeders' Association against the government over the regulations as they relate to lions.
The association and two individual lion breeders - Matthys Mostert of Bothaville and Deon Cilliers of Excelsior, both in the Free State - are bringing an urgent application in the Bloemfontein High Court against Van Schalkwyk's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism over some of the endangered species regulations.
The department has political oversight over SA National Parks, which manages the Kruger National Park where Keet works. The new regulations were to have come into force at the beginning of this month but have now been delayed to February - but not as a result of this court case, according to Van Schalkwyk.
The applicants are asking for an order suspending the commencement, alternatively the implementation, of the regulations, insofar as they relate to lions; for all applications to breed, keep or hunt lions to continue to be administered in terms of provincial nature conservation ordinances; and for all permits relating to lions immediately before the new regulations were to come into force, to remain valid.
In his affidavit, Keet said he had 19 years "intimate experience" of lion management in Kruger and the surrounding parks and buffer zones.
He had also been "ntensely and directly"involved in the entire process leading up to the promulgation of the endangered species regulations on February 23.
Keet said it was clear from the documentation that none of the department's advisers was a carnivore specialist, nor, more specifically, a lion specialist. It was also clear that these advisers had not consulted such a specialist.
"The relevant advisers as well as the respondent (the department) very clearly do not possess the specialist knowledge or information relating in particular to the social behavioural patterns of lions. The documents overwhelmingly suggest an over-simplification of lions' behavioural patterns and habits.
"What is disturbing in the documents is the fact that inputs from specialists in the field were completely ignored. Besides this, the minister's advisers made no effort to determine the population status of the African lion in Africa and in South Africa." Keet said the "disinformation and total absence of scientific evidence, research and statistical analysis" in a report with such a high profile as that of the panel was "disturbing."
Keet said Safari Club International was the world's leader and most respected organisation in relation to the hunting of trophy animals, among other things. "It is of the greatest importance that this organisation acknowledges as an acceptable practice the hunting of wild animals that have been bred in captivity."
The department is defending the court action, which may be heard later this year.
It is obvious the canned lion hunting controversy is still boiling in South Africa. No matter what your opinion of this practice, there is no doubt that it may affect the future of safari hunting in South Africa for a long time to come. I think it bears watching. - TJR