COMMENTS ON DRAFT WHITE PAPER ON THE CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF SOUTH AFRICA’S BIODIVERSITY

THE EMS FOUNDATION AND THE WILD LAW INSTITUTE JOINTLY SUBMITTED COMMENTS IN RESPONSE TO THE INVITATION TO COMMENT ON THE DRAFT WHITE PAPER ON THE CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF SOUTH AFRICA’S BIODIVERSITY.

Overview of comments

We support and applaud the DFFE for having prepared a Draft White Paper which sets out a much needed, progressive vision and policy for conservation based on the ethic of Ubuntu and the recognition that humanity can only flourish in the long-term by conserving the natural systems that support all life, and finding ways to coexist in harmony with Nature.

We have submitted extensive and detailed comments in an effort to strengthen the draft White Paper and eliminate some internal inconsistencies. However, the purpose of this letter is to draw your attention to what we regard as the main issues, so that they are not obscured amidst the detailed comments and overlooked.

Conservation policies and decisions must be guided primarily by ecological and welfare considerations rather than economic considerations
It is very important to avoid framing conservation as the management of a subset of the economy with a view to maximising the extraction of “resources” or “ecosystem services” in order to benefit humanity. Wild species and places are essential to the economy, but are part of ecosystems not the economy. Decisions about wild species and biodiversity must be based on ecological considerations (e.g. what is best for the ecosystem) and welfare considerations (e.g. treating wild animals with respect and without cruelty both for their own sakes and to foster consideration for other species in accordance with the ethic of Ubuntu). Continuing to make conservations decisions on the basis of economic considerations (e.g. maximising the contribution to gross domestic product) will inevitably drive more ecological destruction and biodiversity loss. Human wellbeing, and South Africa’s long term economic interests, are best served by conserving wild species and ecosystems, not by “mining” them.

The value of wild species and ecosystems far exceeds their contribution to the economy

The White Paper must explain that because wild species and the ecosystems they create are essential for life, their value to humanity far exceeds their (significant) contribution to the economy. The draft White Paper emphasises the actual and potential contribution of wild species to economic growth, rather than their more important contribution to maintaining the conditions which enable all forms of life, including humans, to flourish. It is important that the final White Paper emphasizes that that the primary role of conservation is to preserve the ecosystems on which human lives and wellbeing depend (both because of their intrinsic value and their value to humanity) as well as acknowledging the significant contribution of wild species to the economy and livelihoods.

In the past the effectiveness of conservation and environmental protection has been undermined by the (anthropocentric and colonial) misperception and hierarchical logic that humanity is in competition with Nature and that a balance must be struck between what is best for Nature on the one hand and what is best for humanity on the other. In fact, because humans are part of Nature, and human wellbeing is entirely dependent on the functioning of ecosystems (including wild species), protecting Nature is in the best interests of humanity. Prioritising the protection of Nature is the best route to safeguarding humanity. Prioritising the protection of Nature is the best route to safeguarding humanity. This will generate and nurture harmonious coexistence, care, interdependence and positive reciprocity with Nature and the diverse wild organisms within it.  

In order to do so it is important the specific policy measures proposed in the draft White Paper are all aligned with the objective of living in harmony with Nature and oriented towards developing ways for people to co-exist with wild species in ways that contribute to ecosystem integrity, health and functioning.

The importance of a new conservation ethic

We welcome the recognition that a new ethos is necessary to ensure changes not only to what is done, but how things are done, is central to the successful implementation of the White Paper. As indicated, in the White Paper this will require: (a) developing and implementing a new conservation philosophy based on Ubuntu; and (b) changing people’s attitudes to Nature and wild species so that they understand that their conservation is essential to long-term flourishing of humanity and aspire to co- exist harmoniously within Nature instead of simply regarding wild species as merely economic “resources”.

We believe that this merits a separate goal (Ubuntu and harmonious co-existence within Nature is promoted) which focusses on how conservation will be undertaken in future, with an emphasis on applying ethics such as Ubuntu to change how people view, and relate to Nature, and to contribute to ways for people to co-exist with wild species so that life in all its diversity can be sustained and that human wellbeing is increased as a consequence of protecting and restoring natural ecosystems instead of at their expense.

Both the EMS Foundation and WildLaw are committed to contributing to the improvement of wildlife governance and have the necessary skills and experience to enable us to do so. We trust that the attached comments will be of assistance to the Department and Minister when finalising the Policy and look forward to engaging further with the Department and the Minister on this and related matters.

©EMS Foundation 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT AFRICAN PENGUIN BIODIVERSITY MANAGEMENT PLAN

21ST AUGUST 2022

The EMS Foundation appreciates the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) work and the opportunity to comment on this draft BMP, which highlights in detail the threats and causes of the decline of the African penguin, a crucial predator and indicator of environmental pollution.

The human-related threats include climate change (extreme weather) overfishing, bunkering, gas explorations, mining and finfish farming. We are pleased to see that this document highlights the fact that the decline of the penguin is linked to the aforementioned legally permitted activities. We urge the South African government to take all the necessary steps to cease the same.

We are concerned that, despite all the available data that has been assimilated by scientific research, no effective immediate action or mitigation processes have been prioritised in this document instead, further research, and investigations have been proposed.

We support further research processes but we believe, based on the enormous body of evidence already available, that further delays in mitigating a solution might be irreversibly detrimental to the species. Scientists focusing their research on this penguin species are confident that there is enough information available to determine the causes of the decline of the population in South Africa.4

In addition, the research has indicated that penguins who undergo rehabilitation have a very low reproductive rate so, although we appreciate the care for individual animals that are rescued, rehabilitated and released, increasing rehabilitation capacity will not improve the conservation of the species. Scientists have indicated that this species of penguin could be functionally extinct by 2035.

We urge the minister and the department to prioritise action. In particular to:

  1. Finalize the expansion of mpas and no-take zones around penguin colonies;
  2. Address any influence of the fishing industry on decision-making processes;
  3. Halt the permitting of harmful activities;
  4. Improve accountability and implement the principles of ‘polluter pays’ in terms of NEMA;
  5. Include all necessary provisions and to identify the links to other legislation – including the forthcoming NEMLA – to empower DFFE to halt activities that have already been identified as causing the loss of individual penguins and the ecosystem they rely on in the African Penguin Management Plan;
  6. Impose a moratorium on the fishing of so-called ‘small pelagic’ species via purse seine net and of bottom-trawling, at least in/near areas where the penguin is present.

The full submission is available for your convenience.

©EMS Foundation 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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COMMERCIAL ZOOS – LOCKING UP CITES POTENTIAL TO BAN THE COMMERCIAL TRADE IN CRITICALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES

This document is written by the EMS Foundation with the acknowledgement of the investigative findings of Mr Karl Ammann

19th MEETING OF CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES OF WILD FAUNA AND FLORA (CITES CoP19)

Introduction

There is a huge glaring loophole in CITES. A loophole so big that the very intention of CITES can be undermined with no more that the use of of one letter.

The intention of CITES has always been to ensure that the trade in endangered species is tightly regulated, including a requirement that critically endangered species cannot be traded for commercial purposes. Despite this clear intention, commercial trade in critically endangered animas continue by simply eternising purées code Z (which applies to zoos), rather than purpose code T (which applies to commercial transactions).

In practise it does seem to matter if the zoo in question is unable to provide any conservation benefits or even meet minimal welfare requirements, nor does it matter if the trade to this so-called zoo has huge commercial value. Countless examples have shown that by simply proclaiming the transaction to be zoo purposes, a commercial enterprise and transaction is able to escape from CITES most fundamental safeguard.

Full Document:

Image Credit: Export of African elephants from Zimbabwe to the UAE https://m.facebook.com

Image Credit: https://cites.org/

©The EMS Foundation 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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HUNTING FOR ANSWERS

IS THE SLAVISH SUPPORT FOR THE HUNTING INDUSTRY INTERFERING WITH DUE PROCESS AND BALANCED STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA?

A PUBLIC STATEMENT 25TH OF MAY 2022

CONTEXT

The 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), will take place in Panama City, Panama between the 14th and 25th of November 2022. 

South Africa has made a formal declaration that it will be bound by the provisions of CITES, thus South Africa is called a Party to CITES currently there are 184 Parties. The deadline for Parties to the Convention to submit documents and amendment proposals is the 17th of June 2022.  

THE SADC BLOC’S RECKLESS SUPPORT FOR THE TROPHY HUNTING INDUSTRY AND WILDLIFE TRADERS

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is a Regional Economic Community comprising 16 Member States.  Zimbabwe announced last week that it wanted to sell off its ivory stockpile and voiced its frustration at not being allowed to export live elephants to zoos in China or the United Arab Emirates. Namibia recently exported twenty elephants to zoos in the United Arab Emirates in a commercial transaction and has also expressed an interest in selling stockpiles of what, in rhetorical and loaded language, it refers to as “valuable wildlife products”.  The value of Zimbabwe and Namibia’s ivory stockpiles have been grossly overstatedBotswana has been condemned for lifting the ban on the hunting of elephants, has also expressed its desire for the CITES ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted. 

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

South African government and hunting industry representatives attending the November 2019 African Wildlife Consultative Forum meeting at Victoria Falls sponsored by Safari Club International.  

The African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF)  is  a signature programme of the Safari Club InternationalFoundation.  According to the SCI Foundation website AWCF brings together senior government officials, professional hunting association leadership, international policy experts to tackle sustainable use issues. 

THE HIGH COURT SUSPENDS SOUTH AFRICA’S TROPHY HUNTING QUOTA FOR BLACK RHINO, LEOPARDS AND ELEPHANTS 

In May 2022, the High Court of the Western Cape granted urgent interim relief pending the judgement of the interim interdict against the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) hunting and export quota for leopard, black rhino and elephant.

The application for the hunting and export quotas was brought by animal protection organisation Humane Society International Africa (HIS-Africa) and was based upon the argument that DFFE failed to comply with the consultative process prescribed by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA) when making the quota decision.   

HSI-Africa asserts that the relief provided will provide opportunity to fully review the Minister’s Record of Decision by which these quota allocations were made. 

NEMBA prescribes a specific and comprehensive consultative public participation process that must be undertaken prior to such a decision being taken. 

MERELY A NEOLIBERAL BOX TICKING EXERCISE? 

Stakeholders include people who should have a say and be involved in decisions, as well as groups of people who represent particular interests, like environmental groups and NGO’s.  Some stakeholders may have considerable impact, they contribute perspectives and expertise which will result in better decisions and policies.   High levels of stakeholder engagement go hand in hand with increased transparency and accountability, leading to increased trust. 

Thirty-six working days before the deadline expires for the South African government to submit proposals to CITES for consideration at CoP19 on the 25th of April 2022, a notice was published on the website of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. Stakeholders were given fourteen days to submit proposals by the 9th May 2022 for consideration during the 19th meeting of the CITES COP. 

Three days later, on the 28th of April, the Department – very peculiarly through the Inter Provincial Professional Hunting Committee (IPPHC), which is chaired by DFFE – sent email communications to approximately 360 individuals stating that some stakeholders had not seen the notice on the government website and that the deadline for the submission of proposals was extended to the 16th of May 2022. The vast majority of invited stakeholders, whose email addresses are visibleare from the public sector and the hunting lobby and include government officials from DFFE, representatives of the provincial offices of environmental affairs, representatives from national parks, and the police and revenue services. The narrative of the supporters of trophy hunting is that the human rights and right of choice of the indigenous communities is being forgotten by global anti-hunting sentiment. Yet the EMS Foundation could not detect if any community and indigenous-based stakeholders were included in the invitation.  

The communication includes an invite to attend the CoP19 Stakeholder Consultation Meeting which will take place in the form of a hybrid event in Pretoria on the 25th May 2022.  This consultation event is a preamble to the Nineteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties which will be held from the 14th to the 25th of November 2022 in Panama City in Panama and the notice included an agenda for the meeting which is marked confidential. 

The EMS Foundation sent in extensive written proposals. However, subsequent to doing this – via a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) response from the department to the EMS Foundation – we have discovered that there may be procedural unfairness and possible bias in this stakeholder process as South Africa’s position may have already been decided and this consultation may likely therefore be merely a ‘box-ticking ’exercise, particularly since South Africa’s proposals need to be sent to CITES by 17 June. 

The two excerpts below – from the Wildlife Forum Meeting on 19 October 2021 – speak for themselves.  The Forum is an exclusive and exclusionary platform for the hunting industry  and those with vested wildlife consumptive interests to shape government wildlife policy.

When asked in a Wildlife Forum meeting “what is the strategy of the Government to make sure that when they go to CITES, as Africa and SADC, they really have negotiated a lot of these issues sufficiently to make sure that they have a cohesive and a strong position on certain issues. “

 Mr Mpho Tjiane, Deputy Director CITES Policy Development & Implementation at DFFE] responded that:

SADC and South Africa are almost the same. They have standing items in their engagements with each other, especially building up towards a CoP. They will be appointing a service provider to coordinate the SADC countries in preparation for CoP in order to have similar positions on certain issues as where they agree and usually those positions are made clear and they develop a position paper before the CoP that all SADC countries agree to. As you would know that not all the issues that are discussed are agreed upon, even within SADC. There is still a possibility that one country might not agree with one or two agenda items that they were supporting. All that is negotiated prior to get into CITES and they are well aware of which SADC country might not support SA going forward when they get to the CoP.”

In the same meeting Mr Tjiane said in relation to the preparation for the upcoming CITES COP (COP19): 

It is also important [for the SA wildlife industry] to be there so that they are part of the discussions in between meetings and all the committees that are happening. It’s important that the South African industry is available so that they can engage with the Department. They can also engage with other countries and other countries NGO’s are going to be there and they are also going to be doing their bit of engaging with other parties and making sure that the language that they are speaking to is the same. The Department will be facilitating that coordination as soon as they get closer to the date of attending the CoP. The Department will give information early next year when they start preparing for the CoP and finalizing all the documents.”

Is DFFE’s CITES COP19 stakeholder consultation designed to limit participation and engagement? 

We rest our case. 

©The EMS Foundation 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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