South Africa bears the enormous responsibility of being the custodian of ninety percent of the world’s southern black and white rhino population.
Yesterday the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) published a graphic stating that during 2020, 394 rhinos were poached for their horn in South Africa. This is apparently 33% less than the 594 rhinos that were killed in 2019, and furthermore it marks the sixth year that rhino poaching has continued to decrease in South Africa.
Minister Barbara Creecy stated: “While the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the battle to beat the COVID_19 pandemic contributed in part to the decrease in rhino poaching in 2020, the role of rangers and security personnel who remained at their posts, and the additional steps taken by the government to effectively deal with these and related offences, also played a significant role.”
There is no mention or published graphic, however, stating that from 2011 there has been a 67% decrease in the number of white rhino, from an estimated 10 621 rhino to an estimated 3529 rhino.
According to DEFF there were an estimated 415 black rhino in 2013 and now there are an estimated 268 black rhino, a 35% decrease in numbers.
The gorilla genome is particularly important for our understanding of human evolution, because it tells us about the crucial time when we were diverging from our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees.
A team of scientists have concluded that gorillas have hierarchical societies similar to those of humans. Gorillas spend most of their time in dense forests, travel great distances to a new home locations on a daily basis.
Dr Robin Morrison, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, gained intimate views of gorilla and their social connections during a five year study in the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.
She confirmed that there were family units nested inside larger social units in patterns strikingly similar to modern human societies. Individual gorillas spent time not only with their immediate families but also with an average of thirteen extended family members. Furthermore that each gorilla interacted with thirty-nine other gorillas to whom they were not related.
During the last few years the physical environment of primates in captivity has become a subject of considerable interest. Gorillas seem to be extremely sensitive to environmental conditions.
Zoos cannot provide the amount of space gorillas have in the wild, gorillas roam for large distances. Zoos do not provide natural habitats and this is particularly true of the Paka Zoo in Bangkok.
The well-being of gorillas is dependent on their environment, Bau Noi lives in unnatural surroundings on her own this could mean that she might have developed physical health problems or anxiety, depression and even psychosis.
Bau Noi was captured from the wild, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture in 2011 concluded that solitary confinement for humans beyond fifteen days constituted cruel and inhumane punishment.
If scientific research has revealed the breadth of human genetic, emotional and cognitive kinship with gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans we must conclude that the lack of contact, the sensory deprivation must had have severe impacts on Bau Noi’s well-being during her solitary confinement in Paka Zoo.
Primatologists and conservations who have devoted their lives to studying the great apes in order to protect their rapidly vanishing populations in the wild have expressed the opinion that apes should not be confined to zoos and that there is no good evidence that captive apes are having any positive effect on their wild relatives.
Over the past few years public awareness of the sentient and sensitive nature of high-level mammals, like gorillas, chimps, elephants, orcas and dolphins has led to the demise of Ringling Brothers, the removal of orcas and dolphins from public exhibition, laws preventing the use of bull hooks to control elephants and the freeing of Kaavan, the elephant from the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad.
Animal rights activists have asked Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to remove Bua Noi from the zoo and for the closure of the Pata Zoo.
Marc Bekoff a behavioural ecologist and professor at the University of Colorado argues that an animal’s life in captivity is a shadow of their experience in the wild.
PETA’s investigation shows that the animals at the zoo are locked in dark, barren concrete cages and that they are offered no enrichment and little mental stimulation or physical exercise. PETA has offered to transfer all the animals to a sanctuary
Free the Wild is an international charity they endeavour to stop the suffering of wild animals in captivity and ultimately find a way to release them into sanctuaries or better equipped zoos. Their current mission is to free all the primates at Pata Zoo.
The EMS Foundation is currently completing two investigations into the legal wildlife trade as part of the a series called the Extinction Business. Three reports have already been published illustrating how zoos and private individuals around the world are supplied legally with wildlife such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, primates and giraffes.
These wild animals are kept as pets or as part of displays are suffering and living in misery, many are physically and psychologically damaged. We believe, that it is time to reconsider keeping wild animals in captivity, this is an outdated practise of a less enlightened era.
Image Credit: Aaron Gekoski at Pata Zoo, Bangkok
Image Credit: Dr Robin Morrison, Nouabale Ndoki National Park
On the 6th August 2020 the EMS Foundation wrote an open letter to the Minister of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy, the CEO of SanParks Fundisile Mketeni, the Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and SH Makhubele the CEO of LEDET with regard to our concerns relating to the elephant hunt that took place in the Balule Nature Reserve an associatedPrivate Nature Reserve which joins the Kruger National Park on the 5th December 2019. To date we have not received a response to this letter.
In a meeting of the National Assembly on the 16th October 2020, Ms Hannah Winkler of the Democratic Alliance, asked the Minister of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy the following important questions:
What is the reasoning behind the Kruger National Park dropping fences to areas bordering the Park known as the Associated Private Nature Reserves, is this to allow free movement of protected animals or to allow for trophy hunting of these protected animals?
What are the reasons that the decision to drop the fences to the surrounding APNRs was not brought before the Portfolio Committee on Environment Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries when it undermines the purpose of protecting wildlife in national parks?
Would Minister Creecy provide the concept document for the dropping of fences between the Kruger National Park and the Associated Private Reserves?
What are the terms of agreement on trophy hunting in these Associated Private Nature Reserves, and which authority provides oversight thereof?
Was Minister Creecy informed about the hunting of the bull elephant, who was shot eighteen times in the Kruger National Park on the 5th December, and what is the Minister’s position on this particular unethical hunt?
Minister Barbara Creecy responded to the questions as follows:
“According to information at my disposal, the said elephant bull was hunted in a reserve within the APNR, in accordance with the relevant statutory requirements and the APNR Hunting protocol.
Such hunts are overseen by the management structure of the reserves, together with the Provincial Conservation Authorities, they being the regulatory authorities tasked with monitoring compliance with the Protocol.
I am advised that during the particular hunt being refereed to, no tourists besides the hunting party were witness to the hunt. I am also advised that the LEDET provided the documentation to substantiate that the permits were legally issued and that no laws were contravened.
According to information at my disposal, the hunt was legal and took place in accordance with the APNR Hunting Protocol. The APNR off-take committee furthermore reviewed the incident and provided a ruling that the hunt was in accordance with the Protocol. The provincial environmental authority LEDET conducted a full investigation into this matter.”
The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries appointed a “High Level Panel of Experts for the Review of Policies, Legislation and Practices on Matters of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros Management: Breeding, Hunting, Trade and Handling” (“HLP” or “Panel”) in October 2019. The Panel made a call for submissions from stakeholders on 27 March 2020.
The EMS Foundation (“EMS”) and Animal Law Reform South Africa (“ALRSA”) (hereinafter collectively “we” or “us”) made a formal written submission (the “Submission”) to the HLP on 15 June 2020. We also made a virtual presentation at the public consultation held by the HLP on 6 October 2020 and answered questions orally (the “Oral Presentation”) (collectively our “Submissions”).
In this regard, we wish to refer to Appendix III of our Submission, being a copy of the written submission presented by the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law, a centre of the University of Johannesburg (“SAIFAC”) as well as their virtual presentation at the public consultation held by the HLP on 6 October 2020 and their questions answered (“SAIFAC Submission”).
The Secretariat of the HLP sent further questions to EMS and ALRSA at 15h13 on the 20 October 2020. These are reproduced below in bold text. The Panel requested that answers be submitted by 26 October 2020, effectively giving EMS and ALRSA less than 5 working days to formulate further responses to over 15 highly complex questions (the “Questions”). Note that both EMS and ALRSA had other prior commitments particularly at this time and our capacity to respond at this time. In terms of an email from the HLP Secretariat to us dated 25 October 2020, the Panel agreed to accept answers by 2 November 2020.
The answers below therefore constitute a brief and non-exhaustive summary of EMS’ and ALRSA’s position on these issues given the prevailing circumstances at the current time. This document is to be read with our full Submission as well as in the context of the Oral Presentation.
We also wish to note that: 1. We have answered some of these questions in our Submissions; 2. Many of the questions received from the HLP are suggestive of a slant in favour of a pre-determined outcome and against the tenor of our submissions. Some of the questions make assumptions that are simply not accurate; and 3. Reference is made in the questions to “wildlife”. We were under the impression that the HLP was reviewing for “Subject Species” being – lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards.
We are non-profit organisations not mandated to determine all potential solutions to the issues considered by the Panel nor wildlife more generally in South Africa. We have pointed out issues with the current status quo, as well as provided potential solutions which will require further input and consideration. Accordingly, we have attempted to highlight some additional resources for the Panel which may be of assistance in providing further context and information. These are in addition to those included in our Submission and Oral Presentation.
We have included some clarifying points and questions below in order to properly equip us to answer the questions posed. These are indicated as “Clarificatory Question for the Panel:” below.
The disclaimers as contained in our Submission apply equally to this document with the necessary adjustments.
Cape Town, with all its natural splendour, including the dramatic mountain and coastal landscapes, the world-class wineries and the spectacular beaches is a favoured destination of South Africans and travellers from all over the world. Voted as the best city in the world for seven years in a row by the London Telegraph, named the most beautiful city in the world by Buzzfeed and selected by the world’s top travel professionals to be seventh amongst the fifty of the most beautiful cities in the world.
In July 2020 Anton Bredell, Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning announced that 72% of the municipalities in the Western Cape are in good financial health. “It’s simple. These reports show that taxpayers money is going where it is meant to go and not to lining the pockets of friends and families of politicians or corrupt officials. Managing money well, not wasting or stealing it, is critical if you want to deliver the services needed to make the province a better place for all who live in it”.
South Africa is the world’s third most biologically diverse country. The Cape Floristic Region is one of the Biodiversity Hotspots. The extraordinary endemism displayed by its flora, combined with a growing human population, rapid development, habitat loss, overexploitation, the introduction of alien species and the unforeseen effects of climate change, is contributing to a major conservation crisis. The rapid rate of urbanisation and development in Cape Town specifically, but also elsewhere in the Western Cape, is negatively affecting and placing extensive pressure on ecosystems, nature and wildlife.