22ND APRIL 2021

Tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) are included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which assembles 183 Parties, including South Africa.

On several occasions since early 2016 we had been asking your Department (DFFE) if it knew the number of Asian tigers in South Africa and if they monitor and audit the facilities in South Africa that keep Asian Big Cats. They continuously and consistently replied that they do not have any information as tigers are ‘exotics’ and therefore not their responsibility. This despite the fact that they are CITES Appendix I animals.

In 2016 CITES Decision 17.229 forewarned the Parties that the Secretariat was going to conduct a review of the number of facilities keeping Asian big cats in captivity in the territories of Parties and the number of Asian big cats kept in these facilities; and to review legal and illegal trade in Asian big cats from or through such facilities to identify any facilities which may be of concern.

On the 16th February 2018 we became aware that the CITES Secretariat has issued a Notification to the Parties to seek such information from the Parties, we emailed your department on the same day asking if they had this information available and the reply was, “we will be communicating with Secretariat on how we will deal with this matter as you can appreciate that there are 9 Provinces in South Africa and we have to coordinate the information”. On the 28th February 2018, together with Ban Animal Trading, we sent a letter to the CITES Secretariat in relation to Decision 17.229. Appended to our 2018 letter to CITES was a non-exhaustive list of 66 facilities/individuals keeping tigers in South Africa that we were able to trace as a result of internet searches and on-site investigations.

According to DFFE, in response to an EMS Foundation Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request1 there are 72 facilities/individuals keeping 451 Asian big cats in captivity.2 

This information has not been independently verified. Nonetheless, it is clear that South Africa is allowing intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale.

The increasing trade in tigers and tiger parts is part of the unsustainable growth in the legal global wildlife trade. The The commercial flow of captive-bred tigers is largely driven by the increasing demand for live tigers and tiger parts and derivatives from Asia. This demand is therefore one of the most important factors for the current high levels of tiger poaching, captive breeding, and trafficking. Any trade in captive-bred specimens from South Africa is having an indirect but significant impact on tiger species whose populations are already depleted. In addition, allowing such trade obstructs global anti-poaching and trafficking endeavours.




Honourable Minister Barbara Creecy
Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment

12 April 2021

Dear Honourable Minister Creecy,

The EMS Foundation Concern for the Animals at the National Zoological Gardens

On Sunday 11th of April 2021, the EMS Foundation received messages, and was repeatedly tagged on various social media platforms, from concerned South African citizens about the conditions at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria (NZG).

The subject matter of the initial social media post is concern for the animals at the NZG, in particular the lack of water in the cages and the total disrepair of the zoo. We append below, screenshots of the social media posts. For your record:

At 17:27pm the post written by a person by the name of Therese de Lange about the Pretoria zoo had received 200 comments and had been shared on Facebook 1995 times.

At 19.09pm the post about the Pretoria zoo had received 2919 shares.

Today at 7.42am the post about the Pretoria zoo had received 5733 shares.

 A secondary post written by Abel Vilakaze in which he included 94 other people appeared on Facebook. At 07.31am this morning this post was shared 232 times.






If the world wants to avoid a climate catastrophe, countries need to put into place policies and actions now that will produce deeper impacts, longer-term results, and systematic changes. 

The South African climate justice movement which included the Co-Operative and Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC) and the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and other civil organisations engaged in a process to develop a Climate Justice Charter for South Africa.  

“South Africa has to become a climate justice state that recognises the climate emergency, whilst strengthening our democracy.  It has to be guided by the vision, goals, principles and people-led systematic alternatives contained in a Charter and all its climate policies must be aligned to realise this Charter.”

On the 28th of August 2020 a new Climate Justice Charter was adopted by a number of environmental organisations, including the EMS Foundation.  On the 16th of October 2020 the Climate Justice Charter Movement handed over the Charter to the Parliament of South Africa demanding that it be adopted as per Section 234 of the South African Constitution. 

The Charter calls for climate justice by transforming our work environments, our communities and our political power structures.

The EMS Foundation will continue to highlight and report on issues pertaining to the importance of protecting the South African natural environment and the democratic rights of all South Africans. 

In order to commemorate Human Rights Day 2021, the EMS Foundation would like to acknowledge two South African environmental activists who have been assassinated during their campaigns highlighting the negative aspects of mining in their communities. 

Sikhosiphi Rhadebe, chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee was assassinated on the 22nd of March 2016.  His campaign highlighted two major mining projects  in Xolobeni in the Pondoland region of the Eastern Cape.  Sikhosiphi Rhadebe was gunned down outside his home in the Lurholweni township in Mbizana.  A community leader, father and founder of a soccer club for unemployed youngsters.  Seventy families were at risk of being evicted from their ancestral land if these developments went ahead. 

Fikile Ntshangase, was gunned down on the 22n October 2020 at her home in Ophondweni near Mtubatuba in KwaZulu Natal.  Fikile Ntshangase was the vice-chairperson of a sub-committee of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation opposed to an open mine on the border of the iMfolozi-Hluhluwe Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal.   She was lobbying for the protection of the community’s rights to a safe and clean environment.  

The EMS Foundation is extremely concerned by the fact that it is clearly not safe to exercise our fundamental human rights in defence of our environment in South Africa.  Furthermore, we are devastated to learn that no arrests have been made in either of these assassinations. 

© 2021 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved






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 confirmation of the decimation of the wild rhino population, was published, for the first time in many years, and is available in the South African National Parks Annual Report 2019/2020. 




Victims of the Wildlife Trade Living in Solitary Confinement 

Aaron Gekoski, an award-winning wildlife environmental photojournalist, published haunting images of Bau Noi in 2018.  

He has spent years documenting animals in captivity and is the founder and lead investigator at Raise the Red Flag, a global campaign to end cruelty in the Wildlife Tourism industry. 

Bau Noi, is a female gorilla, she has lived at Pata Zoo which is located on the top floors of a shopping mall in Bangkok since 1988.

Human evolutionary studies have indicated that humans and gorillas share ninety-eight percent identical genetic similarities. 

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

© 2020 EMS Foundation. All rights reserved



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