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COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT POLICY POSITION OF THE CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF ELEPHANT, LION, LEOPARD AND RHINOCEROS

17 November 2023

The EMS Foundation and the Wild Law Institute delivered their submission to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  1. In summary, we support the overall vision and direction presented in the Draft Policy, which marks a positive step towards strengthening the protection of the five species in South Africa. In particular we support the policy objectives of phasing out the captive lion industry and the domestication of rhino.

2. While we acknowledge the merits of many policy interventions, we wish to express specific concerns about the proposed policy objectives and actions in relation to: leopard management, leopard skin commercialisation, and the trade of the five species and their body parts. The Draft Policy should unequivocally prohibit trophy hunting of these species (see Annex 2) and international trade in their body parts.

3. The Draft Policy also has significant gaps which should be addressed. In particular, additional sections should be incorporated into it to address:

3.1.  the phasing out of the captive elephant industry and the protection of elephants in captivity or under the control of humans (see Annex 1); and

3.2.  the transportation and relocation of individuals of these species (see Annex 3).

4. We also make a number of proposals for strengthening the Draft Policy, including those listed below.

4.1.  Define key terms. The Draft Policy should clarify what qualifies as a wildlife rehabilitation facility or sanctuary in order to prevent the policy and law being circumvented.

4.2.  Harmonious Coexistence with Wildlife: Emphasise the intrinsic value of wildlife and the need for coexistence within ecosystems, aligning with the vision of living in harmony with Nature (or more accurately, within Nature”.

4.3.  Sentience, Animal Welfare, and Well-Being: Reinforce the recognition of animal sentience, ethical treatment, and prevention of suffering in wildlife conservation policies.

4.4.  Duty of Care: Including a duty of care principle within the policy to ensure ethical and ecologically sustainable conservation practices at the biodiversity, species, and individual levels.

4.5.  Leopard Conservation and Human-Wildlife Conflict: Encourage a focus on promoting harmonious coexistence between humans and leopards rather than “sustainable harvesting”.

4.6.  International Trade in Wildlife: Stress the necessity of trade benefiting in situ conservation before permitting international trade in live specimens.

5. In this document we also make specific proposals for amending the Draft Policy, including the following.

5.1. Reintroduce and emphasise the acknowledgement of animal sentience, necessitating ethical treatment and the prevention of suffering in all policy considerations.

5.2.  Integrate a comprehensive duty of care principle that defines specific responsibilities towards wildlife within the policy framework. This should include determining obligations for captive wildlife facility owners, land occupiers, live wild animal traders, trophy hunters, and other hunters.

5.3.  Reorient the focus of Policy Objective 3 towards increasing leopard populations and fostering harmonious coexistence with humans. We suggest an integrated, shared, and strategic approach to leopard conservation aligned with the ethic of Ubuntu.

5.4.  Address threats to leopards, including illegal trade in leopard skins, trophy hunting, and the killing of leopards as so-called “Damage Causing Animals”, emphasising measures to drive leopard recovery and movement between reserves.

5.5.  Strengthen criteria for international trade in live specimens, permitting such trade only when it demonstrates tangible benefits to in situ conservation efforts and principles and individual animal welfare and well-being.

5.6.  Clearly state South Africa does not intend to permit international trade in rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory.

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