Humanity has overstepped the planetary boundary in respect of biological diversity and consequently has entered a “danger zone” where it will be negatively affected by sudden events (e.g. pandemics) and irreversible changes. Part of the reason is that we have collectively failed to value the ecological systems (and the individuals that comprise them) on which our survival ultimately depends.
Instead of conserving that which has been entrusted to us, we have over-exploited terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The trade, sale and hunting of South Africa’s wild animals is driven by commodification, commercialisation and profit rather than by robust science, ethics or compassion. The threats wild animals are facing are powerfully linked to South Africa’s current conservation policies of consumptive use and inadequate policing and enforcement measures. A fundamental paradigm shift is required if we are to stem the rapid decline in biodiversity.
We are of the view that a new approach to human beings’ relationship with nature is not only warranted, but is absolutely critical. Current legal frameworks are not succeeding in stemming the tide of rapid biodiversity decline. What is required is a complete overhaul of the legal and administrative system, and a change in the relationship between people and Nature. It is with this paradigm shift in mind that the Draft Policy must be developed.
The Department has made significant strides in the Draft Policy towards a more eco-centric conception of human beings’ relationship with wildlife and proposing a definition of “sustainable use” that is more aligned with the principle of ecologically sustainable use as prescribed by section 24 of the Constitution.
However, we believe that the Draft Policy presents a critical opportunity to introduce the paradigm shift necessary to transition away from principles of “sustainable use” altogether, towards harmonious coexistence between people and Nature and to align it with an integrative interpretation of section 24 of the Constitution.
As we explained above, in our view, this means that the Draft Policy should be revised:
➢ by changing some of the definitions to align with an eco-centric approach;
➢ to include principles;
➢ to prohibit of all uses of the five species that cannot be justified as being the best interests of those species, the individual animals affected, and the ecosystems to which they below, including trophy hunting, any trade in their body parts, and any trade in live animals (other than for conservation purposes);
➢ to include policy outcomes that facilitate greater enforcement of laws relevant to the conservation of the iconic species in general, and biodiversity in particular; and
➢ to include policy objectives that promote a transparent and accountable permitting system.
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