New "Canned" Lion Legislation

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    New "Canned" Lion Legislation
    by Elise Tempelhoff, Vanderbijlpark

    It is the end of the road for South Africa’s 123 lion breeders and 3 000 canned lions.

    This follows a verdict in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on Thursday that these semi-tame animals may only be hunted 24 months after being set free from their breeding cages.

    Judge Ian van der Merwe concurred with the government that biodiversity must be protected, and that the breeding of lions in captivity with the sole purpose of canned hunting, did not aid their protection.

    The lion breeders’ request that the period of 24 months in the regulations be changed to “a few days”, was dismissed with costs.

    Verdict welcomed

    Albi Modise, spokesperson for the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, said the government welcomes the verdict.

    “This means that the reprehensible practice of canned hunting has most certainly come to an end.”

    Carel van Heerden, chairperson of the South African Predator Breeders Association, which took the government to court, said it was a tragic verdict.

    “It feels like someone has kicked me in the stomach.

    “The practical implications of the verdict are devastating to our industry and to all the people involved in the industry. It means that 5 000 breadwinners will soon lose their jobs, and about 3 000 (semi-tame) lions will have to be put down.”

    The financial implications on members of the association, and the damage it will cause to the hunting and tourism industry in South Africa is incalculable, said Van Heerden.

    “We operate a perfectly legal business and will continue to seek justice.”

    According to Van Heerden, the association’s legal team will now study the verdict in its entirety, and then possibly apply for leave to appeal the verdict.

    Apparently, some of the farmers on Thursday threatened to sue the government due to the loss of income they will suffer due to the legislation.

    Multi-million rand industry

    Van der Merwe said in his verdict that lion farmers, who are currently keeping a multi-million rand industry afloat, are just worried about money and the economic losses they will suffer if the semi-tame lions must first spend two years roaming free in nature before they can be hunted.

    Marthinus van Schalkwyk, former minister of environmental affairs and tourism, was taken to court by lion breeders about two years ago, when he apparently wanted to “crush” their industry with regulations regarding threatened and protected species.

    According to the regulations, a lion which has been bred in captivity, must be self-sustaining for 24 months (in other words, hunt for prey), before it can be hunted.

    The lion breeders said in court papers that it would mean their downfall if the animals had to remain free for that long. They called the decision irrational.

    Furthermore, Modise said that while hunting makes a substantial and positive contribution to conservation management and the country’s economy, the government also needs to protect a valuable resource and ensure that the industry has a sustainable future.
    “We need a clean hunting industry, free from unacceptable behavior which could damage the country’s image.”

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