South African Government opens Policy Paper for public comment

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has released a draft Policy Position on the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros 


FOUR PAWS is encouraged by the Department’s decisions as outlined in the draft policy paper and commends in particular the recognition that the captive lion industry threatens South Africa’s reputation as a leader in the conservation of wildlife, and as a tourism destination with iconic wild lions, and acknowledges major concerns over work conditions and safety to workers and tourists, as well as the risk of zoonotic diseases, amongst various other aspects. 

There is no doubt however, that more needs to be done for South Africa to end its role in the farming and commercial trade of all big cat species.  

As part of the public participation process, FOUR PAWS will make submissions on the draft policy paper and below we share with you some of the recommendations.

FOUR PAWS key recommendations include: 

1.  Closing loopholes in the draft policy such as

  • Other big cat species are omitted from the policy. Include all five big cat species from the Panthera genus within this protective legislation and ban all commercial trade with big cats and their body parts from, within and into South Africa.
  • ‘Ranched lions’ and any other lions bred for commercial purposes should be included in the ban.
  • Measures need to be implemented to prevent the stockpiling of bones from lions or any other big cat species. Such measures should consider the disposal of any deceased animals to ensure their body parts are not stockpiled in private ownership.
  • Implement measures to prevent the misuse of CITES trade purpose codes. Question any increase in CITES permit applications for trade in big cats to ensure commercial trade is not disguised using other purpose codes. This should be especially applied with importing countries that experience significant levels of illegal trade in big cats or countries where demand for big cat parts is prevalent.

2. Intent to position South Africa as a primary hunting destination 

  • Trophy hunting in South Africa offers little conservation benefit to the species being hunted and contributes to the global big cat population decline. It is recommended that the intention to position South Africa as a primary hunting destination is reconsidered, as this contradicts the intent to also position South Africa as a global leader in wildlife conservation.
  • permitting the export of any big cat parts or derivatives from either wild or captive sources, including those sourced from  ‘hunting trophies’ should be prohibited.

3. The role of sanctuaries as an important model solution and integral to protecting animal welfare

We strongly recommend the exploration of a range of available solutions and options in addressing what will happen to the approximate 12,000 captive lions and other big cats such as:

  • Prioritising the welfare of the animals and ensuring that there is not a mass killing as the existing business model for lion breeding no longer applies.
  • Priority should be given to rehoming the animals to ‘True Sanctuaries’ that do not breed, trade, hunt, interact with nor loan out animals and provide species appropriate and lifelong care for the animals.
  • Under specific circumstances, euthanasia should be used but only administered by veterinarians and with procedures in place for the disposal of the carcasses that do not allow for any stockpiling of bones and parts.
  • Engagement and consultation with experts within the animal welfare sector on models that have proven sustainable and successful in other parts of the world.

4. Key recommendations related to other concerns   

  • As an immediate recommendation, we urge the Government to establish an Animal Welfare Forum inclusive of animal welfare organisations and experts, True Sanctuaries and wildlife conservation NGOs, and other experts to advise and support decisions regarding the implementation of policy in the management South Africa’s iconic species.
  • A comprehensive national audit would enable an overview of the overall state of the industry, the animals and their welfare status as well as legal and illegal activity.
  • No further issuing of captivity permits for new facilities
  • An immediate moratorium on the captive breeding of big cats,
  • Movement and translocations of big cats across South African provincial borders should only be carried out when necessary, as determined by a veterinarian.
  • Ensuring welfare while the preliminary processes are put in place, by carrying out countrywide inspections of which veterinarians would play a critical role in such inspections
  • A moratorium on animals used for interactions with the public or other forms of commercial exploitation that do not consider the ecological needs of the animals.

FOUR PAWS is confident that if the recommendations set out above are implemented, the decisions will truly benefit South Africa’s indigenous species, big cat populations across the globe, support enforcement efforts in tackling illegal trade and further establish South Africa as a global leader in conservation.

captive bred lion

How can you help? 

Sign the petition to end commercial big cat farming in South Africa

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