A motion to enact legislative changes to canned lion hunting practices in South Africa has been approved at the International Union for Conservation of Nature congress in Hawaii.

Seven NGOs including the Blood Lions team (a documentary on canned lion hunting), the National Association of Conservancies and Stewardship South Africa (NACSSA), and the South African Wildlife College (SAWC), have tabled a motion to review legislation governing canned lion hunting. The motion was introduced at the recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) congress in Hawaii.

John Wesson, chairperson of NACSSA, told Farmer’s Weekly that the organisation was against canned lion hunting in particular, and not hunting in general.

“We are against handrearing lions for hunting, which are [kept] in an enclosure and then moved onto a range to be hunted. As long as hunting is practised in a sustainable, legal and humane way we are not against it,” Wesson said.

Norms and standards

If canned hunting was banned, a lot of thought would have to be given to how current captive animals will be reintroduced into the wild or game parks.

Dr Andrew Venter, CEO of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, told Farmer’s Weekly that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and NGOs have agreed on priority actions, such as developing norms and standards, supported by the South African Scientific Authority, that define conditions under which lion hunting is regarded as canned hunting. In addition, captive breeding of lions would be restricted to registered zoos or facilities that show a clear conservation benefit. Norms and standards would also be developed to manage the welfare, biodiversity and utilisation of captive-bred lions.

Prof Pieter Potgieter, chairperson of the South African Predator Association (SAPA), said many assumptions made about lion hunting was problematic.

“Some see hunting a lion in a 10 000ha enclosure as canned hunting. Then all kudu and eland hunts can be seen as canned hunts as they are hunted in fenced areas,” Potgieter said. lion population, as well as the hunting of captivebred lions has no negative effect whatsoever on wild lion populations, in SA,” Potgieter said.

In support of Captive-bred lions

From a species survival perspective, the SA captive lion population is an important subpopulation, making up between 21% and 31% of the total population. “The captive lion population, as well as the hunting of captive-bred lions has no negative effect whatsoever on wild lion populations in SA” Potgieter said.

“In the 2013/2014 hunting season, the lion trophy industry contributed R317 million to the [local] economy,” he said.

Only 15% of captive-bred lions are hunted annually, which is economically sustainable, and pays for the board and lodging of the rest of the population. Many of them live in large private game reserves, Potgieter said.

Not legally binding

Ian Michler, specialist wilderness guide, consultant and environmental photojournalist, told Farmer’s Weekly, “unfortunately, IUCN  motions are not legally binding within member states. But as a signatory to the IUCN, government undertakes to cooperate with agreements and decisions.coming out of the IUCN”.

A recent DEA press release stated that government did not support some of the aspects of this motion. “It will, however, consider the implications associated with the motion and engage the IUCN directorgeneral and IUCN members on the requirements contained therein,” the release said.