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Conservation’s Mariana Trench: Report on wildlife trade a seminal moment in South Africa’s history

This is an excerpt from an article written by Peter Borchert and published online by Daily Maverick on 06 May, 2021

For those familiar with the conservation landscape in southern Africa, the significance of Barbara Creecy’s announcement needs little explanation. But for those who aren’t, suffice it to say there are two main wildlife issues around which almost everything revolves in South Africa – hunting and trade. Unfortunately, the divide is so deep that it makes the Mariana Trench seem like a ditch.

Mid-morning on Sunday, 2 May 2021, I sat glued to my computer screen, and I certainly wasn’t alone, for the day was to prove a seminal moment in South Africa’s long and mostly illustrious wildlife conservation history. The occasion was the public release of Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy’s long-awaited review of the policies, laws and practices around the breeding, hunting, management, trade and handling of four iconic species – elephants, rhinos, lions and leopards. 

It didn’t disappoint. As Don Pinnock writing in Daily Maverick aptly observed: “In a seismic shift that will send shock waves through many areas of SA’s wildlife industry, the Cabinet has endorsed a report calling for the end of lion farming, captive lion hunting, cub-petting and the commercial farming of rhinos.”

Comment was quick to follow. Ian Michler, an investigative journalist, a long-time campaigner against predator breeding, and a key member of the Blood Lions film team, was deeply encouraged by the panel’s findings. “After almost 25 years of opposing the horrors of captive predator breeding, mostly without success, this shift in thinking is significant,” he said. “The minister seems sincere, which means it is also an incredible opportunity to work with the department to rid the region of these practices forever. Blood Lions congratulates her, the ministry, the high-level panel and all those who made submissions calling for an end to the industry.”