In 2021 we undertook an immense research project to better understand the extent of the captive predator industry in South Africa. Through our research, we hoped to gather information to gain insight into the unregulated nature of predator breeding, keeping and trade across the country. We wanted to get a better understanding of the extent and nature of the industry which meant we needed to get a sense of the sheer numbers of big cats in facilities and the types of activities that involved these predators, such as captive hunts, euthanasia, breeding, transport, and trade. It was also necessary to understand how officials carry out their responsibilities, like inspecting these facilities. With this information we could comprehend more fully the efficiency and compliance of provincial regulations and officials with regard to the captive breeding, keeping, and trade of big cats in South Africa.
Promotion of Access to Information Act
In order to obtain this information through legal channels, we made use of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), which was created to ensure that South Africans have the constitutional right to access information to promote democratic participation and transparency for public and private bodies.
Our research demonstrates serious concerns regarding the provincial departments’ capacity, poor record keeping, and even having PAIA requests for information ignored or refused. Although an important part of democracy is transparency, our researchers often struggled to obtain the correct contact details for information officers and to maintain contact to receive the requested information. Existing PAIA manuals were often outdated and some information officers displayed non-compliance by ignoring our requests or not responding within the timeframes outlined in the PAIA manuals.
The number of PAIA requests (n = 72) and responses received. Days lapsed means the time between the initial enquiry and date of closure.