Endangered species regulations postponed

The implementation date for the regulations on threatened and ­endangered species, which control lion hunting and which had controversially placed the black-backed jackal on the threatened and endangered species list, has been moved from 1 June 2007 to 1 February 2008. Mandlenkosi Mayisela, the MEC for agriculture, conservation and environment in North West, surprisingly came out in favour of this postponement. Gwenda van Zyl asks him why.
Issue date 1 June 2007

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You have welcomed the postponement of the threatened and endangered species regulations. Does this mean you don’t agree with the ­regulations set out by minister Marthinus van ­Schalkwyk? We do agree that the industry needs ­regulating. But as a province, as well as regulating we need to take into account the needs of the people in the industry. They are unhappy about parts of the ­regulations, such as the requirement that a lion be allowed to roam free on the land for 24 months before it can be hunted. This means no income for 24 months. Another area we are uncomfortable with is the issuing of permits. The regulations seem to suggest that permits will be issued by the National Department of Agriculture. But for the purpose of monitoring the number of permits issued and ensuring compliance with the regulations, we feel the province should be involved for the system to work effectively. And if, for example, a permit is rejected in North West, why must someone in Pretoria make the decision? So the postponement gives us some time to talk to the minister and find a compromise.

You said the postponement allows for some breathing room. What do you hope will happen in the period before the regulations are implemented? I would like to continue talks with the minister and reach a compromise. I can’t pre-empt the discussion, but these ­regulations will have to be implemented in the provinces, which need an opportunity to express their concerns. North West was the first province to raise concerns over the regulations. The minister has been sympathetic and ­willing to listen to us. We will look at the whole package – the time the lion spends on the land before it can be hunted, the issuing and regulating of permits – and try to find a resolution that everyone is happy with.

Organisations such as the National Council of the SPCA have expressed disappointment at the news of the ­postponement. They are concerned that South Africa will become a “killing field” as ­farmers try to deplete their “stock” of wild cats. How would you respond? They represent a particular view, as is their right. In the same vein they should be able to accept and respect that the people who are operating in this industry will be affected by the regulations and they are unhappy with them. Government can’t just brush off those views. This is a democracy and all views must be taken into consideration.

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The regulations have been postponed to February 2008. Is this enough time for farmers, and those who supply them, to make alternative arrangements?
This is one of the issues we are discussing with the minister and those involved in the industry. We are encouraging those who want to stay in the industry to start ­preparations to comply with the regulations. Those who want to leave the industry need to start diversifying. But it is undoubtedly a ­challenge. When the farmers who are now in the game farming industry converted from conventional farming,
they made huge investments in ­infrastructure such as camps and other safety features. We don’t believe this ­investment can just be swept away, and this features in our ­discussions with the minister.

How do you keep informed about the farmers’ businesses and their needs, and how has this influenced your view on the regulations? I have monthly meetings with all the stakeholders. The meetings are held at the farmers’ premises, and we inspect the­ ­facilities beforehand and see them in use so we become familiar with the farm ­operations. At the meeting I give the ­stakeholders feedback on government ­decisions and we discuss various issues.

What about the greater supply chain that will be affected by the regulations?
This is also something we have mentioned to the minister. Many farmers depend on the rural communities, and this brings an income to these communities. This will form part of the decision-making process about the regulations.

Is there cooperation between those in the industry and those in government?
Between now and the date of ­implementation we will engage the ­minister on issues we are concerned about. We don’t want to obstruct government policy, but we need to find a resolution that suits both sides. We all want a clean industry with ­ethical businesses, so regulations are ­necessary, but they must take the welfare
of those in the industry into account. The minister has been very sympathetic,
and this gives me hope that in six months we should reach a favourable
agreement. |fw