24 months before they are allowed to be hunted.
Outraged over new regulations on canned hunting, specifically of lions, that were announced earlier this year, a group of North West lion breeders and provincial nature conservation officials gathered on Ben Duminy’s Doornkop
farm in Groot-Marico to address the situation.
Although lion breeders are at their wits’ end, Hennie Basson reports that the meeting did provide a spark of hope when staunch government supporters and officials from the provincial nature conservation department vowed to throw their weight behind the lion breeders’ cause.
Canned lion hunting was ushered into the public arena by the dramatic footage of a lioness being shot in the 1997 BBC Cook report. Later findings of a Mpumalanga Parks Board investigation proved that the Cook report was indeed cooked, but never made headlines to the extent of the initial report. Now lion breeders believe they have to again deal with the consequences of perceptions created 10 years ago that were never set straight. L ion breeders who attended the Doornkop protest and information meeting all feel Marthinus van Schalkwyk, minister of environmental affairs and tourism, pushed through the regulations, riding roughshod over suggestions and objections of farmers and officials on the proposed regulations of 2006. In some cases the new regulations exceed the already challenging stipulations of the 2006 draft. One example is that lions bred in captivity must now be free-living for a period of 24 months before they may be hunted. Until recently, this had been six months. “This is an impractical decision affecting breeders and employees alike, and can in the long term be detrimental to the lion population of SA and even the world,” says Ben Duminy who is one of South Africa’s major lion breeders. will now have to decide whether it is viable to feed a lion for 24 months before being able to sell it on the hunting market. W hile many of SA’s lions are hunted on land of North West lion breeders, the entire industry will be affected by the implementation of these regulations. The South African Predator Breeders’ Association has already indicated that it is prepared to go to court to test regulations on canned hunting. Even at the initial six months free-living stipulation, association spokesperson Mossie Mostert was quoted questioning this period, “Where does he [environment and tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk] get the six months from? Why must other animals not walk six months before being hunted?” T he association warned that breeders would not be able to generate enough money to buy donkeys from villagers and low-grade meat from abattoirs to feed the lions, and might boost hunting of wild lions elsewhere in Africa. has up to 300 breeders keeping about 5 000 lions worth R5 000 to R20 0000 each. D uminy, who owns 450 lions, says to date North West lion breeders have invested a phenomenal R1,5 billion in their enterprises and echoes the Predator Breeders’ Association’s concern for the impact lion breeding coming to a halt would have on rural economies. “Sometimes up to 6 000 chickens and other animal carcasses, sourced within a radius of 150km from Doornkop, are transported to the farm as food.” uminy is concerned about what to do with his half-tame lions that may soon be valueless. Added to this is the disappointment of dozens of foreign hunters with prior confirmed bookings and paid deposits. This is an uncertain situation for Duminy, who had invested R30 million to establish a sustainable enterprise. “And this with Nature Conservation’s approval, too,” he adds. “Not a single fence pole was planted, or a single lion cage erected without the knowledge of Nature Conservation. I’m in possession of a permit, issued by the department, authorising me to keep lions in captivity until the end of 2008, as well as exemption to allow lion hunting on my farm.” He shares the Predator Breeders’ Association’s concerns and warns that these regulations could put South Africa and the rest of the region’s wild lion populations under severe pressure. “While lions are caught in snares in other parts of Africa, and nearly two-thirds of the lions in our game reserves are already positive for TB, breeding and hunting is improving the species genetically, as is the case on my farm,” he says. According to the National Geographic Society there are only about 2 700 wild lions in South Africa, and between 28 000 and 47 000 lions in sub-Saharan Africa. Lion breeders feel they are creating an alternative resource to these 2 700 wild lions in a way similar to cattle farmers providing an alternative resource to wild, free-roaming buffalo. Along with other breeders, Duminy now pins his hope on the support of MEC Elliot Mayisela and Jan Serfontein, the chairperson of the provincial portfolio committee for agriculture and environmental affairs. Both men support a properly and well-managed industry, but believe the regulations must be fair, practical and achievable. |fw