Chris Mercer reveals the chilling truth about why there are thousands of game farms and so few wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa.
As Russ and I are not wildlife conservationists we rely heavily on experts to shed light on issues that matter to us.
Chris Mercer, Founder of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting [CACH] offers his insights as to where priorities and loyalties really lie when it comes to hunting game farms (where animals are killed) to wildlife sanctuaries (where animals are saved.)
Game Park vs. Wildlife Sanctuary
Because hunting involves cruelty, killing and adverse impacts upon biodiversity, you’d expect hunting to be heavily regulated and monitored. And you’d expect animal protection to be lightly regulated, to encourage public participation.
But this is South Africa, where the hunting fraternity controls conservation.
To start a hunting farm:
All the landowner needs is a Certificate of Adequate Enclosure to confirm that his perimeter fence is strong and high enough and Presto! all regulations vanish like smoke. No need to apply for any re-zoning, or obtain EIAs, or file complex business or management plans, or be restricted by hunting seasons; the landowner is free to do what he likes with his ‘alternative livestock.’ Indeed, he can turn the land in to a battlefield, like the infamous driven hunt at Alldays in Limpopo. See this illustrated report on the Alldays hunt, showing how hunting is to conservation what pornography is to art.
Now compare the regulatory burden on wildlife sanctuaries or rehab centres.
To start a Wildlife Sanctuary:
- for animal rescue, a re-zoning application is required. Now the bureaucracy runs riot.
A one-size-fits-all re-zoning application means that the mind-numbing requirements designed for large scale developments such as a new golf course complex or a five star ten story hotel all have to be met by the poor wildlife rehabber.
Here is just one small extract from the re-zoning application form:
5.1.1 Physical characteristics of the property
The expected impact of the proposed land use change and any change to the physical characteristics , must be discussed. The physical characteristics include topography , geological formations , soil properties and depth of underlying rock formations , microclimate , vegetation ( eg plants) , floodplains and flood lines , water tables , fountains , drainage , unique ecological habitats and sensitive areas , existing filled areas and quarrying , and so on.
Really!!?? All this – and much, much more – just to rescue a bundle of fur or feathers??
- An E.I.A. (environmental impact assessment) – for which yet another expensive consultant is required. An EIA can only be done by a registered qualified EIA practitioner, and the whole process can take months, and cost tens of thousands of rands.
- Formal standard operating procedures (SOPs) for every aspect of the rehab process; use of vehicles, use of equipment, cleaning, etc .etc – all of which must be signed by staff and volunteers. The detail required is so overwhelming that even where to park the car at night must be included in the SOP!
- Expensive and unnecessarily high and strong fences for enclosures, even those designed to hold small, harmless animals.
- Explain mission and vision, species and number of animals kept (how on earth to know this in advance?), how you are going to meet the physiological, physical and psychological needs of the animals that you do not yet have, transport facilities, veterinary facilities, fire management plans, personnel training, public liability insurance for millions, escape plans, exit strategies, letters of support from all neighbours, an essay on how the centre will add value to conservation, research, education etc, risk assessment, ecological impacts etc etc.
Oh and membership of PAAZAB.
(Logic?? PAAZAB is a zoo association. Why on earth should a rehabber be forced to join a Zoo association? Zoos exist for human entertainment; the rehabber has no interest in human entertainment. Some of PAAZAB’s rules, such as the requirement to be open to the public at all times, are bizarrely inappropriate to a rehab centre, which is closed to the public at all times.)
The point is this: not only are these excessive bureaucratic obstacles discouraging people from exercising their legal right to participate in wildlife management, but the fact that none of these onerous obligations are imposed upon game hunting farms boggles the mind.
Is this burdensome bureaucracy really necessary for conservation purposes?
- If these onerous bureaucratic demands were really important, then they would apply to game farming and the hunting industry – much more so because hunting impacts the environment far more than rescuing and rehabbing orphaned and injured wildlife. Despite the anti-conservation antics of an out-of-control hunting fraternity, such as cross-breeding mutant freaks for hunting trophies, or turning the land in to a battlefield like the driven hunt at Alldays in Lipopo, no EIAs are required.
- In the conservation sub-culture, ‘welfare’ of animals is almost a swear word. There is open hostility to the whole idea of animal welfare, and anyone who speaks out against cruelty to wildlife is pejoratively labelled a ‘greenie,’ a ‘rightist’, a ‘radical’ and ‘an‘extremist.’
- In seeking to control every aspect of sanctuary/rehab activity, the conservation authorities are acting ultra vires ie outside their legal powers. In short, illegally. The Supreme Court of Appeal decided in the Predator Breeders case that breeding lions for canned hunting or other human entertainment fell outside the authority of conservationists – because the lions would never be released back to the wild. So, on the same basis, a sanctuary cannot be regulated by conservation structures, because sanctuary animals will never be released.
So why are conservationists so obsessed with controlling every aspect of animal welfare facilities when they have no legal right to do so?
Animal welfare issues fall outside the mandate of conservation structures which are limited by statute to conserving biodiversity through sustainable use.
Conservationists themselves never miss an opportunity to deny that animal welfare is their responsibility.
Quote by Dr Ernst Baard (EB) of Cape Nature (CN) in the Minutes of a Wildlife Forum meeting in Cape Town on29th April 2015:
EB clarified that CN’s mandate does not include animal welfare, but that CN does take welfare into account in regulating wildlife.
Authority and responsibility go together – Cape Nature cannot deny that it has any power to regulate animal welfare – and then proceed to try to regulate it. In Zane Erasmus’s paper on the keeping of captive wild animals, he does not even mention sanctuaries – so far outside the domain of conservation is this activity considered to be.
Like lion farming, animal welfare falls through the cracks of S.A. administration. It is covered by statute (the Animals Protection Act of 1962), and so it is left to the NSPCA, a private charity, to deal with on a very shaky legal basis.
There should be a Department of Animal Welfare – indeed, this was promised in the Democratic Alliance’s Election Manifesto, but was never implemented.
My conclusion is that in the absence of a Department of Animal Welfare, there is no government department with the authority to administer wildlife sanctuaries, and any sanctuarian who feels that conservation structures are interfering in the running of the sanctuary is advised to seek relief in the High Court.
The fundamental issue is this:
Are wilderness and wildlife just a resource to be harvested, (which is the SA Conservation culture and mandate) or are they a precious heritage which should be preserved for posterity? (as animal lovers believe?)
As always, thanks for your insight Chris.
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