The Panel of Experts (POE) on professional and recreational hunting was given much food for thought on August 11 and 12, 2005. The need for national guidelines to govern hunting, integration of poor communities into hunting practises, transformation in the hunting industry and animal welfare were all highlighted at a public hearing held in Pretoria.
The panel is scheduled to provide Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk with a report on hunting in South Africa before the end of October. New norms and standards are likely to be drawn up to regulate hunting and the sustainable utilisation of wildlife, including the controversial practice of canned lion hunting.
Delegates from hunting associations, private game reserves, conservation NGOs, impoverished rural communities, animal welfare organisations, the scientific community and government representatives were all given a chance to submit both written and oral presentations to the panel. Despite the diverse backgrounds and objectives of the representatives, the proceedings went smoothly.
Environmental affairs spokesperson J P Louw commented "The nature of the discussions and their manner showed constructive interaction." He believes that the public hearing has "created a mechanism to continue dialogue beyond the forum amongst the stakeholders" and that it is encouraging for government, as the agreement amongst the parties makes governing the industry easier.
One of the main issues that the hearing brought to prominence was the need to channel some of the profits derived from hunting back to rural communities where hunting occurs. The week before the POE hearing, DEAT convened a workshop especially for the affected communities "to ensure that they are able to articulate their voices at the public hearing alongside the more organised and well resourced hunting associations and environmental rights groups."
Transformation of the white-dominated hunting industry was highlighted as a priority. Livingstone Maluleke, representing the Makulekes from the Pafuri region, said that he would like to see DEAT making money available to communities to train black professional hunters. "At a cost of R6,000 to be trained for 10 days – communities cannot afford that much money." Another point of consensus was the need for national hunting guidelines.
Currently most hunting is legislated by different laws in the different provinces. Jason Bell Leask, director of the South African office of the International Fund for Animal Welfare felt a "common thread" was the need for national legislation, but also felt that a more holistic view should be taken to include other animal welfare issues.
"The panel of experts needs to consider hunting in the context of other industries, such as captive breeding, [game] capture and translocation and auctions." Initially, the panel was convened to look into the canned hunting of large predators and hunting in buffer zones adjoining national parks, but the terms of reference were broadened after preliminary investigations.
Two of the people most outspoken in the media against hunting in buffer zones, specifically hunting in the Timbavati and Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR), Hennie de Beer and UDM leader Bantu Holomisa were due to give presentations to the panel. However, Holomisa failed to arrive at the hearing. De Beer was present, but opted to endorse the presentation of a previous speaker rather than give a new presentation.