The publication of the draft norms and standards for the sustainable use of large predators, intended to regulate canned hunting, has caused a flood of comments to be submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The Kruger Park Times obtained comments submitted by both the Game Rangers' Association of Africa (GRAA) and the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association.
Both organisations say that the draft is long overdue, and that the delays involved in producing the document have led to there being a population of over 2000 large predators in captivity, mostly for the canned hunting trade. Both organisations want legislation that will phase out these existing populations, the GRAA setting a limit of two years in which to do this.
The hunters' association objects to the term "canned hunting" at the outset, preferring it to be referred to as "canned shooting", saying that "hunting is the fair chase of an animal where the hunter exposes himself to the same elements that the animals are exposed to and has to outwit the animal."
The two associations also call into question the ability of the various provincial nature conservation authorities to regulate and enforce the norms and standards. The hunters also feel that too much is left to provincial discretion, and that there should be more national standards, such as a national standard prescribing the type of fencing needed to contain large predators.
They point out that in the Northern Cape the wild dog is not even listed as a protected species. This is despite the fact that it is considered to be southern Africa's most endangered carnivore. The rehabilitation and reintroduction of animals also proved to be an issue that caused comment, especially that there were loopholes that could be got around as the wording in the document is open to subjective interpretation.
The GRAA says, "It is a FACT that no re-introduction of captive bred lions into the wild has been successful. George Adamson was only able to re-introduce his lions in Kenya by killing the resident wild lions, a fact not well known." The hunters' association believes that re-introduction needs to be looked at on a species-by-species basis, and to use World Conservation Union (IUCN) guidelines to form national laws governing this process.
The GRAA believes that a wild predator is only one thathas been born to wild free-ranging parents and is itself free-ranging. They felt that there were sufficient other large predators that could be hunted without making attempts to rehabilitate captive-born animals as this was generally unsuccessful. The issue of leopard hunting drew many comments, such as allowing leopard hunting at night, allowing leopards to be baited as this is the traditional method of shooting leopards, and allowing leopards to be hunted with dogs.
The GRAA states that unless in the Kalahari, it is virtually impossible to hunt a leopard by tracking, but that baits should not be placed within 2km of the boundary of a protected area. This would address the issue of lions being lured out of Kruger National Park and large nature reserves in the lowveld for hunting purposes. The hunters' association feels that microchipping is not a good enough way of keeping a record of animal breeding and movements, but that DNA fingerprinting should also be used.
The hunters' association also calls for regulations that govern bow hunting, as it uses different approaches from traditional hunting. Both the GRAA and the hunters' association also wish DEAT to produce legislation governing the hunting of exotic large predators, such as tigers, jaguars and polar bears. The hunters' association specifically states that no exotic large predators should be imported or captive bred in South Africa for the purposes of shooting, and in fact no exotic large predators at all should be hunted in South Africa.