Organisations Plan Extensive Comments On Hunting

Despite the fact that the creation of draft norms and standards for the hunting industry has been the subject of intense public debate over the last couple of years, with the department of environmental affairs going so far as to convene a panel of experts to advise them on the issue, the newly published draft hunting regulations seem to fall short of the expectations of the hunting and animal welfare fraternity.

Many organisations are still compiling their comments, which have to be ubmitted by June 19, but while the general consensus is that the draft regulations are a step in the right direction, organisations like Phasa (Professional Hunters Association of South Africa) say they have a "huge amount of comments."

While all the organisations contacted by the Kruger Park Times said that they were still in the process of finalising their comments, some of the more important issues that sprang to prominence are reported below.

All were positive that the new regulations would help clamp down on the canned hunting of predators like lions. However, many felt that a lot of the definitions in the document needed to be tightened up, to avoid leaving loopholes for unscrupulous individuals or to allow provincial authorities too much leeway in interpretation.

The compilation of the list of protected species was also called into question, both for missing species and species on the list deemed not in need of protection. Jackals and caracals were commonly cited as an example of the latter.

Comments were also made that not enough of the recommendations on legislating the hunting industry made by the panel of experts were incorporated into the draft norms and standards.

Phasa chairman Stuart Dorrington says that the regulations do not adequately address the permit system for professional hunters and that the setting of national off-take limits for protected species would be almost impossible to accurately determine in practical terms due to the many isolated game farms that manage herds of protected species. 

However, he felt that the country's new gun laws would have significantly more impact on professional hunters than any of the proposed hunting or protected species legislation. Gerhard Verdoorn, vice president for conservation for the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association, which has over 30,000 members who are often termed 'biltong hunters', said that there was considerable confusion between recreational hunters, professional hunters and breeders. He also said thatsome of the proposed legislation to make hunters join a single body is unconstitutional.

Verdoorn added that the proposed biomonitoring system was impractical. Gary van den Berg, vice president of Wildlife Ranching South Africa, said that they have been engaging with the department of environmental affairs regarding the regulations, and were trying to improve the aspects that would lead to self-regulation of the industry, so that the final product would help the industry grow in a controlled and tidy fashion.

He added that it would be good to align South Africa's hunting standards with those of the rest of the world, and mentioned an upcoming meeting being hosted by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) in London that would be an ideal forum to do this.

Jason Bell Leask from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said that the legislation looks positive, especially in clamping down on canned hunting, but that the definitions in the document would be critical, especially when it came to enforcing the regulations at a provincial level. He welcomed the introduction of a set of regulations that would apply at a national level.

Michele Pickover, representing animal welfare group Xwe African Wild Life, said that hunting in protected areas needed to be more stringently addressed. She added that the issue of canned hunting still needed further attention, especially regarding the fate of the animals currently in breeding facilities around the country.All the organisations indicated that their comments to the department of environmental affairs would be extensive. The flood of comments submitted during last year's public participation process for the draft norms and standards for the sustainable use of large predators was partly responsible for the creation of the new regulations for the hunting industry, and it is possible that if sufficient comments are made the department of environmental affairs may have to again alter the draft norms.

By Melissa Wray

Kruger National Park - South African Safari