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South Africa bans leopard trophy hunting for 2016

Written by: Don Pinnock for Conservation Action Trust

The Department of Environmental Affairs has set provincial leopard trophy hunting quotas at zero for 2016, effectively banning leopard trophy hunting throughout South Africa.

© Janine Avery

© Janine Avery

This follows an alert by the country’s Scientific Authority that the number of leopards in the country was unknown and that trophy hunting posed a high risk to the survival of the species.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), South Africa is permitted to allocate 150 leopard trophy export permits a year. Early warning of possible permit curtailment appeared in the Government Gazette late last year indicating that if the guidelines issued earlier in the year were not adhered to, provincial quotas would be set to zero for 2016.

Commenting on the Gazette notice at the time, Guy Balme of the environmental NGO Panthera said: ‘We just don’t know how leopards are faring in South Africa. They’re secretive, mainly nocturnal, solitary and range over huge areas. Counting them requires intensive research using expensive technology such as camera traps, which can only be deployed over small areas, far smaller than the areas in which hunting quotas are determined.

It seems prudent that hunting should only continue once the appropriate measures are in place. Only then can we be confident that the practice is sustainable and not putting additional pressure on leopard populations already under a great deal of strain from other threats.”

At the time the DEA issued what it described, rather cryptically, as a ‘negative non-detrimental finding’, meaning that hunting was likely to have a detrimental effect on the survival of  the species.

It listed threats to leopards as excessive legal and illegal shooting of ‘damage-causing animals,’ poorly managed trophy hunting, illegal trade in leopard skins for cultural and religious attire, and generally poor monitoring of hunts and permit allocation.

The research authority found that leopards:

·      Had a low reproductive rate

·      Their distribution was fragmented

·      Their abundance and population trend was uncertain

·      Illegal off-take was uncertain

·      There was little control of harvesting (especially illegal harvesting), which was high

·      Confidence in harvest management and monitoring was low

·      Incentives for conservation in the country were low; and

·      Only between 5% and 15% of leopard habitat was strictly protected. The trophy ban is in place throughout this year. According to the DEA statement, the scientific authority will then review the situation. It will also develop norms and standards for the management and monitoring of leopard hunting throughout the country.

Kelly Marnewick, the Environmental Wildlife Trust’s carnivore conservation manager, supported the ban. “It’s important to ensure that any wildlife trade we do is sustainable,” she said. “If we can’t do that, it’s highly problematical. We need a trade ban until we can get to that. Record keeping on trophy hunting in this country is shocking. We haven’t been recording age, sex or size of trophies. If our hunting fraternity is serious about using wildlife sustainably, they will embrace this ban and find ways to work with government until trade is sustainable.”

Helen Turnbull of the Cape Leopard Trust also supported the move. She said the trust was pleased to see that common sense has prevailed and that the government would maintain the ban until provinces had got their acts together.

Andrew Muir of the Wilderness Foundation said the ban was good news, but noted that it was an interim measure while norms and standards were being put in place. “We cannot stress enough the need for high quality research on the population numbers, make-up and distribution of leopards, especially in core conservation areas,” he said. “Leopards are charismatic and an apex species. Until we know population numbers and carrying capacity we should not hunt them.”

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  • Leslie Chain

    It’s very little, very late, but better than nothing.

  • Alan Kennedy

    Please make sure to inform Goodwill-hulle

  • Peter Apps

    Sadly the snaring, poisoning and shoot, shovel and shut up will continue unabated.

    • Willem Frost

      I suspect there are a lot more leopards than we think. I saw a big tom just yesterday sneaking up on some of my impala.Game ranchers allover Limpopo will you the same: there are lots of leopards as the prey base is abundant and they do not require such a large territorium under these circumstances. Same goes for cheetahs. We see leopard and cheetah tracks everyday, but they are sneaky animals and we see them only now and then. If landowners cannot earn anything from leopards, the “shoot, shovel & shut-up” will only increase as leopards then have only a nuisance value.

      • Eric Simons

        Why would a landowner expect to earn something from a wild animal? If you raise impala for profit, do you not anticipate attrition from predators and build that into your pricing structure?

        • Willem Frost

          Life is unfortunately seldom so simplistic. Always lots of angles on any issue. Game ranchers are seldom in a position to set prices; it is given to them by the market. So, you cannot just add cost factors willy-nilly. Also, leopards not only eat the cheaper species; sometimes they take really high value animals. There are also lots of subsistence farmers who only keep a few cows, goats, donkeys, and so on. Leopard and lion is bad news for them. It is not surprising that they kill predators by any means possible, and it should be no surprise that there is usually almost no wildlife left on tribal lands, unless the community can benefit from trophy hunting. To ban hunting is not going to help any animal in these situations.
          I try to deal with the predation problem by keeping a large buffer prey base. It helps, but creates its own problems.
          To answer your first question: why should a landowner tolerate predators on his land if they only cause damage and losses without adding any value to anything?

  • Trophy hunting is inhumane and ecologically foolish.

    • Willem Frost

      This is the view of the uninformed. Conservationists regard trophy hunting as essential.

      • No. It is inhumane and counterproductive.

      • realposter

        You mean “conservationists” that have an agenda.

        • Willem Frost

          Yes, their agenda is the well-being of eco-systems, wildernesses and wildlife.

          • realposter

            That is balderdash… Trophy hunting does nothing for the well being of the wilderness and wildlife. It takes out indiscriminately, often the strongest animals. That does nothing but throw off the ecosystem!

          • Willem Frost

            I beg to differ. Why would the IUCN (the world’s leading authority on conservation) be so supportive of controlled, legal hunting? Have those scientists really got it all wrong? And why is it that wildlife is doing so much better in those African countries that offer trophy hunting, as opposed to those countries that do not allow hunting? Would respectfully suggest you do a bit more homework on the subject.

          • realposter

            No – it’s that they are saying it’s the “lesser of two evils”. That doesn’t make it the “right” solution.

          • Willem Frost

            I am afraid you are wrong. If not, then please explain why is it that wildlife is doing so much better in the hunting lands. Also, the IUCN is NOT regarding hunting as the “lesser of two evils”; it is regarded as an essential tool in the conservationist toolkit. That’s why the Species Survival Commission brought out a set of guidelines on how hunting is to be managed.

          • Freedom

            What in heaven’s name does the IUCN know about conservation in Africa,the Americans have slaughtered Bison almost to extinction,as too the grizzly.Yeah take there advice on how to run African wildlife,within 10 yrs most animals will be extinct.

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