Molewa Steers South Africa’s Conservation, not Foreign Activists.

Ron Thomson of the True Green Alliance – Our response to the Daily Maverick article by Don Pinnock

There are two kinds of people trying to dominate the world of living resources in this day and age. Those who understand and believe in the sustainable harvest of living resources (plants and animals) for the benefit of mankind; and those who don’t. We might call them, respectively, pragmatists and utopianists; and their opinions are poles apart.

A pragmatist is guided more by practical considerations than by ideals. A utopianist lives in a fool’s paradise where he believes everything can and should be perfect. Don Pinnock, in his recent piece in the Daily Maverick entitled “South Africa opens the door to the sale of wildlife parts” – which subject he denounced in the most scathing of terms – identifies himself, by implication, as a utopianist. I call him an “animal rightist”.

What is an animal rightist? He, or she, is a person whose purpose in life is to abolish all animal “uses” by man – even to the extent that people should not be allowed to own a pet dog; or a cat. Animal rightists disapprove of mankind farming cattle, sheep or goats, or pigs and chickens; and of riding horses. They believe it is immoral for man to kill any kind of animal to obtain meat to eat. They believe the eating of animal flesh by man is abhorrent and uncivilised; that meat consumption by man should be outlawed; and that mankind should exist on a wholly vegetarian diet.

What did Pinnock say that so offended me? He claimed that our minister, Mrs Edna Molewa – by introducing legal and sustainable-use options for the farming of rhinos and the marketing of their horns; by defining the legal norms and standards for the sustainable hunting of leopards; and by allowing the export of legally procured lion bones – was ignoring the findings of what he calls “environmental organisations”; her contractual compliance with CITES; a worldwide online petition; and her own plan for rhinos – was doing something that is illegal and obnoxious in the extreme. Adding other insults to her list of crimes, he insinuated that everything associated with sustainable use was being done solely “for money”.

The “environmental organisations” to which Pinnock referred, represent what I call “the animal rights brigade”. They are the last kind of people that should advise this country – any country – on wildlife management affairs. They are unwelcome vendors – akin to those so-called visionaries who want to wander through synagogues trying to sell pork chops. So the real wildlife aficionados in South Africa are not in the least bit interested in hearing what Pinnock’s so-called “environmental organisations” – the most extreme and irrational of all utopian organisations – have to say.


In 1980, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (the IUCN) published its World Conservation Strategy (WCS) which outlined the IUCN’s vision and its mission. This protocol was, in fact, the IUCN’s principle “conservation” policy. The WCS very clearly states that if man and nature are to survive together on this earth, they will have to learn to live in symbiotic harmony; and that this can only be achieved if man learns and practices the art of sustainably harvesting the earth’s living resources. It does NOT say that man should NOT harvest the earth’s living resources. It says that he should harvest the plants and the animals of the planet in a sustainable manner. And it does not differentiate between wild and domestic animals; or between wild and cultivated plants.

In 1980, the nations of the world declared the WCS to be the “blueprint” that would take both mankind and nature, safely and together, into posterity. And all those responsible nations that were members of the IUCN in 1980 obligated themselves to the people of the world, to model their national conservation strategies (NCSs) on the WCS template. South Africa was one of them. Hence all the provisions of the WCS are now ensconced within South Africa’s National Conservation Strategy – as are they contained in the National Conservation Strategies of every other responsible state. And these provisions were written into the laws of all these countries – which is how the WCS obtained its legal teeth. 

NB: Pinnock’s “environmental organisations” repudiate the WCS! So their opinions are valueless! Wildlife management decisions should never be made by public referendum – so  the very idea of Mr. Pinnock’s lauded world-wide online petition is unacceptable; and CITES is rapidly achieving the reputation of being a totally corrupt organisation that does more harm to Africa’s wildlife, than good! The minister’s recent bold initiative, therefore, is an indication that maybe – just maybe – she is starting to allow South Africa to start paddling its own canoe. And THAT is all good!

So, if the minister’s actions were all in line with these long accepted United Nations (and South African) protocols, why does Pinnock believe he has the right to castigate her? He doesn’t… but he did… and he did so because he believes that, as an animal rightist, he is right and everybody else is wrong. Animal rightists believe they have the right – without rational reason – to reject, out of hand, the proven principles and the practices of science-based wildlife management! Society should take note of this reality.

Mr Pinnock is a journalist and photographer, and a former editor of a tourism magazine. His career specialities are listed as: electronic engineer; lecturer in journalism and criminology; consultant to the Mandela government (but his CV does not say about what); a professional yachtsman; explorer; travel writer; photographer; and cable-car operator on the Rock of Gibraltar. His present passion, apparently, is the impact of humans on planetary processes – whatever that means? What in all this salmagundi of his life’s fortunes and accidents qualifies him to be an expert in any kind of wildlife matter? Nothing! Undaunted, however, he frequently pontificates on environmental issues that lament (what he sees to be) South Africa’s wildlife management woes – intimating that nobody else can solve these problems but himself and his animal rightist friends.

Nobody is always right! Everybody is sometimes wrong! But, in this case, the minister has done her homework. She did everything right when she proposed to pass legislation on: (1) the domestic sale of rhino horn; (2) the norms and standards of leopard hunting; and (3) on granting export permits for lion bones. All the legal requirements are in place. The wildlife management principles that she has used to guide her are correct. If I have any criticism, it is that she did not go far enough with regard to opening up still further the rhino horn trade and make it international. South Africa – and her rhinos – needs an open international market for our rhino products. It is the only and obvious way forward!

Nevertheless, the minister’s economic considerations have been sound.   No laws have been broken. The principles supporting her decisions are in line with the provisions of the WCS and South Africa’s own NCS. And the proposed new legislation is in line with South Africa’s domestic wildlife laws.

So what is Mr Pinnock’s case? He disagrees with everything that Mrs Molewa has proposed? Why am I not surprised? He is behaving in the manner that all animal rightists behave. They constantly make controversial statements – convincing statements to the uninitiated – without any kind of corroborating evidence. And people like Mr. Pinnock well know that if they repeat their lies often enough, the gullible public will come to accept them as being the truth. So let me warn society at large. If you read and believe any of the wild wildlife stories that Mr Pinnock tells you, examine his words and his motives very carefully. If you don’t, you will most certainly be led astray.

Ron Thomson’s response to the Daily Maverick article by Don Pinnock


  1. John Sharp

    An awesome article Ron Thomson – very eloquent indeed and right on the money!

  2. Actually she didn’t research on the trade in Rhino horn. She listened to private owners with large stockpiles. The only thing she us doing is leading South Africa’s greatest asset towards extinction.

    • Ron Thomson

      Quite the contrary, Miss Cobb, it is people like you, who do not understand the mechanics of rhino conservation in South Africa, and who plug the “total preservation” button all the time, that are the ones who are driving South Africa’s rhinos to extinction. The world has been pursuing the “total preservation of rhino” concept – and NO TRADE IN RHINO HORN – for over 40 years without any impact on the poaching of rhinos. Einstein said that: “If you do the same thing repeatedly year after year and constantly get a result that you don’t want, and you continue to do the same thing again and again, and expect a different outcome, that is the first sign of madness.” I have worked in this field for 58 years and I can assure you the ONLY thing that can possibly save our rhinos is the opening up of a fully transparent and properly controlled international trade in rhino horn. RT.

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