I am concerned that the Minister – from the very beginning – did not properly define specific practical and/or scientific criteria that would have correctly qualified applicants (or nominees) as being suitable people for membership of the Minister’s High Level Panel of so-called “Experts”. And I openly question the so-called “expert” label that was attached to many of them. Just because someone calls himself or herself (or the organization they represent) to be an animal rightist, an animal welfarist, or a ‘conservationist’ does not make them an expert in the field of wildlife management; nor should it have qualified them for membership of the HLP. And THAT, I fear, is what happened with the minister’s HLP programme.
From the outset may I say that I think the idea that ‘experts’ – real experts – be appointed to assist the minister in defining and refining her wildlife management programmes, was a very good idea. BUT, is this what the HLP ended up doing? It doesn’t seem so. The Minister’s idea began to fall seriously apart when she appointed people (animal rightists and animal rights NGOs) to her panel who had diametrically opposed opinions compared to the objectives of her very own department’s National Conservation Strategy.
This is tantamount to the Minister of Social Development appointing paedophiles and rapists to a High Level Panel that is designed to assist her to better understand the phenomenon called Abuse Against Women and Children. Most people in responsible society would find such appointments unconscionable. I find the appointment of animal rightists to Minister Barbara Creecy’s HLP on wildlife management issues, to be just as unconscionable. And they resulted in the report being quite contrary to the WCS provisions that designed our initial NCS. And, that being the case, I think all participants in South Africa’s commercial wildlife industry have the right to request that the Creecy report be abandoned with immediate effect.
So, let me explain my thoughts on this matter, further, and let’s see if the TGA’s readership agrees with me.
To understand this conundrum I will have to take you right back to 1980 when the World Conservation Strategy (WCS) was promulgated. The WCS, in 1980, was considered to be the “mission statement” of the IUCN (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). In 1980 the IUCN encouraged its sovereign state members to model their NATIONAL Conservation Strategies (NCSs) on the WCS template. Most responsible states did this. South Africa was one of them. In 1980, therefore, South Africa’s NCS was an almost word for word replica of the WCS. Since then, however, South Africa’s NCS has changed shape and its labels have also been changed, to fit the changing circumstances and needs of the times. And it will no doubt continue to do so again and again. Nothing wrong with that! What did not change, however – and what should never change – are those basic WCS principles that were included in our first NCS.
The three objectives of what the WCS described as “living resource conservation” (sic) are:-
- To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems (abridged version);
- To preserve genetic diversity (abridged version); and
- To ensure the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems (notably fish and other wildlife, forests and grazing lands) which support millions of rural communities as well as major industries.
Note: The WCS supports both subsistence AND commercial use of wild living resources. The key to its ideals in this respect, however, was the concept of “sustainable use”.
The TGA’s own principles are drawn from the WCS.
In 1980 the world’s responsible sovereign state members were so impressed with the WCS that they stated their belief that it represented a blue print for the survival of man, and of nature, on planet earth. What better accolade could any protocol have? Yet many members of the Minister’s HLP group, on Sunday last, denounced the WCS and its common sense and science-based provisions. And these were the people who helped shape the final recommendations that the Minister is now making. The TGA, therefore, has every right and every reason to condemn the Minister’s report in its entirety.
Ron Thomson CEO – TGA.
To see the report click here
Read the minister’s speech here