Public Information bulletin.No.1. (re the Minister’s HLP report)

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:-

  1. To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems (abridged version);
  2. To preserve genetic diversity (abridged version); and
  3. 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.

O3.05.2021.

To see the report click here

Read the minister’s speech here

 

Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za.

Ron Thomson has 217 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

5 thoughts on “Public Information bulletin.No.1. (re the Minister’s HLP report)

  • This was not a wildlife management decision. It was a political decision by a body of political vuvuzelas, whose collective knowledge of wildlife management in the real world could be written on a postage stamp with a broom dipped in bitumen.
    My sympathies lie with the handful of panel members with knowledge of lions and an IQ higher than their age. They must be deeply ashamed to have appeared with these la-la clowns.
    It will, of course, make sense to the comrades, AR fundamentalists, tree huggers and the emotionally infantile for different reasons, but If this stupidity is carried out in the real world, it risks killing off SA’s farmed lions and the demand for bones (that won’t go away) will then fall on wild lions and tigers worldwide. Amazingly enough, criminals don’t give a hoot about bans and laws, as some of the other members of Ms Creecy’s political party have demonstrated only too well in the past. Her own father was apparently a Communist UK accountant, if that’s not an oxymoron. Say no more.
    Fifty years from now, they will be pulling her statue down because she will be known as the evil woman who killed off the world’s last lions. But by then, it will be too late for the lions…..

    Reply
    • Of course it’s not a conservation decision, these are not conservation lions. If lion conservation success is measured in captive breeding populations then we might as well freeze lion sperm and be happy that we have not lost the genetics and cry victory for lions.

      The trading of lions parts, together with any other wild animal, or domestic creature for that matter, is a different discussion but falls outside the realms of conservation. What pressure this will put on wild and managed lion populations only time will tell.

      Reply
      • Dear Peter,

        I have great sympathy for your cause. However…

        My concerns about the HLP are mainly about the fact that there were no realistic parameters set down which would qualify and support and justify each member’ position on the panel. So, in many cases, the panelists were biased – often in a contradictory manner to the objectives of the national conservation strategy. If it was the purpose of the panel to IMPROVE wildlife management practices in South Africa, in my opinion, the panelists should ALL have been cleared for participation using the same basic criteria in every case.

        My statement about paedophiles and rapists not being allowed into any official debate on the Abuse against Women and Children was submitted in all seriousness. It is also my continued opinion that animal rightists should be allowed anywhere near official wildlife management debates.

        For example, if one of the purposes of the panel was to investigate the correctness of everything that the panel would be discussing, each and every member of the panel should have stated their acceptance of the World Conservation Strategy (WCS) (1980) which provided the foundation principles upon which South Africa’s national conservation strategy is based. They should also had stated that they accepted that hunting is a South African tradition and that all South Africans have the right to hunt.

        The panel, in my opinion, should not have gotten itself involved in the rights and wrongs of captive breeding (anything) because once animals are removed from nature they cannot be considered part of South Africa’s “wildlife conservation debate” in any way at all. Even CITES agrees that the convention is only concerned about wildlife trade when the animals or commodities in such trade are derived from WILD populations. The captive breeding of lions and of rhinos, therefore, should not even have appeared on the HLP agenda. And, as far as I know, the lion farmers do not trade under the name of ‘conservation’. It is the animal rightists who insist that lion farming is doing a disservice to South Africa’s “conservation image”. (So do “the custodians” project a negative reaction – whose purpose I am not prepared to discuss here and now.)

        The solution to this HPL conundrum, however, might be staring us in the face. The Game Theft Act of 1991 made it legal for landowners to convert their farms into game ranches and to legally own the game animals that they introduced to those private properties provided these now privately owned game animals are “contained within adequately fenced enclosures”. The fact that these game animals ARE now “confined inside adequately fenced enclosures” means they are NOT being maintained under truly FREE RANGE conditions. Neither are they being hunted on those game ranches according to truly FAIR CHASE conditions. Ipso facto none of the privately owned game animals, on ANY game ranch in South Africa, can be considered WILD. They are (or should be) , therefore, outside the jurisdiction of state ‘conservation’ agencies’ – which are mandated to deal ONLY with WILD wild animal populations. Minister Creecy, therefore, should not be entitled to ANY say in how our game ranchers manage their privately owned wild animal resources. Whether or not the wildlife ranchers will be better off under the control of the Department of Agriculture (which has been mooted in recent years), however, has yet to be seen. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that they would be much better off under Agriculture than they are, currently, under Creecy.

        ALL these animals are, in fact, now (after a minimum of 30 years of careful husbandry) biologically “captive-bred”. They are now breeding from (minimum) F2 generation captive-bred animals which is one of the qualifying criteria for the “captive bred” label. AND they have been captive-bred for the express purpose of hunting them and/or for the production of venison. NOBODY – even the Minister for the Environment – therefore, should be allowed to interfere with this private ownership state of affairs, nor with their husbandry, nor with respect to trade in these valuable animals.

        This is a vexing issue. AND it is our wildlife that is at stake. Somehow, we have got to get this “right”.

        Kind regards,

        Ron Thomson CEO – TGA

        Reply
  • Dear Ron,

    Thanks for your considered reply. I do not have a cause and don’t belong to any movement, so I’m not sure what you were referring to in your opening statement.

    You raise a number of points that illustrate how differently each lobby interprets what conservation seeks to achieve. The answer lies in the detail of subsequent world conservation strategies “caring for the earth” (IUCN) and the Aichi Target (CBD). The National Department is a signatory to all these conventions that drive our own policy, norms and standards. Captive breeding as we understand it, in this context, does not qualify as a conservation action. And, they the breeders do you use conservation as a motivation for their defensive arguments. (I have just been in a webinar where that claim was again made, but it was included in a presentation at the PHASA AGM two years ago and you can see more of such claims in the Wildlife Ranching magazine).

    All wildlife in South Africa is addressed in National and Provincial Acts so wildlife on private land is definitely the concern of the Department and the Minister. That wildlife can be privately owned is an important part of the South African conservation model. Protected areas are not large enough to secure our national biodiversity. OECM’s, conservancies and game ranching are thus crucial tools for the persistence of our wildlife. Game ranches have been delinquent in pushing for the animal the improvements act which seriously undermines our natural capital for personal gain, nothing else! The game ranching industry has unfortunately been left to its own devises and brought us captive breeding of lions, colour variants and intensive breeding of ungulates that should never have been allowed. In this, the dereliction of duty by the authorities cannot be ignored and there is a serious lack of skill at Provincial level to ensure that policies, through legislation, are properly executed.

    With regard to the HLP I can only giggle at criticism coming from the animal rights and pro-breeders, both representing what I can only describe as fringe views. I know many people on the panel of which there are 18. Out of all the recommendations there was consensus on all issues except two. Two members did not support on recommendation on lion and one on rhino. One does not need to take a wild guess who these two members were.

    While arguments can be made for the captive breeding of lion the breeders have not made any and have hardly covered themselves in glory.

    Regards
    Peter

    Reply
    • Dear Peter,

      So much goes over my desk every day I cannot remember the detail of most of it.

      We are going through a difficult period in our history which will make or break our wildlife management potentials and responsibilities.

      And we are plagued by people with their own personal agendas, opinions and prejudices. I am not prepared to delve into individual perspectives – for that is what they are: individual personal opinions, prejudices and perspectives. We all have them. And the only ones that matter are those that are based upon the facts of the science of wildlife management. And that being the case it immediately disqualifies all animal rightist opinion; AND government ministerial opinion, too, so it seems. One of our blogs has published a whole dissertation on the animal rights doctrine which is self-explanatory, but I am not going to repeat it here. Look it up on our social media platform. It is all “there”.

      I agree that none of the modern day wild animal management practices are ‘conservation’ models – largely because there are umpteen different interpretations of that which constitutes ‘conservation’. The word ‘conservation’ is NOT a synonym for “wildlife management”. It is but one arm of three functions – the other two being “preservation management” and “Population reduction management” . None of these are properly understood or accepted by most people, and all of which are whole-heartedly criticized by the uninformed and animal rights influenced general public. So, until such time as we all talk the same language, until we all recognise the scientific principles of wildlife management and understand and accept their purpose, trying to defend the science will not resolve whatever argument anybody makes to justify his own opinion.

      For the record, I do not denounce captive breeding of anything because, to do that, means we have to deny the great advancements that agriculture has made over the last 10 000 years. When you compare captive lion breeding and captive lion hunting with the propagation of wild lions and wild lion hunting you become enmeshed in a quagmire. And I agree, the captive breeding of lions has nothing to do with what you will call ‘conservation’ BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT WRONG. Captive lion breeding is an agricultural pursuit – much like breeding cattle for the abattoir – and it should be divorced from any statement to the effect that it benefits wild lion “conservation” (although it actually could do in the years ahead). But I do not believe you should denounce the captive breeding of lions. I can see nothing different between breeding lions for a commercial bone market in the Far East and the breeding of Brahman cattle for the abattoir just down the road. If we want to compare the wild state with the captive state we must compare apples with apples. And nobody is doing that. But I agree with you. The captive breeding of anything has nothing (or very little) to do with so-called “conservation”. And that being the case we need to stop discussing it as though it does. And there is nothing wrong with landowners breeding game to make money on which they live, however. Start looking at wildlife as a WILD “product of the land”, and cattle sheep and goats as TAME “products of the land”, all of which should be used wisely and sustainably for the benefit of mankind and you will start to see “reality” in a totally different light. By the end of this century we will be sorry if we stop man making a living from wildlife , NOW.

      There is no scientific reason to ban the captive-breeding of anything.

      If you want to stop the captive breeding and hunting of lions –as a personal preference prejudice – then you must do the same for trout hatcheries, salmon hatcheries, black bass hatcheries; captive breeding and rearing of pheasants and partridges and a whole lot more. And you must stop wing-shooting; the shooting of captive-bred pheasants and partridges; trout, salmon and bass fishing etcetera etcetera etcetera. And if you want to stop trophy hunting then you will have to stop all hunting. And so the litany will go on and on.

      You are wrong in one major aspect, however. You say that wildlife on private land IS a concern of the Department (SFFE). It was determined, when the Game Theft Act was promulgated in 1991, that game animals on private land would be the property of the land owner provided it is contained inside “adequately fenced enclosures”. Government, therefore, must now honour that commitment. And if wildlife on private property is to be considered the property of the state then the state must pay the land owner all his costs, including the cost of grazing state-owned animals, on private land. The state, anyway, is not equipped nor is the Department of Nature Conservation properly trained or empassioned-enough to manage state owned animals on private land.

      I have no vested interest in the wildlife resource so I have no personal axe to grind in all these respects. But having spent all my life managing wild animals I know ‘something’ about wildlife management. And having been university trained by experts in wildlife management matters over 25 years, All I can say is that civil servants and politicians are not the kind of people who should be managing wildlife on private land (or on any land for that matter). Civil Servants and politicians should confine their wildlife management interests to managing wildlife on state land – which they are not managing properly as it is. When you consider that the objective of a national park is to maintain species diversity SANParks have made a very sorry job of managing Kruger National Park. When the scientists in Kruger quite glibly tell you that the (too many) elephants of Kruger have reduced the top canopy trees in the once thriving and ubiquitous deciduous woodland habitats in Kruger (since 1960), by over 95 percent, I believe that statement alone disqualifies SANParks personnel from managing ANY protected area in this country. And now, when our Minister determines wildlife management decisions on the basis of what amounts to a public referendum, then “SOMETHING” is very wrong with wildlife management affairs in South Africa. And the minister’s competency in this field needs to be challenged.

      The World Conservation Strategy (1980) was the first step in creative and science-based wildlife management. ‘Caring for the Earth’ (1991) was derived from the WCS AFTER the animal rightists had had a go at changing it.

      The IUCN is now admitting raw animal rightists into its member ranks. It I now, therefore, a lost cause. Anarchy looms. The world is, indeed, in a sorry mess! We have to put it right. The way to do that is by applying common sense and science-based wildlife management practices.

      The alternative to banning everything is to take the bull by the horns, do it all and to reject every utterance that is not based on scientific fact and common sense. And my gut feeling is that we keep on hunting and that we should challenge everything that not based on scientific facts and common sense.

      Regards

      Ron

      Reply

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