Reply to Peter Mills’ Comment on the Post “Public Information bulletin No.1 (re the Minister’s HLP report)”

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 website blog. 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

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

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