South Africa’s ‘Rip van Winkel’

Don Pinnock expressed his negative opinion (once again) about our Minister of the Environment, Ms. Barbara Creecy, and her High-Level Panel of Experts, in Daily Maverick on 29 April 2020, and in it he revealed just how ‘off the mark’ his understanding of the true state of affairs is.

The Department of Environmental affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, abides by a long-established list of principles and criteria that goes back to (at least) the 1980 World Conservation Strategy (WCS) era. Mr Pinnock may not know this, but in 1980 the South African government, as did most other responsible sovereign states of the world, obligated itself to world society to model its National Conservation Strategy (NCS) on the WCS template.

The three objectives of what the WCS calls “living resource conservation” are (in brief):

  1. To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems;
  2. To preserve genetic diversity; and
  3. To ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems (notably fish and other wildlife, forests, and grazing lands) which support millions of rural communities as well as major industries.

So, captivated was world society with the wisdom inherent in the WCS that (in 1980), world-wide, the WCS was declared to be the ‘blue print’ upon which nature and mankind could be transported into posterity, together, in symbiotic harmony.

AND THAT IS THE GOAL WE SHOULD ALL BE STRIVING TO ACHIEVE TODAY.

The purpose of the Department of Environmental Affairs is to work towards achieving what is still South Africa’s National Conservation Strategy (NCS) goals – comprising, today inter alia such legislation as:

  1. The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 which intends:
  • To provide for the management and conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity within the framework of the National Environment Management Act of 1998
  • The protection of species and ecosystems that warrant national protection;
  • The sustainable use of indigenous biological resources;
  • The fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the bioprospecting of indigenous biological resources;
  • The establishment and functions of a South African National Biodiversity Institute; and
  • For matters connected therewith.
  1. The Threatened or Protected Species List and Regulations (TOPS).

TOPS is a list of species that are critically endangered and animals facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the near future. The relevant legislation includes the South African Constitution which sets out environmental rights, and various pieces of national and provincial environmental management legislation, including the National Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), National Environment: Protected Areas Act (NEMPAA), and multilateral agreements on biodiversity.

You will note that the NEMBA legislation specifically includes the promotion of:

  • “The sustainable use of indigenous biological resources”; and
  • “The fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the bioprospecting of indigenous biological resources”.

These objectives are in line with the provisions of the WCS.

The Minister is not an expert on any of these things. But she does oversee the construction and the administration of legislation that brings these desiderata into operation. And she is guided in the achievement of all these objectives, and their administration, by people who ARE experts – by good practical experts with the appropriate experience – in all these wildlife management affairs. And she has determined that the best advice she can receive in any and all of these matters, is from the people whose livelihoods depend on the content-determination of wildlife policies, and on the proper application of what ‘their trade’ believes to be ‘best practice’. Hence the establishment of the Minister’s High-Level Panel of Experts.

The panel has been specifically created to advise the Minister on matters relating to how best to manage lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards – including the commercial implications. Mr Pinnock believes that the panel was established to simply justify “those pushing for the commercialisation of wildlife.”

Where the hell has this man been for the last 30 years? Is he South Africa’s ‘Rip van Winkel’?

The Game Theft Act, promulgated in 1991, legalised private ownership and commercialisation of wildlife. And it has been a great success. We already have 10 000 private game ranches all practising commercial wildlife management. There are people who don’t like it, like Mr Pinnock, but it is here to stay. The Americans, particularly, don’t like South Africa’s commercial wildlife culture. Why, because the American Wildlife Culture is “anti-market hunting”. It is, therefore, the anti-thesis of South Africa’s wildlife culture. The Americans say South Africans are immoral because ‘we make money out of wildlife”. So-be-it! You can’t please everybody. But everybody should respect the wildlife cultures of all other countries. One country’s wildlife culture is not ‘better’ than another country’s wildlife culture. Not at all. They are just different.

Pinnock laments the fact that the panel members are required to have “experience in sustainable utilisation of wild animals”. Of course, they were required to have such experience, without that experience how else are they going to advise the Minister? THAT is what she wants advice on.

Re the Panel: I would like to have seen appointees being required to sign an affidavit stating their understanding of, and support for – in principle – all the different facets and practices of science-based wildlife management; before being accepted onto the panel. This would include their understanding and acceptance of such practices as hunting, harvesting, culling and population reduction. I say this because there are people on the panel that I know couldn’t and wouldn’t sign such an affidavit. And such people should never be allowed to breathe the same air as those who would be prepared sign my proposed affidavit.

What is the point, for example, in having animal rightists on this very special panel – which is designed to advise the minister on wildlife management matters including the legitimate practices of hunting, harvesting, culling and population reduction – and relating to wild animals and their sustainable use’ – when ideologically, the animal rightists are adamantly and ideologically opposed to all ‘animal uses by man’.

Such an idea is analogous to inviting known and convicted paedophiles and rapists to pontificate at a conference the purpose of which is to discuss abuse against women and children.

Should people who understand and accept the need for the wildlife management actions of hunting, harvesting, culling and population reduction – when appropriate – and commercialisation – be allowed onto this panel of experts? Absolutely YES!

Should people who are ideologically opposed hunting, harvesting, culling and population reduction management – and commercialisation – be allowed onto this panel? Absolutely NO! The businessmen on the panel don’t have the time to waste on the negative opinions of people like Mr Pinnock.

So, Mr Pinnock is right. The panel is biased. YES! It is biased. And, so it should be. Animal rightists should NEVER be allowed onto this panel. They are “TGA-CODE-RED” people and TGA-CODE-RED NGOs means, in my book, they do not qualify for inclusion in any official debate on any wildlife management issue. Anywhere! Ever!

They are, metaphorically, the paedophiles of the wildlife industry

Should Mr Pinnock be allowed onto this panel? Absolutely NOT. WHY? Because he is decidedly TGA-CODE-RED.

Are there people already on this panel that I would classify as TGA-CODE-RED?

YES!

Am I prepared to name them?

At an appropriate time maybe! Not now.

There are two kinds of people in this debate. There are those who support sustainable wildlife management practices, and there are those who don’t. And you will never change the minds of those who don’t. So, I am not going to take Mr Pinnock’s latest article to pieces, and try to counter its every negative statement. That would be a total waste of time.

What Mr Pinnock wants to see is a panel of experts that agrees with his own animal rightist view-points. He is not going to get that. Thanks to the DEFF Minister. My own endeavours and sentiments are in total support of the Minister

Anna M E Britz (Director) and Ron Thomson (CEO) TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE                      

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 179 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

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