TELLING THE TRUTH WHERE AND WHEN THE TRUTH MATTERS
The animal rightists insist they should be allocated places on the Minister’s Wildlife Forum.
Over my dead body!
I am writing this rebuttal of a DM report, in my capacity as the CEO of a Non-Profit /Public Benefit organisation called The True Green Alliance (TGA), the vision of which is: To create a southern African (ultimate global) society that is properly informed about the principles and practices of science-based wildlife management; that understands the wisdom of, and necessity for, the practice of sustainable utilisation of living resources (both wild and domestic) for the benefit of mankind; that supports animal welfare; and that rejects animal rights – the doctrine of which seeks to abolish all animal uses by man.
I am a university-trained, and national parks trained, field ecologist with 60 years of practical hands-on experience in the management of Africa’s national parks; and in the management of the wild animals that live within them. I have also practiced, for 30 years, as an investigative wildlife journalist in the fields of big game hunting and wildlife management.
I am not a hunter, professional hunter, safari outfitter, or owner or manager of a game ranch or game lodge. And I have no vested interest in any facet of South Africa’s wildlife industry. I am, however, a very keen naturalist with lots of understanding about the management of national parks and wild animal populations in Africa. I am the author of 15 books – including some 5 or 6 that can be classified as being university level text books on wildlife management. Some of my books are currently in use in South African universities.
MY OPINION WITH REGARD TO THE CAPTIVE BREEDING OF LIONS
With particular reference to the Captive Breeding of Lions(CBL) issue, a TGA colleague of mine, and I, carried out an investigation into the (CBL) industry in South Africa, which covered the whole month of June, 2018. We investigated 40 (out of an estimated 200) lion breeding farms and other lion farming facilities in the Free State, and in the North-West and Limpopo provinces. And since then, I have put in considerable research into many different aspects of the industry that came to our notice during this survey.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Daily Maverick appealed to the public to become a “Maverick Insider”, for a small fee, so that the newspaper could afford to continue to feed the public with regular news-worthy information; and ‘the truth’ about current affairs – when the truth was not available elsewhere.
Yet, on the 2nd of April 2020, the DM editor chose to publish an article called: The captive lion breeding industry puts conservation and public health at risk. This emotive heading was followed by a sub-paragraph which read: “South Africa is replicating China’s policies that resulted in the Covid-19 outbreak, including mandates promoting domesticating and breeding wild species.”
It was written by Jared Kukura, a resident of the Unites States, who joins a list of international so-called wildlife management ‘experts’ who believe they have the right to tell South Africans how to conduct their ‘wildlife conservation’ affairs.
In reality, however, his article is nothing short of raw animal rights propaganda. It is full of blatant ‘un-truths’, and it has twisted many ‘facts’ so tightly out of shape, that it boggles my mind to think how I am going to offer my protest. So, let me simply list a few of the blatant lies that Kukura told:
1. UNTRUTH: In the very first paragraph Kukura states: “Horror stories of disease-ridden lions living in squalor made international news and forced the country to take a hard look at how the industry is impacting its national brand.”
TRUTH: Truth of the matter is that in my discussions with veterinarians, I discovered that the captive lion population in South Africa (which variously numbers between 7000 and 8000 animals) is widely and securely distributed (so transmission of disease from one lion farm to another is impossible without human connivance); and all the lion farms have a clean bill of health. So, they are not “disease ridden” and I can vouch that no lions we observed ‘lived in squalor’. I can add that many lion breeders employ scientists in well-equipped laboratories to investigate the nutrition levels of the food the lions are given to eat; and who prescribe food supplements, where necessary, to make sure their diets are well-balanced. At birth lion cubs are inoculated against common diseases – such as cat flu and distemper; and at weaning (4 – 6 months later) the cubs are micro-chipped and receive their booster injections. I attended a parliamentary colloquium in Cape Town at which the Deputy Director of “Brand South Africa” publicly and very strongly, refuted the statement – put out by the animal rightists – that the CBL Industry had badly affected ‘Brand South Afric’ overseas. But they still feed that pernicious fabrication into the public domain!
2. UNTRUTH: Kukura states: “Contrary to the South African Predator Association’s belief, lions bred on game farms serve no direct benefits to conservation efforts since they cannot be successfully reintroduced to the wild. Reintroduction success is severely hindered because captive-bred carnivores lack essential survival skills. Captive-bred carnivores often succumb to starvation, disease, and unsuccessful avoidance of other predators when released into the wild.
TRUTH: SAPA (The South African Predator Association) have never ever claimed that captive-bred lions provide a ‘benefit to conservation’ (whatever that terminology is meant to mean). They were never bred for any purpose other than to produce high-quality lion specimens for the captive-bred lion hunting industry; and, latterly, for the sale of lion skeletons into the Far Eastern lion bone trade. Both of which activities are legal. So, let us take that false illusion out of the equation. Nevertheless, because captive-bred lions (ALLEGEDLY) do not provide so-called ‘conservation benefits’ to wild lion populations, I have to point out that that reason cannot be used as an excuse to close down the CBL Industry (just because people like Mr Kukura disapproves of it).
Coincidentally, however, captive bred lions CAN and DO produce so-called ‘conservation benefits’ – as breeding stock for new wild lion populations. Adult lions – without any prior hunting experience – when they are released into the well-game-stocked 1000 ha. hunting enclosures, almost immediately begin hunting; and they often, within minutes(not hours), have killed their first-ever wild game animal (which they eat). Furthermore, lions released into these large enclosures are never fed artificially. They are required to kill for themselves from Hour-One, and they never die of starvation. So, contrary to Mr, Kukura’sstatements, that lions released into the wild “often succumb to starvation, disease (and unsuccessful avoidance of other predators)” is mostly false.
It is true, however, that adult captive bred lions cannot be (and should never be) released into any area where there is a resident population of wild lions. Such an action is stupid and foolhardy because lions – all lions – are highly territorial animals and they will fight with any stranger that invades their territory. To release new and captive bred lions into areas where there is already a resident wild lion population, therefore, is gross mismanagement. And it will result in either the big-male wild lion killing the introduced captive-bred-male lion, or the captive-bred male lion will kill the wild one.
On the other hand, SAPA have irrefutable records of captive bred lions being successfully introduced into wild game areas; and not only surviving but thriving. In one group (comprising one adult male and four adult females) all five animals have survived now for some five years. Furthermore, all four females produced cubs in the first year (with 13 surviving); and two years later all four females produced a second litter of cubs. This is an ongoing story of success. Two other small prides have been introduced to game reserves in Angola – and they are reported to be doing well.
So, I think we can dispel the myth – once and for all – that it is not possible to introduce captive-bred lions to the wild.
3. UNTRUTH: The captive lion breeding industry also brings another major risk affecting conservation efforts and public health, bovine tuberculosis. Both captive and wild lion populations suffer from bovine tuberculosis, with high levels of infection in Kruger posing a conservation risk.
TRUTH: The CBL Industry brings no health risk to the public at all. South Africa’s captive bred lion population is free of all disease. Every single animal in the captive population has access to the best of veterinary attention; and great care is taken by the lion farmers to keep their stock clean. The statement that South Africa’s captive bred lions are suffering from bovine tuberculosis is, therefore, a blatant and mischievous lie.
It is true that the wild lions of Kruger National Park are seriously infected with bovine TB. What is more, this highly infectious disease has spread to other species – like buffalo and kudu. One might say, therefore, that all the game animals of Kruger National Park – if they haven’t got it already – are at great high risk of contracting this disease. But this has been going on for many years. It is nothing new. And I have it on good veterinary authority that the life expectancy of a lion in the Kruger National Park today, has been reduced from (the normal) 15 years to 10. The CBL Industry, therefore, may one day be a saving grace for the lions of Kruger National Park; the ultimate fate of which none of us knows!
4. UNTRUTH: Kukura says: In a world at risk of a future SARS Cov-type virus spilling over from animals to humans, South Africa should not be contributing to that risk through exporting diseased carcasses from lions slaughtered in the country with zero regulation.
TRUTH: This statement is absolute hyperbole. First of all because South Africa does not export ‘diseased lion carcasses’; and, secondly, because it does not have ‘zero regulations’.
GENERAL: Kukura, throughout his dissertation, is highly critical of anything and everything of which he disapproves; and he disapproves of sustainably utilising animals for the benefit of mankind. He especially disapproves of the CBL Industry. He deplores the fact that the Minister, Barbara Creecy, has chosen to exercise her prerogative to review the CBL Industry – with the intention of properly regulating it – rather than arbitrarily closing it down. He criticises her appointment of what he calls a ‘biased’ ‘panel of experts’ to review and to guide the minister in her task of properly regulating the wildlife industry as a whole (not only CBL). He says of the committee panel: “It is full of CEOs, Directors, and presidents of game farming and hunting organisations” who, Kukura says, were appointed “simply to legitimise their poor excuses for continuing the (CBL) practice.”So, I denounce the editor of DM for subjecting his readers to all Kukura’s sick animal rights propaganda diatribe.
The ”terms of reference for a re-positioned wildlife forum” state quite clearly that the minister’s purpose in creating the Wildlife Forum is “to create a platform for the Department responsible for environmental affairs, the provincial conservation authorities, and the wider wildlife and hunting industry, to interact on issues of mutual and common interest resulting from the implementation of the National Environmental Management Act of 1998 (NEMA) and its associated specific Environmental Acts. The Minister, therefore, has brought wildlife management experts together (in the Wildlife Forum) to advise her with regard to matters relating to her mandate to achieve the goals of South Africa’s National Conservation Strategy (NCS) – which originated with the World Conservation Strategy (WCS) (1980). And the WCS focuses humanity’s attention on the need to sustainably utilise the world’s living resources for the benefit of mankind; and in symbiotic harmony with mankind.
For exactly the same reason that a conference (designed to provide legislation that will better protect women and children against abuse) does not invite paedophiles and rapists to make contributions to such a debate, so does the Minister of Environmental Affairs, specifically and correctly, not ask animal rightists to join the Wildlife Forum. It is the Minister’s responsibility to support and to sponsor the humane and sustainable use of wild living resources for the benefit of mankind. Whereas it is the animal rightists’ purpose to ABOLISH all animal uses by man. Only a moron will not see that these two doctrines are the antitheses of each other. Putting them together in one room is tantamount to lighting the fuse which will one day ignite world’s greatest ever atomic explosion.
The comments and the recommendations of animal rightists, like Jared Kukura, therefore, are not welcome in any wildlife management debate because such people, symbolically, are the paedophiles of the wildlife industry.
Ron Thomson CEO -TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE