Part of the TGA’s vision is to create a society that is properly informed about the principles and practices of wildlife management and our purpose in investigating the Captive Breeding of Lions Industry (CBL) was to further that purpose. “Something” recently exploded the much respected Professional Hunting Association of South Africa (PHASA) and caused some of its members to form a splinter group which has called itself “The Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation – South Africa” (CPHC-SA); but I was unable to discover just what that “something” was. When it happened, all I could ascertain was that it had something to do with the existence of the Captive Breeding of Lions Industry (CBL) about which I knew absolutely nothing.
Sure, there was a lot of animal rights propaganda on the Internet; and a considerable amount of “interpretation of the facts” by journalists hooking into a hot story – both of which material I rejected out of hand.
But, try as I might, I could not find any “FACTS”.
I was cajoled by pro-Custodian elements to reject CBL out of hand; and I asked them: “On what grounds can I do that?” Attempts were made by others to get me to embrace CBL and to make such a public statement and I asked them the same question: “On what grounds can I do that?”
I truly had no “facts” to persuade me one way of the other. So I set out to “find the truth” myself; and it was on that “truth” that I have reported.
I can honestly say that when I embarked on this CBL survey I knew it was going to create a furore – no matter what my findings were. From the beginning I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. But I can tell you with all honesty that when we started this survey we had no idea how it was going to pan out. I was prepared to condemn CBL or to condone it! So, to those of you who believe that I went into this exercise with the idea of writing a favourable CBL report, I say: “You are wrong”. My report is now “out” so it must now stand the test of public scrutiny.
Now that my findings have been made public does not mean that the TGA has finally “chosen sides”. What we have done is to tell the TRUTH as we found it to be. Now the public will have to make up its own mind about our finding. At least, NOW, the man-in-the-street will have an honest opinion on which to base his deliberations – not just animal rights propaganda; or the personal preference opinions of a few overly puristic hunters. The TGA has undertaken NOT to get involved in the domestic affairs of South Africa’s wildlife industry and we intend to stick by that decision. So we will continue to speak with the Custodians; we will continue to speak with PHASA: and we will continue to speak with SAPA (The South African Predator Association) – and to anybody and everybody else – with equal consideration. But we will NOT be told WHAT to think or do.
I believe that what the public needs to comprehend about the TGA’s participation in this affair, is that – knowing the possible negative consequences (either way) – the decision to continue with the survey, and to report our findings so openly and honestly – required a great deal of courage. Everyone should respect that reality!
In the end, the surprising outcome (which information was supplied to me by a staunch Custodian) was that CPHC-SA was not specifically antagonistic towards the idea of captive bred lions being hunted, per se, but by the fact that captive-bred lions could ONLY be hunted by using the “put-and-take” method. It was, actually, the put-and-take method of hunting, generally, to which the Custodians took particular umbrage. This included the hunting of “captive-bred” buffaloes, sable, roan, kudu, wildebeest, impala (and many other species) all of which are, today, often hunted by way of put-and-take hunting in South Africa. This does not happen all of the time; but it does happen some of the time. The Custodians also objected to the hunting of colour-variant animals.
NB: Put-and-Take hunting occurs when a specific animal – a particular lion, buffalo or sable (for example) – is considered ‘ready to be hunted’, it is released into the veld and it is ‘hunted’ within several days of its release.
In the recent past, many game species were bred in a variety of different colours; and they were released for hunting purposes onto the game ranches. The practice of breeding different colour varieties of game animals, therefore, was tried and has been largely discontinued because ‘the market’, eventually, did not respond positively to the practice. I, long ago, advised the hunting world that the TGA would not “take sides” in the colour-variant controversy because I predicted ‘the market’ would make that decision for us – one way or another – over time. And that is what seems to be happening right now.
In some cases (I am told) individual animals – with guaranteed horn lengths – are offered to overseas hunters; and a day or two before they are hunted they are immobilised with a dart gun – so that the client can satisfy himself that the animal’s horns are of the length that he has purchased. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Custodian’s objection to this practice. THAT is NOT my kind of “personal preference hunting” at all. Nevertheless, it is not illegal.
However, I have made some inquiries and have ascertained that, although such actions have taken place in the recent past, the incidence of such blatant and undesirable (to me) ‘put-and-take’ hunting only occurs some 5 percent of the time. So, let’s keep this issue in perspective. And let’s understand that to place ALL the blame on CBL – for the much wider put-and-take hunting practice to which the Custodians object – is grossly unfair.
And now, as to the stated claim that the very existence of the CBL Industry has caused “Brand South Africa” to lose credibility overseas, the Director of “Brand South Africa”, at the parliamentary colloquium held in Cape Town in August 2018, claimed that that idea was too simplistic. And he explained that it takes a combination of several things to cause a country’s “brand” to lose credibility. Finally, he stated, unequivocally, that the CBL Industry had NOT in any way damaged “Brand South Africa”.
In my opinion, the intentional furore over CBL was generated in two ways: (1) South Africa’s animal rights organisations spread their propaganda into Europe and America – seeking the support of their international animal rights friends to have the CBL industry in South Africa closed down; and (2) the Custodians cannot escape a great deal of the blame because they, too, have spread their chagrin far and wide amongst the international hunting associations. So the controversy is entirely South African made.
So, here are some more ‘truths” to which the public has not been previously exposed. And the TGA is NOT especially favouring CBL. It has merely written a variously favourable report on its CBL survey findings; and it did so to provide our TGA supporters, and the general public, with some truths about the Captive Breeding of Lions issue that have been nowhere to be found prior to us writing our report.
Acknowledgements: I wish to acknowledge the fact that Mrs Elma Britz, herself a TGA Director, accompanied me on the TGA’s CBL tour in June 2018; and that she contributed significantly to the compilation and editing of this article. I also wish to state that this article – in the face of massive opposition – required a great deal of courage to write. But I was compelled to write it because it reflects, to the best of my ability, the truth about CBL.