Can hunting? : an analysis of recent changes in the legal framework governing the management of large predators in South Africa.
New regulations have been published under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act ('the Biodiversity Act') that regulate activities regarded as 'restricted activities' by that Act involving listed species of flora and fauna. The regulations include several provisions relating specifically to five species of large predator (lions are a notable exception) and to black and white rhinoceros and represent the end of a lengthy law reform process. The regulations came into force on 1 February 2008. South Africa is a signatory to several international instruments concerned with the protection of biodiversity including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ('CITES'), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement in the Southern African Development Community. The Biodiversity Act is the key national law concerned with management of large predators from a conservation and biodiversity protection point of view. Several Acts administered by the Department of Agriculture, such as the Animals Protection Act and the Performing Animals Protection Act, provide for the welfare of animals in captivity. However, the management of wild predators has up to now been regulated at provincial level by a series of outdated nature conservation ordinances that are inconsistent with one another and with the provisions of CITES. It is clear from the Game Theft Act, from national policy instruments such as the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and from the draft Game Farming Policy that hunting and game farming are seen as important contributors to the South African economy with the potential to address rural poverty and create employment. Hunting is itself a multimillion rand industry in South Africa and a substantial part of that industry is trophy hunting. Large predators in South Africa are most affected by trophy hunting practices, but other animals and other predators are also affected. Large predators are also the subject ofboth national and international trade. In recent years captive breeding of large predators has increased dramatically in order to supply the trophy hunting industry. During the late 1990s concerns began to be raised in the press regarding so-called 'canned hunting' practices and the law reform process mentioned in the first paragraph was partially a result ofthis focus on canned hunting. The new regulations provide, among other things, for greater control of the wildlife industry and for the setting ofhunting off-take limits, but they have several weaknesses. On the most basic level, the regulations contain drafting errors, are overly complex and may conflict with existing provincial legislation. They are likely to impose a greater administrative burden on provincial authorities already struggling to implement the existing provincial legislation. It is submitted that the provisions relating to animal welfare (for example, those dealing with prohibited methods of hunting) should have been enacted elsewhere. The provisions relating to self-regulation of the hunting industry and black economic empowerment are ineffectual as currently drafted. Most importantly, the new regulations do not represent a significant departure from the utilitarian approach to wild animals that has characterised South African law since its earliest days. In this sense, the regulations conform to the current policy of 'making conservation pay'.