SOUTH African lion breeders are prepared to go to court to test regulations on canned hunting, specifically of lions.
While the regulations, to come into force in March, do not ban lion hunting outright, they stipulate the circumstances under which it can take place.
Lions must be free-ranging for six months before they can be hunted, said Thys Mostert, deputy chairperson of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association (SAPBA).
But he complained yesterday that the regulations do not specify the size of properties on which hunting will be allowed to take place.
An Environment Department statement on the Biodiversity Act regulations dealing with threatened and protected species noted only that hunting camps be “reasonably big”, said Mostert.
“We have a problem with this. This could mean that certain people would hunt lions in a two-hectare area.
“We want the area to be a thousand hectares.”
Questioning the period for which the lions had to be free to roam, Mostert said lion breeders did not understand the provision.
“Where does (Environment and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk) get the six months from?
“Why must other animals not walk six months before being hunted,” he asked.
Mostert said lion breeders were aware of the problems in the industry and wanted to resolve them. “Things need to happen in a proper and ethical manner,” he said.
In the Free State alone, 88 to 100 people had bred lions in captivity in one way or another – some for tourism purposes, he said, estimating there were about 3000 captive-bred lions in the country.
Mostert said the answer to the problem of canned hunting did not lie in a complete ban on lion hunting. “Then you have to ban all hunting. This includes buck hunting. Everything,” he said.
Banning lion hunting altogether would also leave the government open to claims for costly infrastructure put in place in line with legislation.
The draft regulations on norms and standards for hunting in South Africa were put together by a panel of experts appointed by Van Schalkwyk.
In December 2006, the Environmental Affairs and Tourism Department said they recommended a ban on captive-breeding for anything other than scientific and conservation purposes.
Captive-bred was defined as “bred in a controlled environment” and referred to enclosures which prevented the escape of listed, threatened or protected species, but facilitated intensive breeding. The panel also recommended a prohibition on hunting in national and provincial parks. — Sapa.