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By Chris Mercer
How trophy hunters destroy conservation
This is the first in a series of articles aimed at showing how wealthy American hunters are a force for evil in the third world. Their hunting dollars pervert conservation policies in vulnerable third world countries, instigating and perpetuating evils such as captive lion breeding and canned hunting. By conspiring with wealthy landowners in South Africa to build up a vast inventory of captive lions, all bred for the bullet, the hunters have helped open the floodgates to exploitation by the Chinese traditional medicine industry for lion bones.
Owing to public disgust at canned hunting, the South African Minister for the Environment attempted to impose some pitifully feeble regulation on the captive lion breeders, more symbolic than effectual. Nonetheless, the predator breeders responded by throwing mostly US dollar - sourced money at the Minister in the form of a legal challenge. This short article explains why they succeeded.
Bloemfontein - The SA Predator Breeders' Association recently won a Supreme Court of Appeal case regarding the trophy hunting of captive lions - commonly called "canned hunting". The Supreme Court held the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mr Van Schalkwyk, did not take a "rational decision" when he determined that captive-bred lions had to fend for themselves in an extensive wildlife system for 24 month before they could be hunted.
There seems to be much misunderstanding in conservation circles about this judgment, so I am going to clarify it. In fact, the Supreme Court picked up on a point which we have made right from the beginning, namely, that the 24 month wilding rule was arbitrary and meaningless, having no conservation value. We maintained that it was nothing more than a pretense; viz: ‘if we can pretend that the lion is wild then we can all pretend that canned hunting has been banned.’
The Minister’s aim was to use this public relations gimmick to deflect public anger, and at the same time allow canned hunting to continue behind the false cloak of regulation. We described the Minister’s 24 month wilding rule at the time as ‘mischievous and misleading.’
The Supreme Court described it as ‘irrational,’ and we cannot fault this characterisation. The 24 month wilding rule was a publicity stunt which had no place in conservation, and that is exactly what underlies the Supreme Court’s decision.
This judgment, and the current unregulated free- for- all in captive lion breeding and canned hunting, is the clearest indicator of the incompetence and dysfunctionality of SA conservation services, and it's vulnerability to specious pro-hunting arguments.
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