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Legal / Regulatory

July 15, 2020 - Daily Maverick

SOUTH AFRICA: Wildlife experts spurn invite to serve on environmental panel, indicating bias and co-option

SOUTH AFRICA: Wildlife experts spurn invite to serve on environmental panel, indicating bias and co-option
Lioness and cubsFile Photo / © Photabulous!

Three people have declined to serve on a government panel. That’s not exactly news. But, given who they are and the panel on to which they were invited, their refusal has exposed major fault lines in South Africa’s treatment of wild animals.

The high-level panel was set up by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Creecy to review the policies, legislation and management regarding the breeding, hunting, trade and general handling of elephants, lions, rhinos and leopards. It was appointed in 2019 and has to report to Creecy by November 2020. Members were required to sign a confidentiality undertaking – it’s deliberations are secret.

Shortly after the panel was formed, fault lines began to appear, soon to open into an almost unbridgeable canyon of dislike and distrust. The first shots were from conservationists claiming that the panel was hopelessly biased in its composition.

There are some traditional leaders on the panel, a few biltong farmers, several scientists and (initially) one animal welfare specialist. But most members are either hunters, game farmers and advocates of international wildlife trade. There are no vets, epidemiologists, climate change experts or ecotourism representatives.

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