A joint report published on Monday by the Centre for Environmental Rights and the Endangered Wildlife Trust reveals significant shortcomings in the regulation of the welfare of wild animals in South Africa.
The report finds that there are major gaps in both legislation and the implementation of those laws, leaving the well-being of wild animals without adequate protection.
The organisations recommend the clarification of the legal mandate for wildlife welfare, and the updating of legislation.
They also call for greater investment in compliance monitoring and enforcement, and a standardised and transparent permitting system for activities involving and affecting wildlife.
Historically, South Africa’s regulatory system has distinguished between animal welfare on one hand and biodiversity conservation on the other – and regulated those separately.
This means conservation laws applicable to wild animals under the physical control of humans, whether temporarily or permanently – are often unsuited to addressing the welfare of the wild animals.
Welfare laws, on the other hand, do not necessarily consider conservation objectives. To make matters worse, both sectors suffer from very limited resources for compliance and enforcement. In practice, the current legal regime ultimately provides little protection for wild animals.
South Africa has, in recent years, seen a proliferation of facilities that involve the captive management of wildlife for commercial purposes.
The legislation that governs the welfare of these animals has not kept pace with the rapid changes in the industry, the welfare of many species has often become compromised.
Welfare standards that may be suited to domestic animals cannot be considered suitable to the full spectrum of species of wildlife.
Reports on the practical state of welfare protection for wild animals in South Africa demonstrate the need for urgent reforms.
The death of a giraffe in 2014 while being transported in an open-air truck on a national highway drew condemnation after the driver drove under a bridge that was not tall enough for the animal to safely pass under. No prosecutions for this incident have been reported to date.
More recent examples include dozens of neglected and starving captive lions on a Limpopo farm and a lion “abattoir” in the Free State housing over 200 animals awaiting slaughter for lion bone exports.
Both are in limbo as the department of environmental affairs and the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries each say the situation is not their responsibility.