The contentious issue of leopard trophy hunting in South Africa is currently under discussion, specifically with the aim of revising the current norms and standards regulating this practice.
The hearing was hosted by the portfolio committee on agriculture, rural development, land and environmental affairs.
This draft was developed in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) as gazetted.
The purpose of this amendment is, among other things, to address the key threats to the leopard population of the country.
- Habitat loss/fragmentation
- Excessive legal and illegal off-take of damage-causing leopards
- Poorly managed trophy hunting
- Illegal trade in leopard skins for cultural and religious attire
- Incidental snaring
- Unethical radio-collaring of leopards for research and tourism.
It was previously established by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries that there is no reliable estimate of the South African leopard population.
Magdel Boshoff, representing the department, said leopards currently occupy about 20 per cent of land throughout South Africa. As they are sensitive to human contact, their habitats are, however, fragmented due to agriculture, which she described as problematic.
Boshoff also pointed out that all provinces except Gauteng had their own leopard populations. It can happen, however, that animals from bordering provinces may cross into Gauteng.
To address this issue of a reliable estimate, the Scientific Authority (a generally state entity, but widely represented) recommended the following:
- A zero trophy hunting quota for 2016
- Guidelines for the allocation of leopard trophy hunting quotas
- Implementation of urgent measures to facilitate sustainable use of leopard populations, which would include norms and standards for the management and monitoring of leopard hunts.
The zero-hunting quota, specifically, enabled the Scientific Authority to monitor the leopard population over three hunting seasons.
The main topics touched on during the hearing included the establishing of leopard hunting zones (LHZ) as well as quotas for these zones and also the age and gender of leopards that qualify for being hunted.
Only males above the age of seven qualify as huntable. Boshoff said by this age, a male is likely to have mated with a female and thus will have produced offspring.
According to the norms and standards, the local/professional hunter who will be accompanying a hunting client must undertake and pass a once-off approved hunting examination that will demonstrate his or her competence to assess the age of a male leopard, and to confirm that he or she is familiar with applicable biodiversity legislation.
Should it happen that a leopard be hunted in an LHZ that does not meet the requirements (male, above seven years), a hunting permit will not be issued for the next hunting season in that area.
The examination does not apply where a can provide proof that he or she has undergone approved training in respect of the determination of the age of a male leopard.
After a hunt, information must then be provided (including, among others, DNA samples) whether it was successful or not. This report will then be used for the next hunting season.
During the hearing, stakeholders raised issues regarding some finer points in the legislation that needed better defining, specifically the penalties that a hunter might face when hunting a leopard that did not meet the required criteria.
The full draft norms and standards document is available on the Mpumalanga Legislature Facebook page posted on February 4.
The initial cut-off date for stakeholder input was advertised as February 9, but this has since been extended to February 24.
This article was republished from Lowvelder with permission