South Africa Moves to Restrict Canned Hunting
CAPE TOWN -- South Africa has unveiled draft laws that crack down on hunting predators bred in captivity but activists on Thursday criticised the moves against "canned hunting" as inadequate.
South Africa, which boasts a wide array of wild life, has come under fire from activists who say officials have moved too slowly to stop the hunting of hand-raised animals that have lost their fear of humans.
The draft regulations block the hunting of large predators in a controlled environment, as well as while they are under the influence of immobilizing or tranquilizing agents.
The regulations were released earlier this week and are expected to come into effect in March 2007. They follow three years of talks between the state, wildlife industry and animal groups, which produced recommendations by a panel of experts.
"There is strong merit for it to be phased in because it has far-reaching implications for the hunting industry. It can't just be implemented," said Crispian Olver, former environmental affairs director-general and chairman of the expert panel.
However, some animal welfare groups, such as SanWild Wildlife Trust and the Born Free Foundation, said the move did not go far enough.
They said of particular concern was a six-month period of acclimatisation for animals released on game ranches before they can be hunted.
"The government is playing with words. It says it has banned canned hunting but in reality the legislation says predators released onto farms can be hunted after six months," said Louise Joubert, a founder trustee of the SanWild Wildlife Trust.
"What is going to happen to a hand-reared lion, used to humans for almost seven years, how is it going to react when the hunters approach? It certainly isn't going to expect a rifle to be shot."
The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PAHSA) estimates the revenue generated from so-called canned hunting could be in excess of 2.5 billion rand ($356.9 million) annually, with top money paid for the "big five" -- lions, leopards, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros. According to British-based Born Free Foundation, there are now more than 3,000 lions held in South African captive breeding facilities, compared to 300 in 1997.
The Foundation lists South Africa and North America as the two countries where canned hunting flourishes, with South Africa clinching top spot for the highest number of canned lion and elephant scalps.