South Africa bans leopard trophy hunting for 2016
Cape Town – The Department of Environmental Affairs has set provincial leopard trophy hunting quotas at zero for 2016, effectively banning leopard trophy hunting throughout South Africa for a year.
This follows an alert by SA’s Scientific Authority that the number of leopards in the country was unknown and that trophy hunting posed a high risk to the survival of the species, Conservation Action Trust has said.
Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), South Africa is permitted to allocate 150 leopard trophy export permits a year. Early warning of possible permit curtailment appeared in the Government Gazette late last year indicating that if the guidelines issued earlier in the year were not adhered to, provincial quotas would be set to zero for 2016.
Lion trophy hunting across the world was also restricted in December last year with the US decided to extend their Endangered Species Act protections for two breeds of lions. Though this move did not make it illegal for hunters to hunt lions, hunters now have to go through a lot more work to take the animal trophies back to the United States.
Commenting on the Government Gazette notice on the leopards, Guy Balme of the environmental NGO Panthera says, “It seems prudent that hunting should only continue once the appropriate measures are in place. Only then can we be confident that the practice is sustainable and not putting additional pressure on leopard populations already under a great deal of strain from other threats.”
The DHA listed threats to leopards as excessive legal and illegal shooting of ‘damage-causing animals,’ poorly managed trophy hunting, illegal trade in leopard skins for cultural and religious attire and generally poor monitoring of hunts and permit allocation.
The Research Authority found that leopards:
– Had a low reproductive rate;
– Their distribution was fragmented;
– Their abundance and population trend was uncertain;
– Illegal off-take was uncertain;
– There was little control of harvesting (especially illegal harvesting) which was high;
– Confidence in harvest management and monitoring was low;
– Incentives for conservation in the country were low; and
– Only between 5% and 15% of leopard habitat was strictly protected.
The trophy ban is in place throughout this year. According to the DEA statement, the Scientific Authority will then review the situation. It will also develop norms and standards for the management and monitoring of leopard hunting throughout the country.
Kelly Marnewick, the Environmental Wildlife Trust’s carnivore conservation manager, supported the ban.
“It’s important to ensure that any wildlife trade we do is sustainable,” she said. “If we can’t do that, it’s highly problematic. We need a trade ban until we can get to that.”
“Record keeping on trophy hunting in this country is shocking. We haven’t been recording age, sex or size of trophies. If our hunting fraternity is serious about using wildlife sustainably they will embrace this ban and find ways to work with government until trade is sustainable.”
Helen Turnbull of the Cape Leopard Trust also supported the move. She said the trust was pleased to see that common sense has prevailed and that the government would maintain the ban until provinces have gotten their acts together.
Andrew Muir of the Wilderness Foundation said the ban was good news, but noted that it was an interim measure while norms and standards were being put in place.
“We cannot stress enough the need for high quality research on the population numbers, make-up and distribution of leopards, especially in core conservation areas,” he said. “Leopards are charismatic and an apex species. Until we know population numbers and carrying capacity we should not hunt them.”