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South Africa: Lion breeders in uproar about canned hunting

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South Africa: Lion breeders in uproar about canned hunting

South African lion breeders are prepared to go to court to test regulations on canned hunting, specifically of lions, the deputy chairperson of the South African Predator Breeders' Association said on Wednesday.

While the regulations, to come into force in March, do not ban lion hunting outright, they stipulate the circumstances under which it can take place. What they do not specify is the size of properties on which hunting would be allowed to take place, the association's Thys Mostert complained.

The new laws also require that lions be free-ranging for six months before they can be hunted, he said.

A Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism statement on the Biodiversity Act regulations on threatened and protected species notes only that hunting camps be "reasonably big", said Mostert.

"We have a problem with this. This could mean that certain people would hunt lions in a two-hectare area. We want the area to be a thousand hectares," he said.

Questioning the period for which the lions have to be free to roam, Mostert said lion breeders do not understand the provision. "Where does [Environment and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk] get the six months from? Why must other animals not walk six months before being hunted?" he asked.

Mostert said lion breeders are aware of the problems in the industry and want to resolve them. "Things need to happen in a proper and ethical manner," he said.

In the Free State alone, up to 100 people have bred lions in captivity in one way or another -- some for tourism purposes, he said, estimating there are about 3 000 captive-bred lions in the country.

Mostert said the answer to the problem of canned hunting does not lie in a complete ban on lion hunting. "Then you have to ban all hunting. This includes buck hunting. Everything," he said.

Banning lion hunting altogether would also leave the government open to claims for costly infrastructure put in place in line with legislation.

The draft regulations on norms and standards for hunting in South Africa were put together by a panel of experts appointed by Van Schalkwyk. In December last year, his department said it had recommended a ban on captive breeding for anything other than scientific and conservation purposes.

Captive bred is defined as "bred in a controlled environment" and refers to enclosures that prevent the escape of listed, threatened or protected species, but facilitate intensive breeding. It excludes breeding on fenced land on which self-sustaining wildlife populations are managed in an extensive wildlife system.

The panel also recommended a prohibition on hunting in national and provincial parks. -- Sapa

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South Africa Finalizes Lion Hunting Laws

But a government panel has found horrific examples of abuse, including killing tranquilized animals and hunting big game with a bow and arrow, condemning them to a slow and painful death.

Van Schalkwyk said he has seen footage that shocked him: "To see people who are half drunk on the back of a truck hunting lions which are in fact tame animals is quite abhorrent."

Conservationists say lion cubs are sometimes removed from mother at birth so she will mate again quickly, and that female cubs are sometimes destroyed because the males fetch more money as "trophies."

The new law, which enters into force June 1, followed three years of consultation with the hunting industry and conservation groups. It is tougher than a draft issued late last year which would only have required predators to be released from captivity for six months before being hunted.

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