South Africa’s High Level Panel Report

Stephen Wiggins Article 1 Comment

 Banner Image courtesy of Mark Boulton – Elsa Trust and Elsamere

The Republic of South Africa’s Cabinet approved the High Level Panel’s (HLP’s) report [High Level Panel Report_15 December 2020] last week, so a briefing for stakeholders was held today, Sunday, 2 May 2021.

Minster Creecy (Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment), 2 May 2021

Minster Creecy (Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment) stated that the Cabinet accepted the majority of the HLP’s report’s recommendations to transform the sector, ‘restore and re-wild natural protected landscapes’ and adopt a ‘one welfare’ approach to wildlife and a more inclusive (‘transformative’) approach so all citizens/communities can ‘benefit.’ Minister Creecy stated that the Department is already working on implementation proposals, which will be released for public consultation in due course.

The HLP (Chaired by Pam Yako) recommended a majority view (62.5%) that the captive lion breeding (CLB) industry, canned hunting and derivative products is ‘humanely’ ‘halted’:

Minister puts in place a process to halt and reverse the domestication of our iconic lions, through captive lion keeping, breeding, and commercial use, putting in place ethical and humane procedures for euthanasia of existing captive lions” – Report, Para, “Recommendations” page 329

But with the stated belief by Minister Creecy that this will help to re-establish South Africa’s reputation for “authentic hunting“[yet to be defined], which misses the point that trophy hunting itself does not align with today’s society or offer guarantees to sustain iconic species in the wild but perpetuates synthetic, gruesome, commercial exploitation.

South Africa has not ruled out potential trade proposals to CITES for international ivory trading  and rhino horn trade (Report, page 319) ‘if/when certain conditions are potentially met…(Creecy)’ but also with HLP recommendations (Slide 8) to:

Explore and support alternative benefit streams to international ivory sales”….”Develop policy position stating that South Africa does not envisage submitting a trade proposal to CITES as long as current specified circumstances prevail”; and

Develop and implement alternative benefit streams to international rhino horn trade”….”Policy position stating that SA will not propose or support amendments to the CITES appendices relating to South African rhino specimens” (“until these conditions are met” – Report, page 319), in the meantime recommending rolling back intensive captive rhino breeding within South Africa.

However, a rhino breeder (or rhino breeders’ representative) attending the presentation was clearly not happy that the HLP’s majority opinion (to step back and reconsider trade proposals for rhino horn trading) was being taken in preference to a perceived lack of priority for the captive rhino breeders themselves (the self-declared “rhino custodians“) seeking immediate proposals (at the next Conference of Parties (CoP)) to CITES for international rhino horn trading……Minister Creecy responded that engagement will follow with all stakeholders as a result of the HLP’s recommendations.

The initial conclusion is that the HLP majority opinion to “halt and reverse” the CLB industry is warmly welcomed (with proof of how and when awaited), but the pro-trade ethos is still evident within the HLP’s ‘thinking’ which has maintained (for now) the speculative hope (for breeders and poachers) that trading in ivory and rhino horn could be entertained, for example:

The HLP’s minority opinion, Slide 8, to explore ‘bilateral trade agreements with China, Vietnam, Laos etc.’ for example still gives speculative hope that CITES ‘ban’ can be circumvented and international rhino horn trading ‘legally’ established in defiance of international protocols;

The continued persecution of leopards for trophies etc. is also perpetuated at Slide 10 to “Leverage the added-value benefit of hunting leopards” (sic) – as if there is only a positive upside in killing leopards when species numbers are unknown (ref para 10.2, pages 161 – 171), which just seems to perpetuate the pro-hunting/leopard attrition self-delusion.

[Update] “The big issues here are the ongoing, persistent and rabid commodification of wildlife — and the leopard specifically has been put on the altar in this decision” – Bool Smuts, the director of the Landmark Foundation, “said leopards have been sold out for the slaughter” –  “Wildlife owners may target state,” Mail & Guardian, 9 May 2021

Elephant trophies are also still encapsulated (Slide 10) within “different trade and use options” it would seem, with no explicit reference to not (“authentically” or otherwise) trophy hunt elephants given, plus continued rhino trophy hunting (“authentically” or otherwise)……….and lion (as one of South Africa’s 5 iconic species – Report, page 50) continuing to still be “authentically” (sic) trophy hunted no doubt (“Hunting of ranched lions, managed wild lions and wild lions*“- Report, page 521 presumably) as per Skye for example (a protected ‘wild’ lion), despite the on-going controversy, cover-up and lack of any credible conservation imperative etc.


Ranched Lions” – “Some [lions] are bred with minimal human imprinting (‘ranched’) and hunted in larger enclosures than their hand-reared counterparts” (Harvey 2018). How this lack of imprinting is categorically and independently proven in a given captive breeding facility’s lion stock  remains opaque and therefore, is subject to manipulation for commercial purposes.

Wild Lions” – “completely fulfil their role in biodiversity processes and are largely unmanaged, and exist only in formally proclaimed national parks and game reserves. Conservationists do not actively manipulate vital rates and lion demographics.” “Managed Wild Lions” -“include all lions that have been re-introduced into smaller fenced reserves (<1000km2), and are managed to limit population growth and maintain genetic diversity. Managers actively manipulate some vital rates and demographics” –  “Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for the lion (Panther leo) in South Africa,” 2015

The main slides (screen shots) from today’s HLP Report [High Level Panel Report_15 December 2020] presentation are given below:


Note: The error in Slide 9 – which refers to “ivory sales”  under the “Captive Lions” heading, when the lion bone trade is clearly the derivative traded product  – this was corrected by HLP Chair Pam Yako to be (minority 20.83% opinion) an ‘immediate and permanent ban on CLB, a moratorium on cub petting and lion walking and an industry exit strategy.’ The fringe (minority 16.67% opinion) view being that somehow self-regulation (‘fox in charge of the hen house’) of the CLB industry is the way forward, which seems implausible when any internal self-restraint within the CLB industry has been absent for decades……and self-regulation has been proven to be a toxic failure in the chemicals industry for example.



Further Reading

South Africa grants permits to hunt 10 critically endangered black rhino,” The Guardian, 26 February 2022

Era of captive lion industry in South Africa may be over – what does this mean for the lion bone trade?” Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, Daily Maverick, 11 July 2021

Draft Policy Position Paper on the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros,” Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Government Gazette No. 44776, Vol. 672, Notice No. 566, dated 28 June 2021

A matter of pride: South Africa proposes banning intensive breeding of lions and rhinos — and ending captive lion hunts,” Don Pinnock, Daily Maverick, 28 June 2021

Poachers, corruption and cash: Inside South Africa’s new rhino crisis,” The Independent, 17 June 2021

Creecy’s expected wildlife policy position paper sparks hope for the future of South Africa’s wild animal management,” Don Pinnock, Daily Maverick, 10 June 2021

South Africa at a crossroads on wildlife welfare and sentience,” Don Pinnock, Daily Maverick, 1 June 2021


Reflecting and Reporting on the HLP Recommendations. Blood Lions Webinar,” YouTube 14 May 2021

Wildlife owners may target state,” Mail & Guardian, 9 May 2021

South Africa bans “canned” lion hunts,” The Telegraph (paywall), 8 May 2021

Finally an end to the lion bone trade!” Melanie Verwoerd, 6 May 2021

Conservation’s Mariana Trench: Report on wildlife trade a seminal moment in South Africa’s history,” Daily Maverick, 6 May 2021

In major move, South Africa to end captive lion industry,” The Independent (via AP News Wire), 6 May 2021

South African Government announces their support to end the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa,” Blood Lions Statement, 5 May 2021

LION FARMING – A HIDEOUS COMPLEXITY,” Chris Mercer, Campaign Against Canned Hunting, 3 May 2021

South Africa to end captive lion breeding, bone trade,” ABC News, 2 May 2021

Canned hunting canned: Minister Creecy announces ‘new deal’ for South Africa’s wildlife industry,” Don Pinnock, Conservation Action Trust/Daily Maverick, 2 May 2021

Wildlife WIN as Minister Takes Bold Steps to End Captive Bred Lion Industry in South Africa,” SA People News, 2 May 2021

Captive lions: NO – says South Africa’s minister,” Africa Geographic, 2 May 2021

Lion Breeding, Rhino Horn Trade Won’t Be Backed by South Africa,” Bloomberg, 2 May 2021

Blood Lions” fb post, 2 May 2021

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