It wasn’t that long ago that the federal government introduced measures to prevent the import of unethical ‘canned hunting’ lion trophies into Australia. This was a move that ethical hunters would certainly support if it didn’t affect legal and regulated hunting. Unfortunately, the measures introduced failed to target just canned hunting trophies and instead threw a blanket ban over all lion trophy products.
In its explanation behind the reason to ban all imports, the Department of the Environment states, “it is usually impossible to tell whether a particular African lion product has come from a lion that has been killed in a canned hunt or not”. This is simply bulldust. For a long time now you could only import items that have the right CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) paperwork. Canned hunting enterprises would not be able to obtain or receive the permits and paperwork to allow export from Africa and subsequent import into Australia.
This situation is solely about politics in Australia and not about conservation or any other social or environmental issues in South Africa. In an interview aired on the ABC’s Lateline program on June 15, Edna Molewa, the South African Minister for Environmental Affairs, indicated that the Australian government did not make contact with her prior to the ban. This left the South African politician “surprised and confused” by Australia’s decision. Molewa also stated that when she finally discussed the situation with an Australian government representative, they “apologised profusely for this misunderstanding”. A misunderstanding of sorts it may be, but we have seen no movement by the Australian government to rectify the situation or take the South African government’s views into account.
The SSAA has previously stated that canned hunting enterprises and captive-breeding for sustainable use are different, but animal rights lobbyists always try to make them be viewed as the same thing. By the look of the measures introduced (and so far maintained) by the Department of the Environment, it seems many sitting at desks within the department and who provide advice have not actually identified or acknowledged the differences.
It’s easy to blur the two when people do not understand or fail to acknowledge that the South African government’s Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations 2007 outlaws all activities that effectively define a canned hunt. The country’s National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) 2004 also places strict conditions on the breeding, keeping, selling and more of lions to ensure breeding facilities have appropriate permits in place and to follow the TOPS regulations to be part of the legal supply chain. Put simply: If an enterprise has no permits and doesn’t follow the regulations, there will be no chance for it to legally export trophies.
It is an emotive issue and the idea of ‘farming’ lions, just like other wildlife or livestock, for economic, social and environmental gain is simply a concept too foreign for many to grasp. The concept of a lion (or other African game animals) not being ‘wild’ and ‘free’, but rather a conservation ‘commodity’ is fundamentally at odds with animal rights philosophy. This is the reason why those groups will try everything to oppose it and influence politicians through emotive arguments.
We live in a human-altered world that sometimes requires ‘outside the square’ thinking to overcome complex issues. The increase of wildlife numbers in Africa since the development of sustainable use programs has provided a significant recovery of wild animals and created a supply chain industry that provides benefits to South Africa’s triple bottom line - environment, economic and social. Hopefully, Australia doesn’t stuff it up for them.