When the Blood Lions campaign was launched, following the premier of the film in 2015, taking on the captive predator industry seemed a near impossible task. Today, we are at the cusp of seeing the closing down process begin, and all those that have held the vision and participated in the process can take credit.
Over the past month or so, some significant and welcome steps have been taken by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) to end the captive lion industry. The gazetted draft White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable use of South Africa’s Biodiversity provides an overarching policy context for biodiversity legislation, regulation and implementation in South Africa.
“The White Paper is a substantial document. There are shortcomings, even contradictions, but in the main it heralds significant progress on many of the issues that have needed attention in our welfare and wildlife management legislation. The authors and Ministry need to be commended”, Ian Michler, Blood Lions Director.
It is a progressive though ambitious document recognising the intrinsic value of wildlife and biodiversity, recognising the importance of well-being of individual animals in the definition of sustainable use and purposing the adoption of One Health and One Welfare approaches. This document maps out a new vision for people and wildlife and many of its clauses should have direct impacts on those involved in breeding predators, canned hunting and the exploitation of wildlife in tourism facilities. The draft White Paper is still open for public comment until 10th September 2022.
After her announcement in May 2021, when Minister Creecy stated that South Africa will no longer breed captive lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially, she is now in the process of appointing a Ministerial Task Team. This panel of experts will be required to identify voluntary exit options and pathways for lion breeders from the captive lion industry, and oversee the implementation and monitoring of these.
“After decades of opposition and a strong mandate from a High-Level Panel in 2020, we welcome the Government’s announcement that it will begin the process of closing down the captive lion industry. A voluntary exit route laid out and monitored by a ‘task team’ of experts seems to be a sensible way to start”, says Michler.
For this Task Team, who will take the first steps towards ending the captive lion industry, Creecy is looking for people with specific expertise and experience in areas such as animal welfare, veterinary care, disease risk, traditional practices associated with lions, and labour law and trade unions with particular reference to business closure and retrenchment.
This team of experts will be established as soon as possible and their work is due to be completed by end March 2023. Nominations for this panel are now open until 26th August.
Michler says, “Minister Creecy’s recent announcement to start the process of ending the captive lion industry is the right thing to do. It’s a brutal industry with no conservation merit or scientific benefit, and the tourism and trade components are entirely exploitative of animals in a manner that undermines Brand South Africa. She has received widespread support from the conservation and ethical tourism sectors, as well as those involved in predator research.”