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The South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) won its court case against the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), which listed numerous wildlife species with landrace breeds that are subject to intensive breeding for commercial and agricultural type production purposes in terms of the Animal Improvement Act, 1998 (Act 62 of 1998).
In his full judgement issued on 3 March 2023, Acting Judge PA van Niekerk overturned DALRRD’s listing of indigenous game species and ordered the department to pay all SA Hunters’ legal costs.
The court ruling stated that it “reviewed and set aside” the amendments of the regulations as published in the Government Gazette on 10 June 2016 and again on 17 May 2019 in terms of which a “number of game species were declared as animals for purposes of Act 62 of 1998”. He referred to the listing as ‘irrational’ and having ‘potential catastrophic results’ for wildlife in South Africa. The judgement further ruled that DALLRD’s actions:
- Conflicted with conservation legislation: the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998) (NEMA) and National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act 10 of 2004) (NEMBA).
- Were prejudicial to conservation objectives and infringed on the rights enshrined in Section 24 of the Constitution i.e. everyone has the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that promote conservation.
- Ignored the requirements of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act 3 of 2000) (PAJA) to consult with relevant affected stakeholders prior to its decision.
Manipulating wildlife is a bad idea
This court case, which was heard in the Pretoria High Court on 22 February 2023 (when judgement was reserved until 3 March) followed on numerous and concerted efforts by SA Hunters and other concerned conservation bodies in South Africa during the past six years to engage with DALRRD on its disputed listing. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) was the second applicant in the court challenge against DALLRD.
In 2016, DALLRD added 15 game species to the list and in 2019 yet another list of indigenous game species, some of which are threatened and protected species or listed alien invasive species in terms of NEMBA, was published.
The complete list of wild animals included black wildebeest, blue duiker, blue wildebeest, bontebok, gemsbok, impala, oribi, red hartebeest, roan antelope, sable antelope, springbok, tsessebe, Rau quagga zebra, Cape buffalo, blesbok, Cape eland, kudu, waterbuck, nyala, bosbok, klipspringer, common duiker, red duiker, steenbok, Cape grysbok, Sharp’s grysbok, suni, grey rhebok, mountain reedbuck, lechwe, Burchell’s zebra, Cape mountain zebra, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, lion, and cheetah.
Several non-indigenous species were also among this group and included white-tailed deer, red deer, fallow deer, mule deer, roe deer, and black-tailed deer.
In 2015, SA Hunters adopted a strong position against the intensive and selective breeding of wildlife that disregard conservation principles and use agricultural type production techniques such as genetic manipulation, artificial production, line-breeding, crossbreeding, and several other methods.
Lizanne Nel, conservation manager of SA Hunters, said the Association challenged DALLRD’s actions in the interests of conserving and protecting South Africa’s wildlife heritage for future generations as there are sound scientific data and arguments highlighting the risks associated with the manipulation of wildlife, including from the IUCN.
“SA Hunters was established in 1949 with conservation as one of its main objectives. It is also an active member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” Nel said. She further stated that it was also important to challenge the lack of public consultation by DALRRD in the process of listing.
SA Hunters’ president, Basie Bergh, reiterated that the association takes its conservation mandate seriously and does not hesitate to act when deemed necessary. The association is represented on various conservation working groups and have several national and local conservation initiatives.
“We are relieved and overjoyed about this meaningful judgement which acknowledges the Association’s conservation mandate and respects the scientific data provided by local and international experts on wildlife management and conservation,” Bergh said. – Press release, South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association