DEA calls for public participation in bontebok conservation

2017-11-21 14:01 - Kavitha Pillay
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Bontebok. (Photo: iStock)

Cape Town – In a move to ensure the conservation of another one of SA’s animal species, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has published the draft Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for the bontebok and calls for South Africans to participate by sending through their comments.

The draft BMP for bontebok was published in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, and now the BMP publication in Government Gazette on 14 November is available for the public to comment. Click here to access the BMP and for information on how to submit comments.

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Bontebok is found mainly in the East Coast Renosterveld bioregion within the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of the Western Cape.

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), evidence from fossil records indicates that past climatic and habitat change promoted the splitting of the species into the two separately classified subspecies known as the blesbok and bontebok.

Each subspecies displays different behavioural and morphological traits including body markings and hide colours.

“Historically, the natural ranges of the two subspecies did not overlap, with blesbok occurring widely on the grasslands of Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State and bontebok restricted to the coastal plains in the southern CFR,” says DEA.

“Bonteboks are tolerant of human activities and adapt to changes in the landscape and readily utilise transformed landscapes with old fields of short grass areas,” adds DEA.

Bontebok conservation

“Conservation of the species within the natural distribution range and extended distribution range in the Western Cape has resulted in about 1650 individuals,” says DEA, adding that 7500 bontebok survive “outside the native range of the species throughout South Africa”.

Low genetic diversity, population fragmentation, habitat fragmentation and hybridisation with blesbok are some of the threats that bontebok face.

DEA says that in order to alleviate threats and conserve the animal, an integrated management strategy is required. “This would encourage public support, ensure genetic diversity within the metapopulation and sustainable utilisation of the species by the private sector,” says DEA.

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“The Draft Bontebok BMP focusses on strategies to strengthen the effective implementation of conservation actions aimed at ensuring populations are genetically diverse and that overall population fitness and resilience within the natural distribution range is enhanced and maintained in the long-term,” says DEA.

BMP aims to:

  • Manage bontebok population in the natural distribution range to ensure its long term survival;
  • Co-ordinate national approach to bontebok conservation in and outside of the natural distribution range in terms of management, monitoring and research;
  • Halt the loss of habitat and ensure a steady increase in conserved habitat and rehabilitation of degraded areas for re-introduction of bontebok within the natural distribution range;
  • Highlight research and communication priorities;
  • Have a national database of population distribution and national testing and profiling protocols for bontebok;
  • Identify and gradually eliminate hybrids of this species and maintain economic and conservation value; and
  • Promote bontebok as a flagship conservation species.

 

Bontebok trophies imported to the US

According to hunting site Africa Hunting, in 2016 the United States’ Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) did not restrict the importation of bontebok trophies.  

“We are happy to announce that due to the speedy intervention of DEA over the past few days, USFWS will allow the importation of bontebok trophies into the US during 2016. USFWS indicated that they will continue to accept bontebok trophies whilst waiting for South Africa to submit their updated enhancement finding,” says the site.

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With wild animal trophies in the limelight following US President Donald Trump’s recent halt on the reversal of an elephant trophy ban, and the fact that the DEA calls for public participation on the protection of bontebok, it is disturbing that these animals are still being hunted for trophies.

DEA was contacted by Traveller24 to confirm if bontebok are still hunted and imported as trophies, and how this will change in line with the BMP, but failed to provide comment.

However, Ike Phaahla from SANParks told Traveller24 that according to laws, “hunting is not allowed in national parks.”

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