DEA backs SAA Cargo decision to transport legal hunting trophies

2015-07-27 13:49
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Cape Town - Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs (DEA), has welcomed the lifting of an embargo by the cargo division of South Africa’s national carrier, SAA, on the transport of legally acquired hunting trophies of African lion, African elephant, rhinoceros and tiger. 

The embargo had not included other wild animals not mentioned on a global list of endangered species, and was initially implemented due to secure measures to prevent the illegal transportation of illegally acquired wildlife specimens in general, and illegally acquired hunting trophies in particular, the DAE said in a press statement, which was published on SANPark's website. 

Molewa said that the sustainable utilization of species, including legal hunting, has historically played a significant role in the growth of populations of species, including lion, elephant and rhino.

“It should be remembered that hundreds of legally acquired wildlife specimens, such as hunting trophies, pass through our main ports of entry and exit monthly without incident, penalizing an entire industry for the illegal actions of the few is not in the country’s best interests, “ said Molewa.

The legal, well-regulated hunting industry in South Africa is valued at around R 6.2bn a year and is a source of much needed foreign exchange, job creation, community development and social upliftment.  

Animal welfare activists on Thursday, 23 July, decried the national air carrier to reverse a ban on the transportation of hunting trophies, saying "SAA has gone from being bold to being bullied in three short months", following their initial ban of the transportation of trophies. 

ALSO READ: Anger as SAA lifts ban on hunting trophies

The decision by other airlines and cargo handlers to issue a ban on the transportation of hunting trophies, said the DEA, incorrectly failed to distinguish between the trade in and transportation of legally acquired wildlife specimens, and the illegal trade in wildlife specimens.  

SAA's decision to lift the embargo, they say, was reached following extensive engagement between the department and the national carrier since the embargo was announced on 20 April 2015. 

READ: SAA Cargo lifts ban on hunting trophies

During the past six years, the department put in place a variety of measures to eradicate illegal exploitation and trade in endangered species and their products.  

This has included the deployment of Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI’s), commonly known as the Green Scorpions, at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) since 1 April 2015. 

The department has also conducted training sessions with SAA Cargo officers focusing on the illicit wildlife trade and the detection of illegal consignments. 

As part of joint operations between law enforcement agencies, airlines and cargo handlers going forward, to prevent the circumstances that gave rise to the embargo being undertaken, the DEA has undertaken to:

- Ensure that physical inspections at ORTIA are conducted on a daily basis to monitor compliance with NEMBA and its regulations.

- Ensure that CITES export and re-export permits are endorsed only after physical inspection of consignments.

- Ensure that the above mentioned CITES permits are cancelled after use.

- Ensure that enforcement action is taken in cases of detected non-compliance with NEMBA and its regulations, CITES and TOPS regulations.

- Work in collaboration with other agencies such as Customs, SAPS, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Department of Health and the Department of Home Affairs, to proactively detect illegal consignments.

- Facilitate the further training of airline officers and cargo handlers, ACSA employees and other operators in the handling of wildlife consignments and the detection of suspicious cargo.  

- Develop protocols for communication between the Green Scorpions, SAA Cargo and other operators to ensure the sharing of critical information and to enable quick reaction time when needed.

The department has endeavoured to ensure that loopholes that may have existed in the current regulations enabling the illegal transportation of wildlife through South African ports, have now been closed. 

The department will continue to engage other airlines and shipping companies who have put embargoes in place on the transport of legally obtained hunting trophies from Africa. 

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