Photograph by ©Ian Michler. Source: www.Bloodlions.org
Cape Town - The Professional Hunters' Association of SA (Phasa) recently adopted "a new constitution that accepts the practice of captive-bred lion hunting", which reverses a previous decision made by the association.
Following a vote at their AGM on Wednesday night, 22 November, Phasa's decision has resulted in the association being suspended from the Operators and Professional Hunting Associations of Africa (OPHAA) and losing sponsorship from BookYourHunt.com.
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: PHASA backtracks and approves 'canned' lion hunting
While OPHAA says that Phasa's decision disregards fair-chase which is one of the "fundamental concepts of hunting" and says "without a doubt" it will jeopardise conservation efforts. Phasa told Traveller24 that it "vehemently rejects any and all forms of canned or illegal hunting".
"As an Association we did not vote for canned hunting (which is against the law) we voted for the collective involvement in the decision-making process of managed ranched lions," says Phasa, adding that it has "set the minimum release requirement to 30 days" for hunting of ranch lions.
However, despite the release date for hunting from these ranches being "above the minimum legal requirement" which is as little as four days in certain provinces, HSI Africa (Humane Society International) and Blood Lions say "There is no minimum release requirement that can justify the hunting of human-habituated tame lions".
In an interview with Traveller24, here's what Phasa had to say about its decision:
Why did Phasa reverse its decision made in 2015 against canned lion hunting?
"As the largest Professional Hunting Association in the world, it is exceptionally irresponsible to merely distance yourself from a legal activity within your country and expect a positive outcome for lion conservation. The 2015 resolution played a pivotal part in bringing about change within the industry; however, by distancing ourselves we allowed rouge elements to continue unabated.
"There are over 6 000 lions in private ownership in the country and it is paramount that Phasa be involved guiding a collective process which brings accountability to the industry.
"Phasa was, and always will be, a membership association ruled by the members and served by the Exco. In 2016 the following resolution was taken, the members voted for a sub-committee of open minded individuals representing Phasa, SAPA (South African Predator Association) and any other interested parties to engage in communication to find a workable and acceptable solution, if any, for the lawful and acceptable utilisation of captive bred lions. Due to this there was a lion workshop at the past AGM where Phasa has 900+ full voting members and a duly constituted request resolution was put forward by members of Phasa, which was approved.
"Phasa has adopted this new resolution which only accepts ranched lions (lions which are not hand reared and have minimal human imprinting) to be hunted on accredited South African Predator Association ranches.
"Despite there been over 200 lion breeding facilities in the country, only 10 (5%) of these have ascertained the high standards required to be accredited hunting ranches. Phasa only accepts the responsible hunting of lions on these few properties and has insisted on even stricter norms and standards especially for our membership."
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When asked to elaborate on the stricter norms and standards that Phasa insists on, the association says that these include South Africa’s Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations which "are of the highest standard" among African countries and stipulate that "no large predator may be hunted from a motorised vehicle, aircraft, with a bow, handgun or semi-automatic firearm, with artificial lights, dogs, bait, poison, traps, snares, luring with sounds or smell".
"All of these are strictly prohibited activities by our governing legislature and are of much higher standards than any of our neighbouring states. Phasa supports these ordinances and ensures to its best ability that these standards are upheld by members," says the association.
Membership suspended, sponsorship terminated
Phasa says that it is "very unfortunate" that OPHAA suspended its membership, saying "OPHAA have, in our opinion, made a hastily and irrational decision without proper consultation".
Phasa says that it is estimated that there are 6970 wild and wild managed lions in Africa - including South Africa - "according to the 2014 published IUCN Red Data list".
"South Africa in contrast is home to over 6000 lions in private ownership, 46% of the world’s lion population. It is reckless and irresponsible for OPHAA to condemn Phasa for making a concerted effort to become involved and take a leading role in the conservation of 46% of the world’s lion population," says the hunting association.
Meanwhile, BookYourHunt.com says it is "terminating its sponsorship agreement" with Phasa for "allowing its members to organise and participate in hunting captive bred lions" and reversing its previous position on the issue.
What will Phasa do now?
"The loss of any sponsorship and ill-informed suspension is of course concern but as an Association, we have a broader responsibility to the South African biodiversity economy, the socio-economic development of our communities and most importantly our members. We are a membership-driven Association and have a duty to be accountable to the members.
"As an Association it is paramount that we engage with all stakeholders to address the ill-informed public perception about lions and the position Phasa has taken to be an industry leader.
"Phasa reiterates its position in which it vehemently rejects any and all forms of canned or illegal hunting. Canned hunting is an illegal action in South Africa. Phasa has set the minimum release requirement to 30 days, far over and above the minimum legal requirement of only 4 days in certain provinces. Phasa supports the SCI fair chase rule for Estate hunts where a minimum of 6 months introduction time is applicable."
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Phasa told Traveller24 that the "30 day release period was determined and decided on by numerous stakeholders in the industry after rigorous debate. This is a minimum standard and the majority of accredited ranches even supersede this standard."
When asked what are the chances of a captive bred lion even surviving 30 days in the wild, Phasa says that a lion is in "essence a large cat and we should not underestimate its ability to go feral very quickly". Phasa says that "most lions adapt very quickly" according to "recent research done by the South African Predator Association", and added that in some cases captive bred lions that were released into the wild "survived and produced offspring".
Traveller24 requested proof of the research conducted by the South African Predator Association, but failed to receive any documents from Phasa at time of publication.
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What difference does a month make?
According to HSI Africa and Blood Lions, "Captive-bred lions start the cycle being hand-raised after being removed from their mothers at just a few days old. Thereafter, they move to cub interactions and walking with lion excursions. Furthermore, there are no peer-reviewed scientifically replicable studies to demonstrate that captive bred-lions can be successfully reintroduced back to the wild, being completely self-sufficient and reliant, irrespective of land/camp size."
"Thus, the period of 96 hours, 4 days or 30-days cannot be scientifically validated. As the Lion Biodiversity Management Plan 2015-2019 (which called for the establishment of national standards for the captive keeping and breeding of lions) has not yet been developed, there is no national policy or protocol in place," adds the animal conservation groups.
Blood Lions says it is "deeply concerned" by Phasa's decision "to reverse their position taken in 2015", adding "The hunting of captive-bred lions does not provide any demonstrated positive benefit to wild lion conservation efforts, and therefore cannot be claimed to be conservation.
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