Letter from Minister Anton Bredell Regarding the Wildlife Forum
Thank you for writing to the Western Cape Government and for raising your concerns regarding the e-mail that has been forwarded to a number of people by Bool Smuts on the welfare management of Damage Causing Animals (DCA) in the province.
The Western Cape Government regards this matter extremely seriously. We recognise the critical importance of maintaining the balance between the protection of wild species and the promotion and sustainability of our farming economy – which contributes greatly to the provincial GDP and job creation – and have committed a great deal of resources to achieving this aim.
That said, we believe it is important to address some of the inaccuracies contained in Dr Smut’s email.
First, Dr Smuts alleges that the Wildlife Forum that was established this year is a “sweetheart/advisory” group. This is completely untrue.
The Western Cape Government hosted a summit on the welfare of wild species on 4 April 2012, which was attended by representatives from a number of animal welfare organisations, hunting and farmer organisations. One of the main outcomes agreed to at the meeting was the formation of the forum to facilitate the forging of strategic partnerships and multi-stakeholder commitment to address challenges facing the welfare and protection of wild species in the province, particularly between groups who have diverging views within this field.
Contrary to allegations made by Dr Smuts, this forum is diverse and representative of a number of different interest groups. Its members represent animal organisations, hunting and farmer’s associations who were elected by those present at the summit, after all politicians and provincial government officials had left the meeting.
The forum have met and have agreed to discuss and explore non-lethal methods of control in order to give farmers a "tool box" of options to protect their livelihood while at the same time promoting and protecting biodiversity. This is because farmers have indicated that they would be happy to make use of non-lethal methods over and above lethal methods if these have been found to be effective.
The forum therefore provides a platform for organisations with vastly different views and philosophies to sit around a table to discuss issues and to propose constructive solutions on the way forward. The critical factor is that both sides have agreed to engage in a constructive debate and are willing to make compromises so that we can come up with long-term solutions.
While the forum continues its work, a short-term solution is required to prevent farmers suffering severe losses from predation – it is estimated that last year these losses amounted to R 20 million.
Dr Smuts has included a number of inaccuracies when it comes to issuing of permits in the Western Cape in his e-mail, which need to be addressed. Some of these inaccuracies include the following examples:
- Dr Smuts alleges that the Koos Bothma report which was publicly released in August does not condone the issuing of permits. This is wrong. The report instead argues that permits should only be used on a short-term basis while a long-term holistic strategy needs to be developed that is based on ecosystem-based husbandry and selected preventative measures of depredation. This is exactly what the wildlife forum is currently developing, a long-term solution based on non-lethal methods to control DCAs.
- Dr Smuts is also completely disingenuous when referring to how Western Cape compares to other provinces when it comes to the welfare and control of DCAs. The fact is that by issuing permits, our province has introduced a regulatory method where permit holders are required to report on their activities. No such regulation exists in the Free State, Northern West and KwaZulu-Natal where farmers can hunt freely. In the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape permits are required but farmers may hunt unlimited numbers of species. Both gin traps and hunting with helicopters are banned in the Western Cape. In a number of the other provinces these methods are permitted. In other words, the Western Cape is far stricter than the other eight provinces when it comes to the hunting of DCAs.
- The theoretical numbers thrown around by Dr Smuts are also exaggerated and disingenuous. The core business of farmers is to farm their livestock. They do not have the time, knowledge or resources to hunt the number of animals that have been suggested by Dr Smuts. This is proven by the fact that permit holders have reported the following numbers of species hunted - caracal - 190, Black-backed jackal - 135. The fact is that we are able to provide these figures because of the permit system which requires farmers to report any animals that have been hunted and which means we stay informed of the numbers of DCAs hunted in the province.
The truth is the Western Cape Government is committed to finding solutions to this problem. More importantly, we recognise the fact that the issuing of permits is a short-term solution and that a long-term solution that adequately addresses the balance between the protection of wild species and the promotion and sustainability of our farming economy is urgently needed.
However, critical to achieving this is for all interest groups to commit themselves, honestly and in good faith, to working in partnership to come up with this solution.
This is also the primary recommendation of the Koos Bothma report: The need for a unified approach in which all parties will have to yield some ground so that they all may eventually benefit from developing a new holistic strategy.
We believe that we have made progress in this regard through the establishment of the Wildlife Animal Forum, which has brought everyone together to discuss these issues and to find common ground.
It is critical that organisations place this objective ahead of their own self-interests and refrain from spreading disinformation and lies in order to further their own agenda, which threatens the work of the forum and finding a long term solution that promotes and protects the welfare of DCAs.
Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning
13 September 2012