Draft Norms and Standards for the trophy hunting of leopards published for comment

02 March 2017

Paul Theroux once described trophy hunters as “the unspeakable in pursuit of the stuffable.”

The Department of Environmental Affairs clearly doesn’t share this view as it announced in January this year that trophy hunting of  leopard, effectively banned in South Africa in 2016 and 2017, may be permitted again in 2018 albeit with new rules in place: the Department has recently published draft norms and standards for the management and monitoring of the hunting of leopard in South Africa for trophy hunting purposes (GenN 75 in GG 40601 of 8 February 2017).

The development of the draft norms and standards was prompted by draft decisions made in 2015 at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES to the effect that signatories to the Conventions should produce scientific evidence that their leopard hunting quotas were not detrimental to the survival of the species. In South Africa, the view was that there was not enough evidence that leopards were being sustainably hunted. A moratorium on hunting was imposed in 2016 and later extended to 2017.

The draft norms and standards are published in terms of section 9(1)(a) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004, which is a general section allowing the Minister to issue “norms and standards” (the term has no specific definition in the Act) for the achievement of any of the objects of the Act, to manage and conserve the components of South Africa’s biodiversity and to restrict activities that impact them.

Leopards as a species are categorised as “vulnerable” in the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations (GN152 of 23 February 2007) made in terms of the Biodiversity Act. As such they are regarded as facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future but are not regarded as critically endangered or endangered. They are also a “listed large predator” in the regulations meaning that special rules apply to them when they are hunted. The draft norms and standards set additional rules for leopard hunting; hunters are still required to comply with the permitting requirements in the Biodiversity Act and its regulations when hunting leopards. The draft norms and standards also build on the current system in terms of which the Department allocates the provinces an annual “quota” of leopards to be hunted in that province.

However, the draft proposes that SANBI establishes “leopard hunting zones” within which only one leopard may be hunted. The purpose of this is to ensure that leopard hunting is not concentrated in certain areas as has been the case in the past. Only male leopards seven years or older may be hunted and hunters are required to undergo an examination to determine whether they can adequately assess the age of a male leopard and are familiar with applicable law.

If the hunt is successful an Environmental Management Inspector must inspect the trophy within 24 hours and take a DNA sample. Local hunters or professional hunter on behalf of his or her client must submit to the permitting authorities a detailed hunting report including photographs. An unsuccessful hunt must be reported within 14 days.

Provincial authorities must submit all the information from the year’s hunts to the Department by September in each year, in order to receive a leopard hunting quota for that province for the following year.

The purpose of collecting all of this information is to allow the Department with advice from SANBI and the Scientific Authority under CITES to manage leopard hunting quotas in an “adaptive manner”. The Department also has a general discretion to refuse to set any leopard hunting quota if doing so “will impact negatively on leopard population viability.”

The draft proposes that certain “disincentives” can be imposed if leopards are hunted “in a manner that could contribute to a disruption in the stability of the population.” These disincentives include the issuing authority refusing to issue a permit to the hunter concerned or placing restrictions on the activities of the professional hunter involved, a refusal to issue an export permit for the trophy “or the institution of criminal charges”. Since the draft norms and standards don’t create any new offences this will presumably only apply where offences are committed in terms of existing legislation.

The draft norms and standards should give the Department better control of trophy hunting and more information about the effect of trophy hunting on wild leopard populations, allowing it to make more informed decisions about declaring hunting quotas. Although economic disincentives for hunters who contravene the norms and standards is a good idea, there is no reason why some contraventions (for example, shooting a female leopard or one that is younger than seven years, or failing to submit the necessary hunting reports) could not also have been made criminal offences.

Unspeakable or not, the Department seems set on making trophy hunting of leopards lawful again next year. Comments on the draft must be submitted to the Department by 10 March.

- Sarah Kvalsvig, Consultant, Cullinan & Associates


Comments must be submitted as follows:

By post to:  The Director -General

Department of Environmental Affairs

Attention: Ms Makganthe Maleka

Private Bag X447



By hand at: Environmental House, 473 Steve Biko Street, Arcadia, Pretoria, 0083. 

By email: mamaleka@environment.gov.za

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