Excerpt from the letter to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

PANTHERA AFRICA’S COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT POLICY POSITION ON THE CONSERVATION AND ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE USE OF ELEPHANT, LION, LEOPARD AND RHINOCEROS

The Panthera Africa directors are grateful for the opportunity to comment on the Government Gazette, Vol. 672, issued on 28 June 2021, No 44776, and we commend the Minister and the High-Level panel for their thorough and extensive work, commitment, and visionary leadership in putting forward the Draft Policy Position to bring an end to the exploitation of wildlife, fully embrace and incorporate One Welfare principles into government policy, and secure a sustainable future for South Africa’s nature and her wildlife for generations to come.

Panthera Africa is an internationally acclaimed true sanctuary where no breeding, trading or hands-on interaction take place, and one of only 6 true big cat sanctuaries in South Africa. We are recognised for our high operational and animal welfare standards, as well as for our educational responsible tourism experiences. We have 24 big and smaller cats in our care and take great pride in speaking on their and the various species’ behalf. Since Panthera Africa was founded, we have always had the long-term goal of one day being able to dismantle all enclosures as there will be no more big cats to rescue because the end of the captive big cat industry has finally been reached. The successful implementation of the proposed reforms by government will ensure this happens. We fully embrace the One Welfare approach in every aspect, and envision a world where animals, humans and nature are equally respected, acknowledged and loved.

Panthera Africa wholeheartedly supports and believes in a collaboration between the government, NGOs, private sector and other crucial stakeholders who genuinely care for animal welfare and a sustainable future of South Africa and her nature and wildlife. We firmly believe such a collaboration is essential in order to accomplish the intended goals of the Draft Policy, and Panthera Africa are ready and committed to play our part in this process. For a successful transition from current to envisioned state to take place, while keeping animal welfare in highest regard, it is crucial that a Welfare Forum is established. As a party with on-the-ground experience and expertise in animal welfare and wellbeing, we offer our assistance in any way needed. As a true sanctuary with integrity at the heart, we believe everyone must take the moral and social responsibility to ensure a quality of life, as well as death, for all animals. We are ready to continue taking this responsibility to ensure a humane and dignified end to this industry.

We feel it is essential to differentiate between commercial captive lion facilities and true sanctuaries where no breeding, trading or interaction take place and which are based on genuine animal welfare and wellbeing.  Although we support the ending of the captive lion industry, true sanctuaries can play a vital role in the phasing out of this industry, by providing a forever home for some of the healthy lions coming out of the commercial captive lion industry. This will also allow for conversion of facilities that genuinely want to make positive changes to their existing business models, which is a preferred solution as it will ensure the future employment of workers

We are committed, ready and eager to assist the South African government and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation and achievement of the suggested regulations and policy objectives.  We believe that together we can, and will, make South Africa a leader and symbol of unity, strength and cooperation, and safeguard a sustainable future for both animals, humans and nature.

Sincerely,

Cathrine S. Nyquist and Lizaene Cornwall