Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 6 News List

S Africa targets its hunters

AP , CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Lions recover from a tranquilizer after being transported to South Africa's first ``lion haven'' in this November 1996 file photo.

PHOTO: AP

Lions bred in captivity to die by the bullet of a pleasure-seeking tourist. Rhinos felled by bow and arrow for fun. Zebras bred with donkeys to slow their flight.

A panel of experts released their findings on Tuesday on practices that make up the darkest side of South Africa's booming wildlife industry. The panel recommended a complete ban on "canned hunting" -- the killing for sport of animals bred in captivity and hunted in small enclosures where they have no chance of escaping their human predators.

South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the government would introduce new legislation based on the panel's findings next year to salvage South Africa's reputation as an international haven for wildlife.

"We want to stop the approach of anything goes in terms of hunting and crossbreeding," said van Schalkwyk, himself an avid hunter. "Some practices which have been developed over years and decades are distasteful and despicable."

South Africa is famed the world over for its teeming animals and brilliant birds. The jewel in the conservation crown, the Kruger National Park, draws millions of camera-toting visitors each year.

In the shadow of Kruger -- where all hunting is outlawed -- a plethora of smaller parks have sprung up, aimed at visitors who carry rifles alongside their lenses. Last year an estimated 6,700 tourists killed nearly 54,000 animals -- known to insiders as "trophies."

Faced with mounting public concern, van Schalkwyk convened a panel of environmental conservation and management experts in April to look into the industry and suggest ways of regulating it.

Documents provided to the panel by the TRAFFIC wildlife trade monitoring network provided details on the extent of the "trophy" hunting business.

It said 190 lions were hunted last year by foreign tourists, worth an estimated US$3.3 million -- or US$17,500 each. Nearly 5,500 kudus -- valued at US$5.3 million in all -- were also killed, along with 45 leopards worth an estimated US$250,000.

The list of slain animals included baboons, giraffes, elephants, hippopotamuses, mongoose, porcupines, warthogs and zebras. Prices paid ranged from US$25 for the humble pigeon or quail to US$25,000 for the mighty white rhinoceros.

Some hunters were offered the chance to shoot large mammals, including rhinoceroses, with bows and arrows, condemning them to a long and painful death, the panel concluded.

"This is something that no civilized country can continue to tolerate," van Schalkwyk said.

The panel concluded that hunting is -- and should remain -- an integral part of South African life because of its importance to the economy and employment. But at the same time, it recognized the need for greater self-regulation.

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