South Africa has a wealth of environmental legislation covering a broad range of environment issues, from biodiversity protection to regulating water use and atmospheric emissions. Despite South Africa’s legislative provisions protecting inter alia conservation in the country, incorrect decision making and limited enforcement of reported environmental offences has the consequence that the objectives of South Africa’s environmental legislation are not being achieved. As a result carnivore conservation in South Africa is being seriously hindered. This is particularly relevant in the captive keeping and hunting industries. Lack of capacity within governmental and law enforcement sectors, coupled with a lack of prosecutions in this area, has resulted in there being insufficient repercussions for illegal activities related to carnivores. This means that offenders are not deterred from committing such offences, resulting in detrimental activities to carnivores continuing. Therefore a thorough understanding of the environmental legislative framework as it applies to carnivore conservation and challenging actions that are contrary to this framework is crucial to the survival of South Africa’s carnivores, as it will contribute to ensuring healthy and sustainable populations are maintained.
TARGETED SPECIES AND HABITATS
The basic laws are in place to conserve carnivores in South Africa, but a formal understanding and documenting of loopholes is required to maximize conservation effort. There is also a lack of will and resources in government to effectively utilise the legislation. As a result irregularities go unpunished and there is little or no deterrent for carnivore-related crimes. A better understanding of the legislative framework is required. This will be obtained through partnering with legal experts like universities and the Centre for Environmental Rights. This will lead to the identification of all legal issues that either hamper carnivore conservation or prevent it from taking place effectively e.g. the legal ownership of reintroduced carnivores. This can then be used to lobby government to amend or enforce the relevant legislation to conserve carnivores.
A key legal frustration in carnivore conservation is a lack of alignment in the law. Each province has a different set of legislation and national legislation that overarches the nine provinces. National legislation needs to be investigated in light of international conventions e.g. South African legislation needs to undergo public scrutiny before implementation, but the CITES Non Detriment Finding (NDF) process stipulates that trade should be immediately suspended on a negative NDF finding. Thus South Arica cannot amend laws to suspend trade as per CITES without public participation.
The EWT-CCP must play a key role in supporting government to enforce legislation. Staff can offer evidence in aggravation of sentencing, a database of case law needs to be developed that law enforcement agencies can call on and carnivore specific training and capacity building needs to be done in the legal sector e.g. Green Scorpions, detective and magistrates.
Much of this work is highly specialised and will require partnering with legal experts or getting a legal expert into the EWT-CCP team.