Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
And Patron Of The Wildlands Conservation Trust
Marks Building, Parliament
Thank you Ms Miles and Mr Glasby, and thank you to all our friends in the media who have joined us this afternoon. I stand in support of the fight for our lions, first and foremost as a conservationist and a proud South African. The survival of our natural heritage has always been close to my heart.
When I was growing up, I learned that my ancestor, King Shaka, used to set aside land where hunting was not allowed, in order to protect wild animals. As a young Inkosi, I worked with conservationists like Dr Ian Player and Mr Nick Steele, persuading my people that we needed to actively protect our wildlife. Later, when I became Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government, I was able to establish South Africa’s first department of environmental affairs.
Throughout the years, I have spoken at the World Wilderness Congress, received international conservation awards, served as patron of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, and founded the Tembe Elephant Park. I have had many conversations, with people like Sir Laurens van der Post and Mr Lawrence Anthony, that cut me to the heart over the plight of our wildlife.
But I have never been so deeply affected as I was by the film “Blood Lions”. The IFP has supported the fight against canned lion hunting for several years. Through questions and statements in Parliament, and through petitions to the Speaker of the House, we have tried to raise awareness.
We have asked why, when there are few more than 3,200 wild lions left in South Africa, are there 7,000 captive-bred lions being kept on some 200 farms. They are not being kept for research. And they are not being kept for conservation. There has never been a single successful relocation programme of captive-bred lions into our parks or reserves. These lions are tame, human-imprinted and genetically contaminated. Breeding lions in captivity makes no contribution whatsoever to securing the future of our lions.
There is one reason and one reason only for captive breeding. And that is money.
Lions are being bred to be killed, either to become the trophy of a pseudo-hunter or to be butchered for the growing lion bone trade. This is unethical and inhumane. Yet between 800 and 1000 captive-bred lions are shot in South Africa every year, because Government has failed to protect them.
Legislation on canned lion hunting is weak, ambiguous and full of loopholes, enabling the continued hunting of captive-bred lions who have been taught to trust humans and, indeed, to come when we call.
Currently, legislation prohibits hunters from shooting captive-bred lions in a small enclosure from which they have no chance of escape. But it allows them to shoot captive-bred lions if they’re first released into a bigger space, despite the fact that, stripped of their instincts, they still have no chance of survival. What is the difference? Is it less morally reprehensible to kill a lion in a cage, or to call to a lion you have hand-reared so that he can be shot point blank?
Government has a responsibility to tighten legislation to offer full protection to our lions.
I was encouraged by the news this past week that the 2016 World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature has lent its support to a motion tabled by seven NGOs that seeks to end the hunting of captive-bred lions and other predators, and to end the practice of captive breeding for commercial, non-conservation purposes in South Africa.
The IFP agrees. We want more than an end to captive-bred hunting. At this point, anyone can breed lions in captivity without being required to have any understanding of biology, animal husbandry, lion ecology or conservation. All that is needed is an exploitative spirit and compromised ethics. The IFP wants to change that. We want captive breeding of lions restricted to registered zoos and registered facilities that demonstrate a clear conservation benefit.
This is the message we will be carrying into the 17th Conference of Parties to CITES, the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species, which will be held in Johannesburg later this month. At my request, the Chief Whip of the IFP, the Hon. Mr Narend Singh MP, and Advocate Anthony Mitchell, will be attending this conference.
We hope to see the fight for our lions high on the agenda. We believe that based on the rapid and continuing decline in habitat and numbers, the status of lions should be upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered. This will afford them the greater protection they so desperately need.
We also cannot ignore the trajectory of the lion bone trade. Eight years ago, 60 individual lion bones left South Africa’s shores. Three years ago, 1,094 lion carcasses were exported. The legal trade in lion bones is exploding. It’s a matter of time before we see the lucrative poaching of our wild lions.
My friend, Lawrence Anthony, said, “Until we allow all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.” Lawrence Anthony was one man, who went into Iraq when others were fleeing, to rescue the starving lions imprisoned in the palace of Saddam Hussein’s son. His courage is an inspiration, reminding us that we as individuals can and must act on our conscience.
That is what I am doing today. My conscience dictates that I walk side by side with Four Paws International as we deliver these 545,130 petitions from around the world. We will take these petitions to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, together with a letter I have written calling on her to act.
That letters reads as follows –
“DEAR HONOURABLE MINISTER,
Together with Four Paws International, I have today brought to your office 545,130 petitions signed by people across the globe who stand in solidarity against the captive breeding of lions for commercial purposes.
These petitions are addressed to you, Honourable Minister, as the government leader responsible for legislation that protects our lions. We ask that the current legislation be scrutinised and amended to ensure that the hunting of captive-bred lions is prohibited, under any circumstances, and that lions are no longer allowed to be bred for purely commercial purposes.
We rely on your good offices to raise this matter at the next meeting of Cabinet, bringing it to the attention of the President, to whom these petitions are jointly addressed.
It is our hope, Honourable Minister, that during the CITES CoP 17 you will use your position of authority to speak against captive-bred lion hunting, and to discourage international delegates from being lured by the prospect of petting a lion cub or walking with captive-bred lions through our beautiful bushveld as part of their South African experience.
The Chief Whip of the IFP, the Hon. Mr Narend Singh, has called on the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs to have a screening of the film “Blood Lion” for Committee Members. We hope that you too will watch this film to better understand the impact of a failure to amend legislation and protect our lions.
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
PATRON OF THE WILDLANDS CONSERVATION TRUST”