Have a look at what we do for wildlife and then explain to us in plain words why we are not supported by conservation officials. Indeed, why they proactively undermine our efforts.
Even though our Karoo Wildlife Centre is a project of the international award-winning NGO, Campaign Against Canned Hunting, and we followed procedures to obtain permits as much as possible until the excessive bureaucracy defeated us.
Far away from the paper world of government policies and regulations, in the real world, here is how rehab sanctuaries work. An animal is orphaned or injured and taken by good samaritans to the local vet. She attends to its wounds and needs, and then what? She has a veterinary surgery in a built-up area. She needs a wilderness facility with large natural camps where the animal can be fed and nurtured until it is fit for release back to the wild. It then needs a soft (gradual) release into suitable habitat where it can survive and flourish.
The rehab centre is therefore an essential part of the rescue process. Without it, the vet would have no choice but to put the animal down.
So here is a perfect example: seven orphaned bat eared fox pups were delivered to the Karoo Wildlife Centre recently.
Check out the videos: look how well fed and cared for they are in spacious natural surroundings. When ready, they will be released in to the surrounding wilderness by merely opening the gate of the camp. They will not disperse immediately and we'll continue to put food out for them after release. Some foxes released a year ago still come back every night for their food.
So why on earth should we have to work outside the permit system? Surely, we should be welcomed by conservation officials as complementing their efforts to save our wildlife heritage?
Because hunting involves cruelty, killing and adverse impacts upon biodiversity, you’d expect hunting to be heavily regulated and monitored. And you’d expect animal protection and rehab centres to be lightly regulated, to encourage public participation.
But this is South Africa, where the hunting fraternity controls conservation.
To start a hunting farm:
All the landowner needs is a Certificate of Adequate Enclosure to confirm that his perimeter fence is strong and high enough and Presto! all regulations vanish like smoke. No need to apply for any re-zoning, or obtain EIAs, or file complex business or management plans, or be restricted by hunting seasons; the landowner is free to do what he likes with his ‘alternative livestock.’ Indeed, he can turn the land in to a battlefield, like the infamous driven hunt at Alldays in Limpopo. See this illustrated report on the Alldays hunt, showing how hunting is to conservation what pornography is to art.
Now compare the regulatory burden on wildlife sanctuaries or rehab centres.
1. To start a Wildlife Sanctuary and/or rehab centre for animal rescue, a re-zoning application is called for. Now the bureaucracy runs riot.
A one-size-fits-all re-zoning application means that the mind-numbing requirements designed for large scale developments such as a new golf course complex or a five star ten story hotel all have to be met by the poor wildlife rehabber.
Really!!?? All this – and much, much more - just to rescue a bundle of fur or feathers??
2. An E.I.A. (environmental impact assessment) - for which yet another expensive consultant is required. An EIA can only be done by a registered qualified EIA practitioner, and the whole process can take months, and cost tens of thousands of rands.
3. Formal standard operating procedures (SOPs) for every aspect of the rehab process; use of vehicles, use of equipment, cleaning, etc .etc – all of which must be signed by staff and volunteers. The detail required is so overwhelming that even where to park the car at night must be included in the SOP!
4. Expensive and unnecessarily high and strong fences for enclosures, even those designed to hold small, harmless animals.
5. Explain mission and vision, species and number of animals kept (how on earth to know this in advance?), how you are going to meet the physiological, physical and psychological needs of the animals that you do not yet have, transport facilities, veterinary facilities, fire management plans, personnel training, public liability insurance for millions, escape plans, exit strategies, letters of support from all neighbours, an essay on how the centre will add value to conservation, research, education etc, risk assessment, ecological impacts etc etc.
Oh and membership of PAAZAB.
(Logic?? PAAZAB is a zoo association. Why on earth should a rehabber be forced to join a Zoo association? Zoos exist for human entertainment; the rehabber has no interest in human entertainment. Some of PAAZAB’s rules, such as the requirement to be open to the public at all times, are bizarrely inappropriate to a rehab centre, which is closed to the public at all times.)
The point is this: not only are these excessive bureaucratic obstacles discouraging people from exercising their legal right to participate in wildlife management, but the fact that none of these onerous obligations are imposed upon game hunting farms is partial and discriminatory and therefore unlawful in terms of Section 3 of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.
Is this burdensome bureaucracy really necessary for conservation purposes?
1. If these onerous bureaucratic demands were really important, then they would apply to game farming and the hunting industry – much more so because hunting impacts the environment far more than rescuing and rehabbing orphaned and injured wildlife. Despite the anti-conservation antics of an out-of-control hunting fraternity, such as cross-breeding mutant freaks for hunting trophies, or turning the land in to a battlefield like the driven hunt at Alldays in Lipopo, no EIAs are required.
2. In the conservation sub-culture, ‘welfare’ of animals is almost a swear word. There is open hostility to the whole idea of animal welfare, and anyone who speaks out against cruelty to wildlife is pejoratively labelled a ‘greenie,’ a ‘rightist’, a ‘radical’ and ‘an‘extremist.’
3. In seeking to control every aspect of sanctuary/rehab activity, the conservation authorities are acting ultra vires ie outside their legal powers. In short, unlawfully. The Supreme Court of Appeal decided in the Predator Breeders case that breeding lions for canned hunting or other human entertainment fell outside the authority of conservationists.
So why are conservationists so obsessed with controlling every aspect of animal welfare facilities when they have no legal right to do so? They themselves never miss an opportunity to deny that animal welfare is their responsibility.
Authority and responsibility go together - conservation officials cannot claim that they have no power to regulate animal welfare - and then proceed to try to regulate it.
I hope we shall not have to go to the High Court for relief before this saga is over.