This was sent to me from my friend on Canary island Africa, I just tot this may interest some of you guys!
My friend Juan is the owner of one of the largest animals sanctuary in Africa, he’s also a reptiles enthusiast and works very hard for there conservation.
[Note: The High Court case between the Enkosini Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mpumalanga Parks Board is still pending, with judgement expected in May 2003.]
Old Bergfontein Farm, South Africa - Kelcey Grimm and Greg Mitchell bought an old cattle ranch. Then they bought some captive-bred lion cubs. They wanted to save the young predators from the fast-growing and lucrative canned hunting industry. Soon they were planning and building a wildlife sanctuary and conservation research center.
They had no idea what kind of fight they were picking.
The farm, which they renamed "Enkosini" - Zulu for "place where kings dwell" - lies in the chiseled scrubby mountains of one province. The lions were bred in another. Transporting predators across provincial lines requires permits, and that's where the trouble started. The conservation officials in Mpumalanga province, where the farm is, refused to issue an import permit. Grimm and Mitchell reapplied. After several fruitless months, they defied the law last May and moved their pride onto the farm in a last-ditch effort to keep the lions out of less scrupulous hands. In doing so, they unwittingly put the old authoritarian norms and new democratic ideals of South Africa on a collision course.
Last Wednesday the officials struck back, forcibly confiscating the lions and putting them in the care of a captive breeder with links to the canned hunting industry. Both sides have launched criminal and civil legal cases against each other. A showdown is set for February 4, when simultaneous trials open to determine which side broke the law.
The Enkosini affair has become one of the most important environmental battles in South Africa since the end of apartheid nearly a decade ago – a battle, animal-welfare activists argue, to wrest conservation from the exclusionary policies of the old order that favored exploitation, shut out animal-rights groups, and still predominate. The outcome may help fundamentally to redefine wildlife management in the country.
"Try to imagine a death camp where an inmate goes up to an SS colonel and slaps him in the face," said Chris Mercer, a wildlife rehabilitator and retired lawyer. "The reaction would be murderous outrage. The officer's authority was defied. Our conservation officials treated Enkosini as a challenge to their whole reason for existing. To these guys, control is a matter of life and death. Kelcey and Mitch are a threat to their whole authoritarian system."
Big game is big business in southern Africa. Each year tourists flock from all directions to stay in pampered bush camps that guarantee close encounters with the Big 5 - elephant, leopard, cape buffalo, rhino, and lion.
On the books, at least, conservation in newly democratic South Africa is supposed to be more egalitarian, transparent, and in line with international codes for wildlife preservation. But practice has not kept pace with changing laws. In eight of South Africa's nine provinces, wildlife sanctuaries - where animals may be neither bred nor hunted - are banned; yet all provinces fully sanction captive-breeding and hunting ranches. As a result, trade in "game" species has become one of the country's fastest-growing industries. One association recently described South Africa as a "hunting wonderland."
For a handsome fee, tourists may shoot just about any species they want. But instead of tracking big game in the bush, clients kill the animal of their choice from the comfort of a vehicle in an enclosed space. The hunted animal is often either hand-reared - and therefore not fearful of humans - or semi-sedated to ensure the trophy.
South Africa has an estimated 45 to 50 captive-breeding ranches just for lion. In just a few years, the number of captive lions has shot up from 300 to 2,500, according to one estimate. An adult lion may fetch anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 for a canned hunt.
Captive breeders argue that putting their "stock" up for hunts eases pressure on wildlife in protected parks. Animal-welfare activists disagree. Evidence suggests that the loosely regulated hunting industry in South Africa actually encourages trapping of wild game from protected areas – a wild lion fetches a higher auction price - as well as smuggling of species protected under the United Nations Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. By various hunting-industry estimates, tens of thousands of animals are killed for sport each year in South Africa.
The ease with which captive breeders move animals throughout South Africa indicates a key reason why their industry has been able to thrive: abuse of the permit process. The system was conceived during apartheid and reflected the authoritarian norms of that era. Today, conservation boards remain under the control of long-entrenched bureaucrats. Most are white, Afrikaans-speaking men. They come from the same tight-knit community as many of those involved in captive breeding and canned hunting. Many are hunters themselves.
"If you talk to anybody who has done wildlife rehabilitation work, they will tell you that the process is completely prejudiced toward hunting and breeding," said Michele Pickover, director of the Xwe African Wild Life Investigation and Research Center in Johannesburg. "They have definitely used the permit system to bolster a particular way of doing things." In a soon-to-be-published study, Pickover observed, most prevailing permit policies were carried over from the apartheid era. "[P]ermits are being issued on an ad hoc basis and ... the criteria are essentially unknown."
The ruling African National Congress has done little to change this practice. "When you go to the national government," Pickover said, "they say nothing can be done about it. It is a provincial matter. They don't feel strongly enough to bring everyone in line."
The office of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa declined to comment.
Mpumalanga's policy for keeping or hunting big cats in the province provides very little guidance for how to seek a permit. At one point it says "no captive ("canned") cats may be imported into the province." In another place it allows conservation officials to grant exceptions to this rule. And exceptions are granted. In 1998, for example, the board issued a permit to a hunting ranch in the province allowing a captive-bred lioness to brought in and hunted.
But when Grimm and Mitchell applied, provincial officials would hear nothing of it - even before they moved the lions onto the farm. As the dispute gained a public profile, Mpumalanga's conservation officials alleged repeatedly that the Enkosini directors failed to provide a business plan, lied about the size of their property, and refused to respond to their requests for information.
"My biggest concern was that they put the cart before the horse," said Andre Coetzee, manager of operations at the Mpumalanga Parks Board. "They had a good idea but it was based on a whim. They bought lions and then said, 'Now what? Let's start a sanctuary.'"
Actually, the farm came first, but Grimm admits that Enkosini evolved. As they worked out funding strategies and formed partnerships with international conservation groups, they incorporated environmental tourism and research facilities into their vision. On two occasions they submitted detailed business plans and separate documentation responding to every concern raised. Conservation officials inspected the fences at Enkosini and approved them. A state veterinarian vouched for the suitability of the facilities. Neighbors on every side wrote in support of the sanctuary.
The paper trail reveals a number of twists and turns by the conservation officials. At one point, they said they could not grant the permit because the lions were captive-bred. Later, they cited a national moratorium on new predator centers - a moratorium the previous environment minister floated but never applied.
"This is about more than the lions," Grimm said. "We questioned the system. We challenged their authority and their ability to make and enforce policies."
In a signed affidavit, a businessman from Mpumalanga testified that he sat in on the first meeting between Enkosini and parks board manager of regulatory affairs Jan Muller. "It became clear to me during this meeting that Mr. Muller was totally against the applicant's permit application," Kenneth Graham stated. "He had a totally inflexible approach to the matter."
According to the new Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, the public is entitled to reasonable and expedient service by civil servants. If the judge next month finds that the parks board acted unjustly, Enkosini will get a permit. If not, Mpumalanga will auction the lions, keep the proceeds, and pursue a criminal conviction against the Grimm and Mitchell for importing predators without a permit.
At 2:20 last Wednesday the planes arrived. They landed illegally on Enkosini's airstrip. They were owned, operated, and financed on behalf of the parks board by Ken Heuer, a captive breeder with well-established connections to the canned hunting industry. Last year, Heuer was forced to admit he imported wild cheetah illegally from Namibia.
At the enclosure, the officials lured the lions into a corner and fired darts at them chaotically through the fence. One male was hit three times - a potentially lethal dose. When the lions were carted, the planes flew off in a violent thunderstorm.
One lioness managed to escape the darts. Mitchell spent the night with her as she cried for the others.
The next morning, 200 miles away, at a captive-breeding ranch outside Johannesburg, the seven captured lions languished a small enclosure under the hot summer sun. They were still groggy from the darts. Standing at the fence admiring their new wards were Heuer and his partner Marius Prinsloo, a canned-hunter from whom Grimm and Mitchell had bought the lions a year and a half ago.
By Kurt Shillinger, Globe Correspondent. Courtesy of The Boston Globe (9 February 2003).
Kelcey Grimm and Greg Mitchell
Enkosini Wildlife Sanctuary/The Lion Foundation
501(c)3 Non-Profit #91-2164693
P.O. Box 1197, Lydenburg 1120, South Africa
Tel: +27.82.265.5955, Fax: +27.11.760.3061
, Web: www.enkosini.com