SATSA, the voice of inbound tourism, has welcomed this weekend’s release, by Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy, of the High-Level Panel report which advocates putting an end to captive lion breeding.
The panel was established in August 2018 and concluded its work in December 2020, submitting recommendations on policies, regulatory measures, practices and policy positions related to hunting, trade, captive keeping, management and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
“We are particularly heartened that the panel shares our view that the captive lion breeding industry does not contribute to conservation and is doing damage to South Africa’s conservation and tourism reputation. The department’s decision to initiate a policy and legislative review to put an end to this practice as a matter of urgency, could not have come sooner,” says David Frost, CEO SATSA, which presented its Animal Interaction research, guideline and toolkit to the high-level panel as part of its efforts to consult with wider industry.
“Our data started to show us that the perception that tourist attractions offering animal interactions were unethical, held the power to tarnish the international reputation of South Africa and severely impact on the tourism industry. If not addressed, we would need to spend extra effort and resources to simply maintain South Africa’s reputation and tourism brand in international markets,” says Frost.
To this end, and after a lengthy and wide-ranging consultation process and research study, SATSA developed an Animal Interaction Guide and Toolkit in 2019 aimed at assisting owners of captive wildlife experiences, visitors and buyers in making informed decisions based on sound ethics to support good practice only.
“We presented to the panel, an Integrative Approach which was locally born, locally relevant, African-philosophy-linked and Constitutional Court endorsed,” explains Keira Powers, SATSA Board Member and Head of the Animal Interaction Committee.
“For tourism’s sustainability, all that matters is what our key source markets think. In our research, we reviewed what would secure South Africa the best tourism returns in the long-term future based on the value of tourism to jobs and the economy. It was clear that this lay in Africa’s USP, its wildlife and communities, and that the shift in public sentiment away from exploitation of animals for our enjoyment is real and has come to bear on our tourism industry and product,” says Powers.
Critical aims in SATSA’s guidelines included:
- To mediate between short term commercial gain and self-interest and longer-term conservation and sustainability interests
- To put South Africa as the front of ethical travel destinations, thereby positively contributing towards growing the industry
- To maintain and enhance the value of the tourism wildlife economy by guiding and providing comfort to consumers/tourists in their decisions
- To enhance social co-benefits such as job creation and preservation of species for future generations
- To improve the welfare of wild animals in captivity and identify activities and hence attractions that are considered unacceptable.
- Having an accepted, endorsed and tested ethical framework to measure assessment against brings consistency and timelessness to any decisions made now or in the future
SATSA shares Minister Creecy’s view that implementing these recommendations will result in the protection and enhancement of South Africa’s international reputation, repositioning the country as an even more competitive destination of choice for ecotourism and responsible hunting.
This “new deal for people and wildlife in South Africa” bodes well for tourism in South Africa, Frost adds. “We have an opportunity to play a leading role globally in defining a shared vision for the sector, enhancing human-wildlife co-existence and extending the benefit sharing for communities living on the edges of protected areas, while ending inhumane and irresponsible practices that greatly harm the reputation of South Africa.”
“We look forward to the recommendations being formalised in the Biodiversity and Sustainable Use Policy. In the interim, as stipulated by the panel report, SATSA is pleased to note the recommendation that the protocol be developed based on the panel’s collective recommendations which includes protection of the wildness of our iconic species and their welfare and well-being, through elements of interaction tourism as indicated by SATSA’s guidelines,” Frost concludes.