Minister of Environmental Affairs welcomes SAA cargo decision to lift the embargo on the transport of hunting trophies
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs. Edna Molewa has welcomed the lifting of an embargo by the cargo division of South Africa’s national carrier, SAA, on the transport of legally acquired hunting trophies of African lion, African elephant, rhinoceros and tiger.
The embargo had not included other wild animals not mentioned on a global list of endangered species.
The decision by SAA Cargo to lift the two month-long temporary embargo is the result of the national carrier being satisfied that sufficient measures are in place by the Department of Environmental Affairs to prevent the illegal transportation of illegally acquired wildlife specimens in general, and illegally acquired hunting trophies in particular.
The decision by certain airlines and cargo handlers to issue a ban on the transportation of hunting trophies incorrectly failed to distinguish between the trade in and transportation of legally acquired wildlife specimens, and the illegal trade in wildlife specimens.
The decision to lift the embargo was reached following extensive engagement between the department and SAA since the embargo was announced on 20 April 2015.
During the past six years, the department put in place a variety of measures to eradicate illegal exploitation and trade in endangered species and their products.
This has included the deployment of Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI’s), commonly known as the Green Scorpions, at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) since 1 April 2015.
This deployment has now been fully operationalised.
EMIs deployed at ORTIA will ensure compliance with, and will undertake enforcement action related to, the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) and its Regulations.
The EMIs are also tasked with ensuring that Regulations relating to the Convention on the International Trade in Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) are monitored and enforced.
Since the announcement of the embargo, the Green Scorpions have been working closely with other law enforcement agencies by conducting joint proactive compliance and enforcement operations at the ORTIA.
The department has also conducted training sessions with SAA Cargo officers focusing on the illicit wildlife trade and the detection of illegal consignments.
As part of joint operations between law enforcement agencies, airlines and cargo handlers going forward, to prevent the circumstances that gave rise to the embargo being undertaken, the DEA has undertaken to, inter alia:
(i) Ensure that physical inspections at ORTIA are conducted on a daily basis to monitor compliance with NEMBA and its regulations.
(ii) Ensure that CITES export and re-export permits are endorsed only after physical inspection of consignments
(iii) Ensure that the abovementioned CITES permits are cancelled after use.
(iv) Ensure that enforcement action is taken in cases of detected non-compliance with NEMBA and its regulations, CITES and TOPS regulations.
(v) Work in collaboration with other agencies such as Customs, SAPS, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Department of Health and the Department of Home Affairs, to proactively detect illegal consignments.
(vi) Facilitate the further training of airline officers and cargo handlers, ACSA employees and other operators in the handling of wildlife consignments and the detection of suspicious cargo.
(vii) Develop protocols for communication between the Green Scorpions, SAA Cargo and other operators to ensure the sharing of critical information and to enable quick reaction time when needed.
Importantly, the DEA will step up communications with exporters and importers, to ensure that they notify the department timeously of their intention to freight consignments, in order to arrange for physical inspections.
The department has endeavoured to ensure that loopholes that may have existed in the current regulations enabling the illegal transportation of wildlife through South African ports, have now been closed.
“It should be remembered that hundreds of legally acquired wildlife specimens, such as hunting trophies, pass through our main ports of entry and exit monthly without incident, penalising an entire industry for the illegal actions of the few is not in the country’s best interests, ” says Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa.
Molewa added that the sustainable utilisation of species, including legal hunting, has historically played a significant role in the growth of populations of species, including lion, elephant and rhino.
The legal, well-regulated hunting industry in South Africa is valued at around R 6.2b a year and is a source of much needed foreign exchange, job creation, community development and social upliftment.
The department will continue to engage other airlines and shipping companies who have put embargoes in place on the transport of legally obtained hunting trophies from Africa.
The department commends the positive step taken by SAA Cargo to lift the embargo on hunting trophies – and encourages other airlines and shipping companies who still have embargoes in place, to reconsider their positions.
The department values the cooperation of our airline partners and stakeholders and looks forward to a mutually beneficial future relationship of ridding the industry of unscrupulous operators and illegal activities.