The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) on Tuesday welcomed the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg’s judgment prohibiting the export of elephants from South Africa.
This comes after circus owner Brian Boswell failed in his legal bid to overthrow legislation which outlaws exporting the animals for use in circuses.
“The NSPCA opposes and has campaigned over many years for the abolition of wild animals in entertainment,” said wildlife protection unit manager Martie Rossouw.
“Wild animals belong in the wild,” Rossouw said.
Boswell wanted to send five of his circus-trained African elephants to Dubai, reportedly for R3m for each.
Two years ago, he applied for a permit, but it was turned down by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs and the Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife.
Norms and standards
They said that “norms and standards for the management of elephants” issued by the minister of environmental affairs, under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Nemba), prohibited the export of animals for circuses.
Boswell then turned to the courts, arguing that the “norms and standards” should be declared invalid because they were not authorised by Nemba.
The issue was argued before Judge Dhaya Pillay.
Delivering her judgment last Thursday, Pillay said there was a “matrix of legislation, regulations, directives and international agreements”, governing the environment and, when the interpretation of a single rule arose, all had to be interpreted contextually.
She said Nemba applied to all state organs provincially and nationally. And South Africa gave effect to its international obligations arising from its ratification of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) under Nemba.
“The minister has to report bi-annually on legislative, regulatory and administrative measures taken to enforce… Cites.
“The norms and standards is such a measure… as a result of law, it must be obeyed unless it is set aside.”
The judge said that different norms and standards applied to different biodiversities and their purpose was to give a flexible application over wide geographic and biodiverse fields, which were vulnerable to quick change.