A coalition of 35 conservation organizations, in a letter to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), requests the removal of Dries van Coller, president of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) as non-executive director of their board, because this association is believed to support the hunting of canned lions.
The Coalition, which refers to itself as the “Coalition to Stop Captive Breeding and Keeping of Lions and Other Big Cats for Commercial Purposes,” writes in the letter that it is encouraging that TBCSA has now got the fragmented tourism industry under one umbrella.
However, the Coalition believes van Coller’s directorship and his close association with PHASA are “problematic” because responsible tourism organizations are moving away from “human-animal interaction” and exploitation of wildlife worldwide.
According to the Coalition, research has shown almost half of the facilities where lions are bred in captivity are directly linked to tourism.
The Coalition believes this industry is damaging Brand South Africa as a tourism destination and warns that prospective, responsible tourists may turn their backs on the country in the future. This could mean that South Africa could lose R54bn in revenue in the future, if the canned hunting industry is allowed to continue.
PHASA denied on inquiry that some of its members were involved in hunting captive bred lions. Some of their members do hunt lions and they are captive bred, but they are kept in large areas for a long time and “get wild” before they are hunted.
To this end, the Coalition says it is precisely this reason – the fact that lions are bred in captivity and later hunted – that resulted in PHASA breaking up in 2017. The key members meanwhile, formed in an organization called Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation-South Africa. “These ex-PHASA members were concerned about the organisation’s lack of ethics,” the Coalition writes.
PHASA was also kicked out of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) during this time. PHASA’s membership of the Namibian Professional Hunting Association was also revoked.
The Coalition also says some of PHASA’s members are also members of SAPA, the South African Predator Breeders Association, to which many of the breeders of captive bred lions belong.
Van Coller stated that he had nothing to hide and that he had the support of his colleagues, as well as those of the larger wildlife industry.
“I have no criminal record and have never committed a crime, and yet I am condemned by a group of radicals. Because of their condemnation, I have already received hate emails, as well as death threats against me and my family.”
He emphasized that he also “has rights like any other citizen of the country”. “The fact that I am willing to serve my industry and make a contribution to make a difference in society is nullified by some uninformed, unqualified and emotional extremists.”
“My views, beliefs and actions have never been questioned and I have always acted with integrity. The TBCSA is not a state institution. It is a private initiative aimed at promoting the South African Tourism Industry. The hunting industry plays a role in this.”
Beeld reports that the TBCSA has not yet responded to the coalition’s letter.