The Committee met to be briefed by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on the norms and standards (N&S) that had been developed in line with section 9 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), which made specific provisions that would ensure the proper management of elephants in South Africa. They were also explicit on the number of areas that were deemed necessary for restrictions or prohibition in the management of elephants. The Department wanted to ensure the long-term survival of elephants in the ecosystems in which they lived in South Africa and other countries, and also to ensure that the ecological integrity of ecosystems was taken care of in the context of managing elephants.
The Minister described how the Department managed protocols with regard to elephants in transfrontier parks, pointing out that the circumstances in neighbouring countries were different from South Africa, where most of the land was in private hands, and only about 17% that was in national parks where one would see free-roaming elephants. By comparison, in a country such as Botswana, almost 40% of the land use was for conservation purposes, and most of that land was not fenced — one would find villages and other human settlements inside conservation areas. In Zimbabwe, Botswana and southern Angola, one would have somewhere in the region of between 200 000 and 300 000 elephants, whereas in South Africa there were only about 40 000 elephants in total.
The Department said South Africa continued to work with its counterparts in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on wildlife conservation and law enforcement, and related processes where there were cross-border issues, South Africa had technical teams that met often to deal with specific aspects associated with conservation. It was in that context that the countries tried to influence each other, and harmonise their policies. There also had to be adaptive management, because habitats were changing, numbers may be growing, and there may be other ways for South Africa to expand the range of elephants, opening up spaces where elephants would move from one country to the other. Elephants knew no boundaries or borders.
Members asked about the timeframe for the implementation of the norms and standards, the development of protocols that would deal with welfare aspects associated with wildlife, how management plans would be reviewed and monitored, whether the capture of elephants would be permissible by the use of drones, and what was regarded as sufficient size for a controlled environment.
Norms and standards for management of elephants in South Africa
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Biodiversity and Conservation, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) said norms and standards had been developed in line with section 9 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA). That section empowered the Minister to make norms and standards (N&S) for the management and conservation of biodiversity in South Africa, and also provided for a list of restricted activities, especially those activities that impacted negatively on biodiversity. The N&S made specific provisions that would ensure proper management of elephants in South Africa, and also be explicit on the number of areas that were deemed necessary for restrictions or prohibition in the management of elephants.
There were six annexures that were part of the N&S.
- Annexure 1 dealt with the management of wild elephants;
- Annexure 2 with the management plans in cases where elephants were in controlled environments;
- Annexure 3 dealt with the issues associated with the security aspects in cases where there were human-wildlife conflicts, and how best to manage that.
- Annexure 4 provided requirements in cases where release camps were used for particular reasons; in that case, the specifications were provided.
- Annexure 5 dealt with how the electrification of perimeter fences was done.
- Annexure 6 provided a number of management options, including contraception, range expansion or range manipulation, translocations, and any other activity that the N&S provided for.
The Department wanted to ensure the long-term survival of elephants in the ecosystems in which they lived in South Africa and other countries, to ensure that the ecological integrity of ecosystems was taken care of in the context of managing elephants, and also to make sure that there were specific management activities that detailed properties that hosted elephants, ensuring the wellbeing and biologically healthy populations of elephants in South Africa. Other details were specified in section 2 of the N&S.
Ms Magdel Boshoff, Deputy Director: Threatened or Protected Species Policy Development, DEFF, said there had been a long process of consultations that had preceded the implementation of N&S. In 1995, the South African National Parks (SANParks) had announced the suspension of culling in the Kruger National Park (KNP), and had undertaken to review its policy on the management of elephants. Up to 2005, a substantial number of workshops had been conducted by entities and organisations such as SANParks, provincial parks and private conservation organisations on various aspects relating to elephant management.
In 2006, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had established the Elephant Science Round Table (SRT) to advise him on policies regarding elephant management. The SRT had consisted of a number of elephant specialists from South Africa, the Southern Africa region, and from abroad. It had proposed a 20-year integrative and multi-disciplinary research programme to provide scientific evidence that would inform the management of elephants in South Africa. The Assessment of South African Elephant Management (the Assessment) had been conducted in 2007, and was the first outcome of the SRT’s research programme. It brought together all the relevant scientific information available at the time, and highlighted areas for further research relating to elephant management.
The Minister had issued the Elephant N&S by notice in the Gazette on 29 February 2008, which commenced on 1 May 2008. The Elephant N&S recognised that:
- Elephants were sentient animals with strong social bonds, and should be safe-guarded from neglect and abuse;
- They impacted on habitats, biodiversity and humans living in close proximity to elephants;
- They were important for ecotourism;
- Economic benefits could be derived from elephants if used sustainably (skins, tails, ivory products); and
- The management of elephants must be objective-based, adaptive (if one management intervention was not effective, then another one was applied), and based on best available scientific information.
Key provisions of the Elephant N&S which were gazetted in 2008 included a requirement for permits in terms of the NEMBA for the carrying out of any restricted activity involving elephants, and they had to be managed in terms of a management plan approved by the relevant issuing authority. For private properties, the provinces would generally be the issuing authority, while the Minister would be the issuing authority for provincial parks.
Ms Boshoff said there were general prohibitions against:
- The hunting of an elephant that was part of a social unit (matriarch, her dependant calves, her adult calves with their dependant calves or any female who spent time in close proximity to that unit);
- The translocation of a cow that was part of a social unit, unless the whole social unit was translocated, and then the calves must be older than two months;
- The introduction of elephants into captive facilities;
- The import or export of elephants to captive facilities;
- Repeated translocations.
However, culling may be conducted, but as last resort only, and then only in terms of an approved culling plan. Solitary males or damage-causing animals may also be hunted, but not if such animals were part of a social unit.
With the introduction of elephants into captive facilities, there were very specific exclusions which were subject to the approval of the Minister, and then only in terms of an international agreement, for example, or for a scientific research project.
With the import and export of elephants, provision was made for the transport of elephants that were part of bona fide circuses, and the elephant was temporarily translocated in or out of South Africa.
Repeated translocations were prohibited, but there were exclusions.
Culling may happen only as a last resort. All other management options must either have been implemented, or they must have been evaluated by a natural scientist who had adequate knowledge and experience of elephant management. If that person had evaluated all the management options that were available, and found that the options were not feasible, only then could a person resort to culling, but only if a culling plan had been provided and approved by the issuing authority.
N&S amendment process
The process to amend the elephant N&S had commenced in 2014 with a stakeholder workshop involving the public, conservation authorities and conservation organisations. The process had been temporarily suspended in preparation of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), hosted by South Africa in 2016. The Department did not want to “taint” the discussions at the CITES COP with a process that might be contentious at the time.
A specialist workshop was conducted on 3-4 July 2018 involving owners, managers, scientists, and people with experience in elephant management, and proposed amendments were published in the Gazette on 2 November 2018 for public comment. An assessment of the comments was done by a panel of elephant specialists from organs of state. Before assessing the comments, principles were established beforehand, because the Department wanted to make sure that in assessing the comments, it did so in a consistent manner. For example, if a panel member submitted comments on the N&S, the member would need to leave the room when their comment was assessed. Where proposals were made, these had to be made based on available scientific information.
The purpose of the N&S was primarily to improve the Department’s ability to effectively implement the norms and standards, and to enforce their provisions. It was able to implement the current N&S, but there were areas that affected the Department’s ability to be effective in the implementation of the N&S. None of the policy positions in the N&S had been amended — it was those areas where the Department needed to improve the effectiveness of its implementation that had been amended.
Ms Boshoff outlined the key amendments.
In paragraph 6, relating to management plans (MPs), the detailed information was set out in Annexure 1:
- Approval of the management plan within 60 working days, where before there was no timeframe for the approval of the MP;
- Provision that a permit may be issued for an activity not included in the MP, except for culling. An intervention not included in the MP could be carried out, but it must be in line with the objectives of that particular property for elephant management;
- An MP must be reviewed with the assistance of a professional natural scientist every 10 years from the date of approval;
- A reviewed MP may contain the information in Annexure 1, or the information specified in the N&S, such as how the management objectives of a property aligned with national elephant management objectives;
- The duties of the responsible person in the case of changes in the MP prior to the compulsory review process included notification of the issuing authority in the case of non-substantial changes, and amendment of the MP in the case of substantial changes, or changes in the management objectives.
The national elephant management objectives were currently not in the N&S, and the Department was in the process of developing the elephant conservation strategy. That strategy was focused on the management of elephant populations as a broader, whole population. In time, when that strategy was in place, then that requirement of the alignment of objectives would become relevant.
A “responsible person” was defined in the N&S as either the owner of an elephant, or the person responsible for the management of the elephant, or the management authority of a protected area.
Substantial changes had to be submitted to the issuing authority for approval, either as an amended MP, or as an annexure to the existing MP. In the case of a change in ownership of the property, the person responsible for the MP must notify the issuing authority, and the new owner must sign the approved MP to assume responsibility for the elephants in accordance with the approved MP, or submit a new MP for approval;
Paragraph 12 specified the extraordinary circumstances in which wild elephants may be re-translocated – for instance, if there was a change in the ownership of the land, or the new owner did not want the elephants.
Clarification was given in paragraphs 9 and 13 regarding adequate enclosure and release camps. Controlled environments had to be adequately enclosed; extensive wildlife systems should be adequately enclosed (although it was acknowledged that it might not always be possible, or that one might not want it to be closed entirely); and the release of elephants into a release camp at the point of destination was not compulsory, but where a release camp was applicable, the release camp must conform to the requirements of Annexure IV.
An extensive wildlife system in elephant management had the same meaning as defined in the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations. It referred to a property that was large enough for the elephant population on that property to be self-sustainable. Intensive human intervention in the provision of food, water and shelter, and veterinary care was not required. An example where one did not want such a system to be adequately enclosed was where there were multiple properties that were managed as one property. One did not want the one property to be so enclosed that movement between multiple properties would not be possible. Transfrontier conservation areas was another example, where a property on the South African side was open to the property on the other country’s side.
Paragraph 28 referred to research, and stated that a method for the management of elephants not provided in the N&S may be undertaken, but only as part of a research project. The requirements for a research project were:
- The method must be aligned with the management objectives set out in the approved MP;
- The main aim must be to establish the feasibility of inclusion of the method in the N&S;
- It must conform to the guiding principles;
- Approval of a project proposal prior to commencement must be granted by the issuing authority and an animal ethics committee associated with a tertiary institution, or a research organisation or institution such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust or National Zoological Garden;
- The results of the research project must be intended for publication in a scientific journal;
- An annual progress report, and submission of research report, must be sent to the issuing authority.
The current N&S were very restrictive in terms of how only those options or management interventions contained in the N&S could be exercised. There was no flexibility in terms of implementing interventions that were not contained in the N&S. The Department had made provision, saying that a method that was not contained in the N&S may be undertaken, but it may be done only as part of a research project. A researcher could not do a project on an intervention that would not be aligned with the management objectives of a particular property.
Ms Boshoff said there were areas for further substantial amendment. These included:
- Management of cross-border roaming elephants in open properties or provincial borders, such as associated private nature reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park; or national borders – for example, elephants in the Greater Limpopo Trans Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA), or the free roaming Thuli elephant population shared by South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe;
- Management of elephants as a meta-population;
- The implementation of minimum standards for the management of captive elephants, subject to an amendment to NEMBA to include a welfare mandate (refer to the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill, 2017).
There was the question of counting the Thuli elephant population. Each country counted its own population, and each country used its own methodology. There was also the question of how the Department could streamline those processes so that it made sure that some of the elephant populations were not double-counted. With the management of elephants as a meta-population, that consideration would form part of the elephant conservation strategy that was under development.
What were the objectives that the Department needed to provide for that meta-population? Where did South Africa want to go with its total elephant population? One area that the Department had been lacking was the implementation of N&S for the management of captive elephants. The current N&S required those minimum standards to be developed by the Minister. At the time it was implemented, it required the Minister to develop and implement minimum standards as part of the N&S within 12 months of the commencement of the N&S. The Department had developed the minimum standards at the time, but with court cases, the court judgments were related to the mandates of the minister responsible for the environment, as well as the minister responsible for agriculture.
The minimum standards were related mostly to the welfare of elephants in those captive facilities. The Department had not implemented those standards in terms of the NEMBA as part of the N&S, because of the welfare mandate that was currently lacking in the NEMBA. The Department needed a mandate in NEMBA as part of the current amendment process, and that was part of the broader National Environmental Management Law Amendment Bill of 2017, that was currently subject to Parliamentary approval processes. It included a mandate for the wellbeing of faunal biological resources. As soon as the Department could implement that mandate, it would be able to commence with the implementation of minimum standards for captive elephants in terms of the NEMBA.
The Department proposed the repeal of the current Elephant N&S, and replacing them with the amended N&S. Because the amendments were so substantial, it would be difficult to follow the normal legal process of “this paragraph replaces that one,” because of the number of amendments that the Department had made. The proposal was to repeal the current N&S, and to implement the amended N&S as a new document. It would contain all the current provisions that were already in the N&S. The Department was not leaving anything out. It would then implement the amended N&S as a new document.
The DEFF recommended that the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy support the draft amended Norms and Standards for the Management
of Elephants in South Africa, developed in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA). The purpose of the recommendation for supporting the new N&S was that the Department would want to have the approval of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Having the NCOP’s approval was for the purpose of resolving conflict that may arise between the N&S and provincial legislation. This request for supporting the amended N&S was done in terms of section 146 of the Constitution, for the purpose of resolving conflict in national and provincial legislation.
DDG Munzhedzi said that with the current N&S, the Department had considered a number of issues. By “current”, he meant the proposed N&S, as opposed to the ones that the Department had from 2008 that were still effective until the new N&S come into effect. The Department needed to ensure that when it came to management, the management plans’ requirements were tight and clearer, hence the reference to some of the annexures. If one went to those annexures, they provided details of what was required for the management plans, and how the plans needed to be considered.
There was also the research aspect for adaptive management. The Department learnt as it went along, and things changed over time. This science-based approach ensured that the Department could adapt as it moved along. There were stricter measures on what could be done to inform future policy adjustments. Such adjustments had to be informed by science, and had to be tested. The Department had been working very closely with scientists across the board — not only South African scientists, but also regional scientists, sub-regional scientists, and international scientists.
Referring to the NEMLA amendments, he said one of the key areas related to NEMBA was that the Department needed to strengthen the welfare side of things, hence the reference to the sentience principle. The minimum standards were for whatever was already in the controlled environment. The Department knew that there were stricter controls or prohibitions against anything being taken from the wild to captive facilities. The presentation had noted the stricter measures regarding that. That was also part of the list of what the Department regarded as prohibitions — to avoid wild animals being taken from the wild and taken to captive facilities, or taken out of the country for any matter associated with captive facilities. Those stricter measures required that if an animal was taken from the wild, it was taken for scientific purposes, but with stricter measures that needed to apply in that process.
The Department acknowledged that there were human-wildlife conflicts in different zones in the country, and also the management of that as well. The Department felt that it was important to pronounce on what best measures to follow. Elephants needed to be managed in bigger, wider environments that would allow for social units to thrive. Other control measures may have to be looked at. Preferably, some of them had been tested in the past, like contraception, which was not easy and not cheap.
The issue of range manipulation not only looked at elephants in South Africa, but also looked at working as a region or sub-region. There was an inflow and interface between South Africa and Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia, etc. It carried on in order for the Department to make sure that elephants could roam around, hence the six trans-frontier parks that existed, where elephants could move from one country to another country. The management in those countries would have to be defined as such, and the definition of what was supposed to be done in South Africa was according to what these N&S provide.
Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, commented that the presentation and the summation by the DDG encapsulated why the Department felt that these amendments were very important, and it would like to ask the Committee for its support in passing these amendments. The Department thought that this would allow it to manage South Africa’s elephant populations in a better manner, and in a manner that was ultimately in the better interests of those social and sentient beings.
Ms M Mokause (EFF, Northern Cape) said that there was a need to probe a new provision in the N&S, which made it permissible for elephants to be translocated when the land the elephants were living on had a new owner. Since elephants were social creatures, they should only be translocated under extreme conditions. The person who bought the land must never have an option of removing the elephants.
The Gauteng Chairperson said that she was covered in terms of questions.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) said that he was covered.
Mr A Cloete (FF+, Free State) asked how the management plans were reviewed. He recalled that they were reviewed every ten years. Did the Department have the capacity to monitor those plans, and how were they monitored? The DDG had mentioned the issue of regions and the broader plan regarding the management of elephants — were South Africa’s neighbours on the same page, with similar legislation such as this?
Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) referred to the regulations on capture, namely section 1c, where it said that elephants should not be followed, and asked if that included being following by a drone? Would following by a drone be permitted? Under the definition of a “controlled environment”, the Department had referred to “insufficient” — what did the word mean in this context? Under the duty of care, the Department had previously referred to a template that had to be designed by the Department — what would be the timeframe for that? There had been reference to elephant scientists, and she was a strong supporter of a scientific, evidence-based approach, but how many elephant scientists did South Africa have? Was the number adequate to do the management or monitoring of elephants?
The DDG had said that the way forward was that the minimum standards needed to be done for elephants in captivity. At the moment, in the NEMLA Bill that was now in the provinces, the mandate of wellbeing was included, so that in the end, one could do the minimum N&S for captive elephants, and include the welfare definition in the NEMBA. What would be the rough timeframe to get to the minimum standards for elephants in captivity?
The Chairperson from the Northern Cape said he was covered in terms of questions.
Ms L Bebee (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) wanted to acknowledge the fact that elephants were “our living heritage, and a cultural and historical asset.” She agreed with the principle that elephants should be safeguarded from neglect and abuse. One of her questions had been covered by Mr Cloete, but she wanted to add to that by asking what the attitude of African countries was on elephant management. She wanted to know whether the scientific research had been done by the Department on the elephant population in the KNP. If yes, could the Committee get an indication on how far the research process had gone?
Mr A Arnolds (EFF, Western Cape) agreed that there was a need to manage elephants better, and that elephants should be protected from neglect and abuse. He had a concern about new owners. When a new owner came in, and one knew that the management plan could be reviewed only every ten years; what was the impact of the new owner coming in and then submitting a new or amended management plan? He thought that there would be an impact in terms of that scenario.
Mr T Matibe (ANC, Limpopo) wanted to emphasise the issue of South Africa’s scientific capacity. What was South Africa’s scientific capacity in terms of management, and was it able to harness the regional capacity that it had with its neighbouring countries? The Committee fully supported the amendments put forward. He wanted to know what timeframe the Minister would want for the Committee to deal with the amendments. He wanted to persuade the Committee to support the amendments as put forward by the Minister.
Minister Creecy said that there was an important issue raised by the Members with regard to the transfrontier parks, and how the Department managed protocols with regard to elephants in the transfrontier parks. One needed to begin with an understanding that the circumstances in neighbouring countries were different to South Africa. In South Africa, most of the land was in private hands, and there was a limited amount of land (about 17%) that was in national parks, and those national parks were where one would see elephants being free-roaming. If one looked at a country such as Botswana, almost 40% of the land use was for conservation purposes. Most of that land was not fenced, and one would find that there would be villages and other human settlements inside conservation areas. There was a similar situation in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, Botswana and southern Angola, one would have somewhere in the region of between 200 000 and 300 000 elephants, whereas in South Africa there were only about 40 000 elephants in total. There were Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocols, and there was a joint scientific team that worked on these matters. Where there were transfrontier parks, there were common management authorities that would represent all of the countries involved. There was also a situation where the SADC had protocols that governed the management of animals that fell under transfrontier parks. There was still room for much more work to be done on this, and one could see in the conclusion of the Department’s presentation that this project was primarily domestic.
The Department did feel that there was room to do more work in SADC as well. The DDG could tell the Committee about how the Department was trying to enhance the work that it did with SADC. It had also been the Minister’s wish, and she had discussions with the Minister of Environment in Angola, that “we should extend the range states into southern Angola.” Historically, before the war that took place in Angola, southern Angola would have been a very significant range state for southern African elephants. Much of that land still had landmines in it, and required clearing. Unfortunately, all of those projects have had to be put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was something that the Department had a longer-term interest in resuming when conditions allowed, because that would relieve pressure on Botswana and Zimbabwe if the countries were to allow elephants to return to their historical range states.
The Minister thanked the Committee for recognising that the N&S was an important amendment that needed to be fast-tracked where possible.
Mr Munzhedzi wanted to highlight two issues. South Africa continued to work with its counterparts in SADC in wildlife conservation and law enforcement, and related processes to that effect. The transfrontier parks provided space for organised and harmonised approaches to a number of things. The DDG had indicated that South Africa had transfrontier parks that interfaced with Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland. In that whole arrangement of interactions where there were cross-border issues, South Africa had technical teams that met often, and technical teams that would have specific management plans to deal with specific aspects associated with conservation. It was in that context that the countries tried to influence each other, and harmonise their policies.
The Department also recognised the role that non-state actors play. In this regard, the DDG mentioned the role of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which had specialist groups, and there was an elephant specialist group in that space. Such actors provided a lot of guidance and information from a scientific perspective.
There was a question on scientists. Some scientific specialists came from South Africa and other parts of the region. There were also scientists who were mammal-related, and specialised in elephants and other large mammals. In SANParks, there was a dedicated scientific services unit that dealy with the science of large mammals. There were also scientists from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), and those from other academic institutions that the Department worked with.
Since 2008, the Department had acquired what it referred to as the “elephant management fund”, supported through the international community. That fund was meant to support research, and any community-elephant interface support. The Department had continued to make sure that there was continuous research in partnership with academic institutions, which had been doing a number of studies that were very useful for elephant management in South Africa. Adaptive management referred to changing as and when new information came in, because one had to have an evidence-based approach to dealing with these things. For instance, habitats were changing, numbers may be growing, and there may be other ways of South Africa expanding the range of elephants.
The Minister referred to opening up spaces where elephants would move from one country to the other, as elephants knew no boundaries or borders. The interface between SANParks and the management authorities in Mozambique from an operational perspective was a case in point, with the co-operation that was looked at, and other areas as well.
The reason why the Department advocated for the wellbeing part in the NEMLA process was that the Minister could then be enabled, from a legislative perspective, through the development of the N&S on elephants, to develop protocols that would deal with welfare aspects associated with wildlife. The timeframe would also depend on how the NEMLA process went. If one looked at the spirit and the intent of the approach, some of the aspects associated with the welfare had, to an extent, also been looked at from a duty of care perspective, and with many things associated with that. The spirit was there, but there may be specifics that may be required beyond where the Department was now. The Department was in partnership with welfare organisations. This helped it to have policies influenced along those lines.
Ms Boshoff started with the question on how the management plans were reviewed, and whether the Department had capacity to monitor them, and how they were monitored. One of the challenges that the Department had experienced was that there was no compulsory reporting requirement — it was something that was built into the TOPS (threatened or protected species) regulations when the Department had done the comprehensive amendment of them. It had built in a requirement for permit holders to report on the restricted activities that were carried out. There was a requirement that elephant owners, whatever they did with elephants, would need to report that to the issuing authorities. The amended N&S would require, under the duty of care, the number of elephants to be reported, so that the elephants could be monitored. The ability of the issuing authority to monitor the implementation of the N&S would largely be informed by the information that would be provided by the responsible persons when they reported on their permitting requirements.
On whether the capture of elephants would be permissible through the use of a drone, the N&S did not pronounce specifically on drones at the moment. If a problem was experienced with that, it would be something that would need to be considered. At the moment, the acceptable method of elephant management when they needed to be captured was by means of helicopters. There was also no pronouncement on helicopters. If there were areas where there were challenges or concerns regarding the manner in which the elephants were captured, or the equipment that was used, then that was something that the Department would need to consider.
The Department did not provide a size attached to a property that would be regarded as sufficient for a controlled environment for elephants. It would depend on two key issues primarily, The one was a provision in the N&S that referred to the minimum size of a viable population that should be introduced on to a property. The size of the property would depend on what the size of the population that would be introduced as a new population on to the property. The second thing was that because the vegetation and climate across South Africa varied so much, it would be very difficult to provide a minimum size for the introduction of an elephant population on a particular property. What was suitable for Limpopo might not necessarily be suitable in the Western Cape. The definition would guide what was sufficient.
With the size of the elephant population to be introduced on a property, the requirement must be that the population was introduced into an extensive wildlife system that was of sufficient size — the population must be able to be self-sustainable, and there must be minimum human intervention in the form of providing food and water, veterinary care, disease control, etc. The size of a property would be dependent on the circumstances of the introduction of an elephant population. What the Department would consider was that even for an extensive wildlife system, there were times of drought, where the population would become more dependent on additional feeding. This did not mean that the extensive wildlife system was then regarded as a controlled environment. In the definition of “extensive wildlife system” in the TOPS regulations, the Department did make provision for additional feeding in times of drought.
The question on the duty of care referred to the timeframe for the development of the reporting template on the initial assessment and the indicators. The Department had not provided a timeframe yet, but that needed to be in place prior to the commencement of the elephant norms and standards. The commencement dates for the norms and standards would be determined by the publication of a notice in the Gazette by the Minister. The Department acknowledged that once the N&S had been approved, it needed time to prepare issuing authorities and responsible persons on what the requirements were that they needed to put in place. The Department would likely follow a process of road shows in the provinces to provide information on what was required. The timeframe between the publication of the N&S for implementation and the commencement of the N&S would provide the Department with the opportunity to develop the reporting template with the indicators. That would have to be in place by the day that the N&S commenced.
On capacity to monitor, it was difficult to provide the number of scientists, but South Africa did have a number of elephant specialists in the country. These specialists were within government, within the protected areas and within the private sector, and there were also people with welfare experience as well as elephant management experience. The Department did have that kind of capacity available in the country, and also drew on the experience of elephant scientists from other countries. For example, when the N&S were developed, it was not done with the input only of local scientists. The Department made use of capacity in the country, within the region, and also abroad.
Referring to whether the amendment in NEMBA related to the wellbeing of faunal biological resources, Ms Boshoff said that was part of the current NEMLA Bill process. Once that provision was in place, the Department would be able to implement the minimum standards for captive elephants in terms of NEMBA. The Department wanted to implement the minimum standards for captive elephants as part of the elephant N&S in terms of NEMBA. The timeframe to do that was a bit difficult to indicate at this stage, because the Department anticipated that the timeframe that had lapsed between when it finalised the minimum standards for captive elephants was such that it would likely be required to publish the N&S for another round of public participation. That would depend on when the NEMBA amendments commenced, the consultation process, and being able to finalise and implement the minimum standards. As soon as the NEMBA amendment was implemented, the Department would commence the process of implementing the minimum standards.
On management plans in the case of a change of ownership of land, the Department indicated in the N&S that the general review process would be at least every ten years. If there was a change in the management plan, amendments would need to be done prior to that review process. For example, there might be an amendment that was substantial enough that it needed to be dealt with before the review of a particular management plan. The new owner could accept the elephants and the management of the elephants in terms of the existing approved management plan. The new owner could then sign that management plan and then continue, or could decide to rather develop his/her own management plan with his/her own objectives, and then get that approved. That process of accepting an existing management plan or developing a new management plan did not have to wait for the review period (every ten years).
The Chairperson said the Committee would take the elephant management N&S to its Members, and the N&S would go to the provinces for adoption and then would come back to the Committee. She noted that the SC had received the relevant document in time, and that Members had gone through it.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister, and the representatives from the provinces. She said that the provincial representatives were supporting the Committee.
Adoption of Minutes
Mr Matibe proposed the adoption of the minutes of 9 July, and Ms Bebee seconded. The minutes were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Modise, Ms TC ChairpersonANC
- Arnolds, Mr AEFF
- Bebee, Ms LCANC
- Cloete, Mr ABFF+
- Creecy, Ms BANC
- Labuschagne, Ms CDA
- Matibe, Mr TBANC
- Mokause, Ms MOEFF
- Nhanha, Mr MDA
- Smit, Mr CFDA
- Sotyu, Ms MMANC
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Original article: https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/30649/?utm_campaign=minute-alert&utm_source=transactional&utm_medium=email