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Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

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Introducing CER’s work to improve the legal protection of South Africa’s wild animals

25 January 2018 at 1:07 pm

For the past two years, alongside our other more well-known programmes of work, the Centre for Environmental Rights has been working quietly to build our knowledge and capacity on the legal protection of wild animals. This work is based on the rights guaranteed in section 24 of the Constitution*. We have prioritised this issue because of the increased commoditisation of wildlife in our country, which often fails to consider the welfare and conservation of wild animals. Moreover, South Africa’s incredible wildlife constitutes part of the natural heritage of all South Africans, including future generations.

More specifically, we have identified the following overall challenges and objectives:

  1. Poor quality permits are issued, and poor and unlawful decisions are made on permit applications for wildlife use

Based on an extensive set of access to information requests for permits issued for a range of activities in relation to wildlife – some of which required litigation to ensure disclosure by authorities – we know that too many poor quality permits are issued, while decisions on permit applications for wildlife use are often made without the necessary transparency and scrutiny, and without having regard to the requirements of section 24. We would like to see far fewer permits granted to unfit applicants, better quality permits issued, and far more transparency and consultation in the permitting process.

  1. Inadequate compliance monitoring and enforcement of biodiversity laws for restricted activities in relation to wildlife

There is an ongoing need for improved and better resourced compliance monitoring and enforcement of permit laws for restricted activities in relation to wildlife, including improved prosecution and conviction of wildlife offenders.

  1. Inadequate legal protection exists for the welfare of wildlife

Having completed a thorough legal review of all legislation applicable to the regulation of the welfare of wildlife, we have found that there is an urgent need for improved legislation regulating the welfare of wildlife. We aim to engage with the national and provincial departments responsible for agriculture, conservation and environmental affairs on law reform initiatives for the better protection of the welfare of wild animals.

In this project, we have been working primarily in partnership with our long-standing partner, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, but we collaborate with and consult a wide range of organisations working in this space.

We will be publishing more information about this work this year. If you would like more information, contact our attorney Aadila Agjee on [email protected]. If you are passionate about this work and would like to support it with a donation (of any size), please contact [email protected] or visit Support Us.

Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

* Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.