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Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency v Medbury (Pty) Ltd t/a Crown River Safaris

27 March 2018

Supreme Court of Appeal 

Citation: (816/2016) [2018] ZASCA 34 (27 March 2018)

Date: 27 March 2018

Judge: Navsa JA (Seriti, Saldulker and Swain JJA and Schippers AJA concurring)

In this matter, a heard of buffalo escaped from a nature reserve managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) and moved to Medbury’s land. Medbury argued that it had acquired ownership of the buffalo in accordance with the common law. The common law regarding the ownership of game was altered by the Game Theft Act, 1991 in that ownership still vests in the original owner of escaped game, but Medbury argued that the protection offered to game owners was only applicable in the event that game owners obtain a certificate to say that its fence is secure. ECPTA had not obtained such a certificate.

The court found that the Game Theft Act, 1991 was applicable and that ownership in the buffalo still vested in the ECPTA. In interpreting the relevant provisions of the Game Theft Act, 1991, the Court noted that the loss of ownership of game can be financially devastating to game farming and thus not consonant with constitutional values, including those relating to conservation as provided for in s24 of the Constitution.

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Section 24of 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.

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