Wildlife Consultative Forum not a policy-making platform

Pretoria: The recent 14th African Wildlife Consultative Forum held in Limpopo did not influence South Africa's environmental policy, says the Department of Environmental Affairs.

In a statement on Friday, the department said the 14th African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF) which was held from 9 to 12 November was a consultative meeting and in no way influenced government policy.

"This is a meeting of African governments affected by hunting with the Safari Club International (SCI) and professional hunting associations. Claims that the forum is an indication of excessive interference by American hunters in South African government policy are not true. This meeting is not a policy-making platform," said the department.

It added that the meeting was an information-sharing platform between SCI and African countries affected by hunting.

While discussions do include the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of Parties (CoP) decisions, these are not country positions to the CoP, as governments have their own individual processes to prepare their positions for tabling at the CITES Conferences of Parties.

"It is pertinent to emphasise that the AWCF is a SCI initiative which started in 2001 in Botswana. South Africa and other African countries have always participated in these meetings. So, it is inaccurate to suggest that South Africa has partnered with SCI. South Africa is merely a host country for the meeting."

These meetings rotate annually among African countries affected by hunting and all meetings are all sponsored by SCI.

The Safari Club International also invites professional hunting associations from participating countries, just the same as South African hunting associations have been invited.

The department said the consultative forum meeting is an annual Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF)-sponsored initiative which provides an important platform for African countries to enhance existing co-operation between governments, including hunting industries of participating countries.

In addition, it assists with a coordinated and pragmatic approach towards the implementation of and compliance with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement, and CITES, specifically focusing on the sustainable use of natural resources with the SADC region.

The AWCF is further a platform for sharing experiences in wildlife management and hunting in particular.

The meetings are usually attended by approximately 14 African countries, as well as a representative of the CITES Secretariat, and representatives of many African professional hunting associations.

At the meeting, South Africa emphasised that there is a need to balance economic and social development goals with that of environmental sustainability for the benefit of present and future generations.

"As South Africa we would like to continue to conserve and improve our status of our natural resources for the benefit of our socio-economic development, and the wildlife industry has an important role to play in ensuring that this goal is achieved," said the department.

The next AWCF meeting is likely to be hosted by Tanzania in 2017 and by Botswana in 2018.