Environmental Affairs confirms extension of zero quota for leopard hunting in South Africa

Event date: 
2017-01-16 10:40

Introduction and background
Scientific Authority non-detrimental finding
About CITES quotas
Zero quota for leopard trophy hunting in SA
Sources / related links


Introduction and background

In compliance with signed international conservation treaties and agreements as well as national legislation, the government has a responsibility to ensure conservation and sustainable utilisation of South Africa’s biodiversity resources. As part of this responsibility, the Scientific Authority of South Africa, appointed in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, must make a non-detriment finding (NDF) to confirm that the trade, including export of CITES I listed species (such as leopard), will not impact negatively on the survival of that species in the wild.

As previous evidence was suggesting that trophy hunting was contributing to local leopard populations declining, the Scientific Authority initiated a monitoring process for leopard hunting in 2015, whilst also developing guidelines for sustainable trophy hunting of leopard. These guidelines were distributed to provinces with the 2015 quota of 150 animals per annum for the country. The allocation of the quota for 2015 was however subject to the following conditions to be met by provinces in 2015:

  • Trophy hunts had to be restricted to male leopards;
  • A hunt-return form had to be submitted for every hunt; and
  • Specific details had to be supplied for every damage-causing leopard that was killed under permit.

As a result of the fact that some provinces did not fully comply with these conditions (by not providing the detailed information required) and as a result of the non-detrimental finding showing that the legal local and international trade in live animals and the export of hunting trophies at present poses a high risk to the survival of leopard in South Africa, a zero quota was recommended for leopard for 2016 by the Scientific Authority. 

In addition to the aspects mentioned above, other key aspects covered in the NDF include the following:

  • There is no rigorous estimate for the size and extent of the leopard population in South Africa, but recent research has shown that several sub-populations in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal are declining with others stable, but no populations are increasing;
  • The research further suggests that trophy hunting may be unsustainable in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and possibly North West due to excessive quotas, poor distribution of hunts in the province, poor trophy selection, and the additional impact of damage causing leopards being killed, together with other forms of illegal off-take;
  • Data also suggests that levels of illegal off-take (animals taken out of the system illegally) exceeds levels of legal off-take;
  • Harvest of leopards is not managed consistently throughout the country and only some provinces implement effective controls and legal off-takes;
  • While research has shown that hunting of female leopards can significantly reduce the long term viability of leopard populations, South Africa   to date allowed export of female leopard hunting trophies (the only  country  of  the 12  range  states  permitted by  CITES  to export leopard trophies); and
  • There are no effective incentives for landowners that conserve leopards or their habitat.

With the increasing pressures on the world’s biodiversity and immense and instant public reaction to activities that are perceived to negatively impact on people’s natural heritage, government and the wildlife industry will be increasingly expected to become more responsible and accountable for their actions in future.

Impacts on wild leopard populations must be reduced and monitoring measures implemented in all provinces to determine trends in the population and assess the impact of legal off-takes on the population.  Illegal killing of leopards must further be curbed as this will impact negatively on the potential for future quotas for harvesting. To ensure maximum results during 2016, a concerted effort from government, landowners and the trophy hunting industry will be required.


Scientific Authority: non-detriment finding

In terms of Section 61 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) [Act No. 10 of 2004], the Scientific Authority is required to make and publish annual non-detriment findings on impacts of international trade on threatened or protected species.

In terms of Article IV of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an export permit for specimens of an Appendix II species or for specimens of an Appendix I species that were artificially propagated or captive bred for commercial purposes shall only be granted when the Scientific Authority of the State of export indicates that export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species.

A non-detriment finding is a science-based risk assessment where the vulnerability of a species is considered in relation to how well it is managed. The Scientific Authority of South Africa uses the CITES NDF checklist to make non-detriment findings. Factors considered include the biological characteristics of the species and its national status (distribution, abundance, trends and threats), as well as the management, control and monitoring of harvest, protection of the species from harvest, and incentives and benefits arising from harvest. Trade can be allowed for species assessed to be at low risk, or moderate risk in some cases (above dotted line in image), whereas trade is not advisable for species at high risk.


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About CITEs quotas

There is no specific requirement in the text of the Convention to establish quotas to limit the trade in CITES-listed species. Nevertheless, the use of export quotas has become such an effective tool for the regulation of international trade in wild fauna and flora that, at its 14th meeting (The Hague, 2007), of the Conference of the Parties to CITES adopted Resolution Conf. 14.7 (Rev. CoP15) on Management of nationally established export quotas.

Export quotas are usually established by each Party (Member State) unilaterally, but they can also be set by the Conference of the Parties, and they generally relate to a calendar year (1 January to 31 December).

Before any Party may issue a permit to allow export of specimens of species in Appendix I or II, its Scientific Authority must be satisfied and advise that the proposed export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species (the so-called 'non-detriment finding' in Article III, paragraph 2 (a), and Article IV, paragraph 2 (a), of the Convention). The setting of an export quota by a Party may meet this requirement by establishing the maximum number of specimens of a species that may be exported over the course of a year without having a detrimental effect on its survival. The responsibility for establishing quotas thus lies with each individual Party (unless they have been set by the Conference of the Parties).

When a country sets its own national export quotas for CITES species, it should inform the Secretariat [see Resolution Conf. 12.3 (Rev. CoP16)], which in turn informs the Parties. Early each year, the Secretariat publishes a Notification to the Parties containing the explanatory notes on the export quotas of which it has been informed.

The Conference of the Parties establishes export quotas in a variety of circumstances. These quotas are either specified in the CITES Appendices [e.g. for the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and for the African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)] or in a Resolution of the Conference of the Parties [e.g. Resolution Conf. 10.14 (Rev. CoP16) for the leopard (Panthera pardus), Resolution Conf. 10.15 (Rev. CoP14) for the markhor (Capra falconeri) and Resolution Conf. 13.5 (Rev. CoP14) for black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) hunting trophies].

The quotas specified in the Appendices are usually established only when there are concerns about a species transferred from Appendix I to Appendix II. In this case, the quotas are specified in annotations to Appendices I and II. The Conference of the Parties has provided relevant guidance in Annex 4 to Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP16) (Criteria for amendment of Appendices I and II) and in Resolution Conf. 11.21 (Rev. CoP16) (Use of annotations in Appendices I and II).


Leopard (panthera pardus) trophy hunting banned

Department of Environmental Affairs confirms extension of zero quota for leopard hunting in South Africa

16 January 2017 - The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) can confirm that a zero quota for the hunting of leopard (Panthera pardus) has been extended to 2017.

The decision is based on the review of available scientific information on the status and recovery of leopard populations in South Africa. The Scientific Authority recommended to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa that, based on the information received and reviewed, a zero quota for 2017 for the hunting of leopard, with the possibility of introducing a precautionary hunting quota in 2018.

The zero quota for the hunting of leopard has been in place since January 2016 following an evidence-based decision by the Scientific Authority.

The Scientific Authority took into account input from the Scientific Steering Committee for Leopard Monitoring comprising government institutions, NGOs, representatives of industry and academic institutions.  Also taken into account was the results of systematic camera trap surveys undertaken in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga as well as relevant data from the industry obtained using Cat Spotter.

Draft decisions from the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17) require all Parties with leopard export quotas to review the leopard hunting quotas and provide the scientific basis for the quota allocated.

This CITES review process will continue in 2017 to ensure that an appropriate quota is allocated for the South African leopard population.

The status of the Norms and Standards for Leopard Hunting, which are soon to be published for public comment, was also taken into consideration.  The Scientific Authority has recommended in its proposed quota zero quota for 2016 that a number of interventions should be implemented to ensure the sustainable utilisation of leopard populations. This included the development of norms and standards for the management and monitoring of leopard hunting as well as the extension of particularly systematic camera trap surveys to all provinces where leopard occur.

The Scientific Authority was established in terms of Section 60 (1) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No.10 of 2004) (NEMBA) (as amended) to assist in regulating and restricting the trade in specimens of listed threatened or protected species and species to which an international agreement regulating international trade applies.

The Department of Environmental Affairs is implementing the recommendations made by the Scientific Authority.

For media inquiries contact:

Moses Rannditsheni
Cell: 082 448 2450


Environmental Affairs sets provincial leopard trophy hunting quotas at zero

2016 - The Department of Environmental Affairs has set provincial leopard trophy hunting quotas at zero for 2016, effectively banning leopard trophy hunting throughout South Africa for a year.

This follows an alert by SA’s Scientific Authority that the number of leopards in the country was unknown and that trophy hunting posed a high risk to the survival of the species.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), South Africa is permitted to allocate 150 leopard trophy export permits a year. Early warning of possible permit curtailment appeared in the Government Gazette late last year indicating that if the guidelines issued earlier in the year were not adhered to, provincial quotas would be set to zero for 2016.

The Research Authority found that leopards:

  • Had a low reproductive rate;
  • Their distribution was fragmented;
  • Their abundance and population trend was uncertain;
  • Illegal off-take was uncertain;
  • There was little control of harvesting (especially illegal harvesting) which was high;
  • Confidence in harvest management and monitoring was low;
  • Incentives for conservation in the country were low; and
  • Only between 5% and 15% of leopard habitat was strictly protected.

The trophy ban is in place throughout this year. The Scientific Authority will then review the situation. It will also develop norms and standards for the management and monitoring of leopard hunting throughout the country.


Sources and related links


Scientific Authority of South Africa  
Related Branch Biodiversity and Conservation
Scientific Authority of South Africa (SASA)
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) export quotas
South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association



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