Minister Edna Molewa gazettes the Biodiversity Management Plan for the African Lion
04 December 2015
The Minister of Environmental Affairs on Wednesday, 02 December 2015, published the Biodiversity Management Plan for the African Lion (Panthera Leo) in Government Gazette No. 39468 for implementation in terms of section 43(1)(b)(i) read with section 43(3) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Ac 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004), set out in the Schedule hereto.
This is the first national Biodiversity Management Plan compiled for lions in South Africa. The Plan has been developed in close consultation with an encompassing group of stakeholders since 2013. The Plan will be reviewed at five-year intervals to ensure it is appropriate for the circumstances at the time.
The gazetting of this Management Plan is in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 and the National Norms and Standards for Biodiversity Management Plans for Species which were gazetted for implementation in 2009. In addition, the plan was developed in response to the Regional Strategy for Lions in East and Southern Africa in 2005 (IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group 2006) to which South Africa contributed during the development phase. In line with the Regional Strategy, this Plan will be regarded as the national strategy for African Lions in South Africa.
This Biodiversity Management Plan allows for the implementation, monitoring and review of actions taken to conserve this species in the wild amidst a changing environment.
The main purpose of the proposed Plan is outlined in the vision for the South African lion population: Through the existence of stable, viable and ecologically functional populations of managed and wild lions, along with well-managed captive populations that have minimal negative conservation impacts, lions will provide key opportunities for biodiversity conservation, economic development, social benefits and improved management capacity.
The Plan makes a clear distinction between wild lions in national parks, managed wild lions in smaller reserves and captive lions.
The key objectives of the BMP for lion include:
- Improving the conservation status of lions within a broader conservation context, considering the respective roles of wild, managed wild and captive populations
- Encouraging the development of opportunities for economic and social benefit from responsibly managed wild and captive lion populations
- Ensuring legislative alignment both provincially and nationally and improve capacity to implement legislation effectively
- Establishing a lion forum or working group
- Aligning this Biodiversity Management Plan with lion conservation plans in neighbouring countries and link with international working groups.
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The lion is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is also listed as Vulnerable on the South Africa list of Threatened or Protected Species (ToPS) in terms of Section 56 (1) of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No 10 of 2004). In addition, the lion is protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
In South Africa the lion may soon be listed as Least Concern due to population recovery and the large combined number of wild and managed wild lions.
While historic populations of lion remain in the Kruger National and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Parks, more than 2 300 wild lion are well protected in these and other large national parks and game reserves, with all populations either stable or increasing. There are approximately 6 000 captive lions in South Africa bred for a variety of economic purposes.
In South Africa, threats to lion are generally low despite habitat loss and land conversion, indiscriminate killing to protect life and livestock, prey base depletion, the bush meat trade and excessive sport hunting have contributed to a decline in the rest of Africa. In South Africa, risks of genetic impoverishment of managed wild lions are low and easily mitigated through robust management interventions, while the lion bone trade may shift from its current base in captive lions to the poaching of wild lions for body parts.
The intense controversy over the merits and ethics of the captive breeding and subsequent release for hunting of captive-bred lion – a legal activity – continues even though no negative effects of trophy hunting on wild lion populations in South Africa have been identified.