The Melissa Bachman Affair
Author: Pieter JJS Potgieter (SAPA)    Publication Date: 01 January 2014

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It has come under the attention of the South African Predator Association that Melissa Bachman’s posting of her hunting trophy photographs on Facebook and Twitter has drawn a huge negative response from far and wide.  In South Africa a photograph showing a smiling Bachman behind her trophy lion has elicited severe criticism, as if this lion is the last nail in the coffin of the African lion as a species.

This outcry, how well meant it might be, is utterly nonsense.  It comes either from people that are totally misinformed or from people with a mindset created by Walt Disney.  

Responsible and sustainable hunting of game species is an internationally accepted norm and it is practiced all over the world.  Elephant and lion and buffalo and all other game species are hunted in South Africa in a responsible and sustainable manner. The hunting industry constitutes a very important sector of the South African economy: it earns revenue for the country, it creates employment, it provides food and it contributes to conservation.  It has engineered the survival of several game species that were on the brink of extinction.

South Africa has several healthy and thriving free roaming lion populations, mainly in national, provincial and private game reserves. They are well cared for and they are under no threat, except disease (bovine TB in Kruger National Park). Their numbers are estimated at around 3 000 and they may not to be hunted. 

Additional to the free roaming lion populations, South Africa has between 4 000 and 5 000 ranch lions (captive bred lions). The keeping and hunting of ranch lions are strictly regulated by national and provincial legislation. The provincial lion hunting regulations as well as the SA Predator Association’s norms and standards explicitly prohibit hunting practices associated with “canned hunting”. No lion hunt undertaken under the auspices of provincial regulations or under the auspices of the SA Predator Association’s Norms and Standards can be construed as a "canned hunt".  "Canned" lion hunting is illegal in South Africa and is totally rejected by the industry.

Me Bachman’s lion hunt was conducted on the Maroi private game ranch in Limpopo Province under that province’s legal requirements and therefore completely legal.  She testified to the fact that it was a classic walk-and-stalk hunt, which is the basis of the fair chase mode of hunting.

The ranch lion industry in South Africa was developed on the legal basis provided by the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1989 and the National Environmental Management (Biodiversity) Act 10, 2004 and rests upon the principle of the sustainable use of wildlife species, acknowledged by the IUCN. While the ranch lion industry is primarily, like the ostrich industry, a commercial farming operation, it offers substantial conservation value.  The 4 000 – 5 000 ranch lions represent a significant lion population in the broader context of dwindling numbers of the free roaming populations – estimated at between 16 500 and 30 000 in the whole of Africa.  Every ranch lion hunted in South Africa "saves" at least one lion in the wild. Contrary to popular belief, captive bred lions can be successfully introduced into wild environments, thus rendering the real possibility of repopulating lion habitats and reserves in Africa where they became extinct. 

The kind of remarks made by some people on me Bachman’s hunting activities is not only outrageous and dangerous, but it is exactly the kind of ignorance and misinformation that we as the South African Predator Association so passionately vow to combat and eliminate in order to protect the African Conservation Community at large from another embarrassment such as which the Rhino as a species is still facing today.

Pieter JJS Potgieter
President: SA Predator Association

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