Historical Background

Forging an Uneven Official Relationship between the South African Government and the Wildlife Hunting and Trading Industry: The Establishment of the “Wildlife Forum” 

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, an apartheid-era intelligence operative, academic, lawyer and politician, was the appointed Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, from April 2004 until May 2008.  In 2007 he addressed the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) stating: 

The professional hunting sector also has an important partnership role to play in our approach both to conservation and tourism and I am fully committed to strengthening and improving the relationship between our Department and this sector. We will, therefore, be looking at the creation of a regular and structured meetings between the Department and the sector as a whole.  We will be looking at the creation of a regular liaison forum to include representatives from DEAT as well as from all disciplines of the sector.  In addition to PHASA, which will be a key player, this body will also need to include for instance taxidermists, game farmers and other hunting bodies.

Image of Martinus Van Schalkwyk

Wildlife Forum was established by the Department of Environmental Affairs in 2008 to engage with non-governmental parties about wildlife policy to develop a national regulatory framework, we will make it easier for you to operate as industry, he said.

The Exclusionary and Discriminatory Wildlife Forum 

According to Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, the Wildlife Forum is hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and is comprised of representatives from the wildlife industry, provincial nature conservation authorities and the national Department of Environmental Affairs.  

Whilst the forum has no decision making powers, proposals made at the forum are taken to the government’s Working Group 1 for implementation. Furthermore PHASA confirms that various draft sets of provincial and national legislation have passed through this forum in recent years. 

Working Group 1 is one of a number of Working Groups that have been established in line with the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act, an intergovernmental forum called MINMEC, consisting of the Minister of Environment and the MECs responsible for Environment as well as Mayors of metropolitan municipalities, relevant sector departments and SALGA meet on a quarterly basis to ensure that policy co-ordination takes place.  

Furthermore, the MINMEC has established a technical forum consisting of the Director-General and provincial Heads of Department, relevant sector departments, metropolitan municipal managers and SALFA called MINTECH, to provide formal technical support to MINMEC. MINTECH as the technical structure informs and advises the Minister and members of the Executive Councils.  MINTECH is informed by Working Groups consisting of national and provincial and local government officials. 

This aforementioned Wildlife Forum is not to be confused with the African Wildlife Consultative Forum which is a forum sponsored by Safari Club International, where SADC government officials and representatives from professional hunting associations from various African countries discuss common wildlife conservation management and policy issues.

Report written by Dhoya Snijders, published in 2014, concluded that the government and the wildlife industry have promoted a discourse alliance that endorses both government’s conservation interests and the wildlife industry development interests to the exclusion of dissenting voices.  By refusing to allow access to parties who do not reap a direct benefit from the exploitative industry itself, the forum could be said to be, by its very definition, exclusionary and discriminatory. 

Image of the late Edna Molewa Image Credit:


Edna Molewa became the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in October 2010, as part of a cabinet reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma.  Minister Molewa, who remained in office until September 2018, was questioned in Parliament in 2017 as to why the consultative Wildlife Forum excludes key stakeholders from the wildlife conservation and protection sector and whether she found that the exclusion of interested parties is constitutional and if she planned to ensure that all stakeholders were included in the Wildlife Forum in the future. 

Minister Edna Molewa stated that the department does not exclude any key stakeholders in the wildlife conservation and protection sector nor was the government aware of such exclusions from the Wildlife Forum.  

“The establishment of an operational partnership with the national hunting and national wildlife industry was required to generate solutions and design strategies through sustainable use.  The  Wildlife Forum was a platform for the industry to interact with government on legislation relevant to the national and provincial management of the industry and all forms of hunting. 

The Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Wildlife Forum were developed and adopted on the 12th June 2008.  The objective of the Wildlife Forum is to work as a collective towards promoting:

– Conservation through sustainable use of renewable natural resources; 

– A responsible, self-regulatory and practical wildlife and hunting industry;

– Creating conditions for, and implementing transformation in the whole sector;

– Sector related sustainable tourism growth and development.”

According to Minister Molewa, on the 1st July 2009, the Wildlife Forum agreed that the following information should be submitted by interested organisations:

– Application in the form of a signed letter on the organisation’s letterhead

– The organisation’s profile

– Code of Conduct

– Contribution to biodiversity conservation 

– Membership, including affiliates

In conclusion, Minister Molewa stated that the Wildlife Forum operates within the scope of the ToR developed and accepted on the 12th June 2008.  The ToR provided for other interested and affected representatives or industries that can contribute to the objectives of the forum to apply to participate in the forum.

The Department of Environmental Affairs, she said, has embarked on the process of re-positioning the Wildlife Forum to, in future, serve as a structured interdepartmental / industry platform with a mandate to specifically direct the implementation of the projects flowing from the Biodiversity Economy Lab, as well as future identified projects relevant to the wildlife industry, based on the Biodiversity Economy orientation. 

Minister Molewa expounded on her relationship with the hunting industry when she opened the first Hunting Indaba which was held at Sun City, in the North West Province on the 29th of October 2012. 

Over the past year I have appreciated our working relationship with this industry.  It has been characterized by vibrant and robust interactions as we jointly came to grips with a number of issues, including the interpretation of societal values on ethics in the hunting industry and giving practical content to sustainable use. We should not shy away from a robust debate in the next two days as government continues to shape the regulatory environment and industry continues to contribute towards a responsible and sustainable way of utilizing wildlife resources. I am excited to note that the country and especially the hunting community, is united to resolve and unpack all the concerns and challenges we face, in order to ensure that South Africa remains a leader in biodiversity conservation and continue to demonstrate the conservation achievements that can be realised through sustainable utilization of natural resourcesI am very optimistic about the future of this industry and the great potential to further nurture and promote its conservation and economic worth.  From the side of the Government, be assured of my support for the sector and for your efforts, but always remember the importance of partnerships in this equation. Ladies and gentlemen, I wish all a fruitful engagement as part of a collaborative effort to address the challenges in the sector and as we map a way forward.  I am looking forward to further engagements with this industry.”

On the 23rd February 2017 the Centre for Environmental Rights requested via PAIA copies of the documents relation to the Department of Environment’s National Biodiversity and Wildlife Forum.   The request included records from 2005 to 2017 of the founding documents, terms of reference, agendas, attendance registers and minutes of meetings. 

A question was raised in an article published in the Daily Maverick on the 31st October 2017, that if wildlife conservation organisations not directly involved in the consumptive use of wildlife are excluded from the Wildlife Forum, then the government has effectively formed an alliance with industry players endorsing their development and interests and disregarding those of other key conservation players.

Wildlife Animal Protection Organisations Lobby the South African Government for the Establishment of a Wildlife Protection Forum in 2018

Given the unwillingness of the Department of Environment to change the Terms of Reference of the existing exclusionary ‘wildlife forum’ to include membership of South African wildlife animal protection and welfare organisations, in February 2018, twenty-three wildlife protection organisations officially requested the Minister for the Environment, Edna Molewa, to establish a wildlife forum with representatives of South African animal protection organisations. The representatives of these organisations organised themselves as the Wildlife Animal Protection Forum South Africa (WAPFSA).  

Establishment of the Wildlife Animal Protection Forum of South Africa

The purpose of the establishment of WAPFSA was to create a platform for dialogue and to provide the South African government with access to alternative viewpoints and additional information in order to provide the necessary tools to resolve issues of concern and to develop and strengthen policy for the advancement of the protection of wildlife, indigenous minorities and the environment.  WAPFSA continued to lobby the South African government to establish a Wildlife Protection Forum.

Minister Barbara Creecy. Image Credit:


Minister Creecy Announced the Launch of a Wildlife Well-Being Forum May 2023

Minister Barbara Creecy announced that she would officially launch the Wildlife Well-Being Forum after the finalisation of the forum’s terms of reference (ToR) and code of conduct (CoC) by the stakeholders in the sector in 2022.

She stated that the objectives included providing robust representation for the interests of wild animals in respect of their well-being; promoting responsive governance by promoting pragmatic and practical responses to identified risks; and promoting the development and implementation of a modern, integrated approach to the well-being of wild animals, such as the integrative one well-being approach which highlights the interconnections between animal well-being, human well-being and the environment.“A Wildlife Well-being Forum has been established to promote the well-being of wild animals. This includes the conservation, protection, management and ecologically sustainable, responsible and humane use of wildlife. The Forum is among the recommendations of the High-Level Panel that reviewed policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.Being chaired by the Deputy Director-General for Biodiversity and Conservation in the department, the forum comprises representatives of national and provincial government, and state-owned entities, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGO’s), institutions and associations, that are responsible for, or involved in, biodiversity matters and animal well-being. This includes subject specialists , and representatives of bodies such as the South African Veterinary Council, the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions, or the Law Society of South Africa.”

The media were invited to attend the virtual launch of the Wildlife Well-Being Forum on the 5th of May 2023.

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