Environmental Affairs responds to hunting questions

Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood recently discussed the legalities of hunting in South Africa. Since publishing that article, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) responded to questions that were submitted to it for clarification.

Below are the responses from Albi Modise, the chief director of communications at the DEA:


When is it legal to hunt animals such as lions, rhinoceros, cheetahs etc.?

The Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) are regulated in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) and/or provincial conservation legislation. It is legal to hunt any of the Big Five, provided that the hunt takes place within the provisions of the applicable conservation legislation and the conditions of the hunting permit (where a permit is required).

Lion, leopard, rhino and elephant are listed as threatened or protected species in terms of section 56(1) of NEMBA, for which a permit is required in terms of section 57(1) to carry out any restricted activity such is possession, hunting, selling, breeding, transporting, exporting from the country, etc. The table below indicates the specific categories of listing in terms of NEMBA, of the afore-mentioned species:

hunting table

The permits required in terms of section 57(1) of NEMBA are regulated through the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations. Although a permit may be issued for the hunting of lion, leopard, rhino and elephant, these species may not be hunted in the following circumstances (i.e. a permit may not be issued):

  • by means of poison, traps, snares, flood- or spot lights or darting;
  • with an automatic weapon, a weapon discharging a rim-firing cartridge of .22 of an inch or smaller, a shotgun or an air gun;
  • by luring it by means of bait, smell, sound or any other luring method;
  • if the animal is under the influence of a tranquilising, narcotic, immobilising or similar agent;
  • if the animal is trapped against a fence or in a small enclosure where it does not have a fair chance to evade the hunter
  • from a motorised vehicle, except for the tracking of the animal if the hunt takes place over long ranges, or for allowing a physically disabled person to hunt;
  • from an aircraft, except for the tracking of the animal if the hunt takes place over long ranges; or
  • by means of dogs, except if the dogs are used to track a wounded animal, or for the purpose of pointing, flushing and retrieving an animal.

Black and white rhino, elephant, leopard and cheetah may not be hunted by means of bow and arrow.

Cheetah is not regarded as one of the Big Five species; however, it is also listed in terms of NEMBA. Therefore, the above prohibitions would also apply to cheetah.

Buffalo is not listed as a threatened or protected species in terms of NEMBA, and is therefore regulated only in terms of provincial conservation legislation. Buffalo may be hunted if all legal requirements in terms of the applicable province have been complied with.


How many of each of these animals can legally be hunted each year?

The following species are included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and for which an export quota has been determined in terms of the Convention (the figure in brackets represents the maximum number of specimens that may be exported annually as hunting trophies by foreign clients):

Black rhino – (five)

Leopard – 150

Cheetah – no quota (therefore currently no hunting permits are issued to foreign hunters)

No quota for the export of white rhino hunting trophies has been established in terms of CITES; therefore there is currently no limitation on the number of white rhino that may be hunted by foreign hunters. However, the Norms and Standards for the marking of rhinoceros and rhinoceros horns and for the hunting of rhinoceros for trophy hunting purposes (Rhino Norms and Standards), determine that only one white rhino may be hunted per year by any particular foreign hunter.

Lion is included in Appendix II of CITES; therefore there is currently no limitation on the number of lion that may be hunted by foreign hunters.

The South African elephant population is included in Appendix II of CITES. Although an export quota has not been determined for African elephant in terms of CITES, South Africa has established, as a local measure, an annual export quota of 150 specimens.

Buffalo is not included in the appendices of CITES; therefore no export quota applies to buffalo. Any limitation on the number of buffalo that may be hunted, will be determined in terms of the legislation of the province concerned.

The above quotas do not apply to local hunters, and there are currently no hunting off-take limits for the species above as far as it relates to local hunters. However, the TOPS Regulations make provision for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to determine hunting off-take limits for species listed as threatened or protected, if so required.


How do you get a permit to hunt these animals?

An application for a hunting permit must be submitted to the conservation authority of the province where the hunt will take place.

All applications for rhino (black or white) hunting permits are referred by provincial conservation authorities to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), for coordination and to ensure compliance with the Rhino Norms and Standards, before the permit is then issued by the relevant provincial conservation authority.


How much does the permit cost?

The cost of a hunting permit in terms of the TOPS Regulations is R100, regardless of whether the permit is for a local or a foreign hunter. The reason is that this is a permit application processing fee. However, provinces charge species fees in terms of their provincial acts/ ordinances, which differ from one province to another.


In general how much does the hunt cost?

The average approximate species fees (per animal) for the species in question, for the 2013 hunting season, were as follows:

Black rhino: R2.8 million

White rhino: R702 000

Elephant: R252 000

Leopard: R74 000

Lion: R200 000

Buffalo: R123 000

Notes: The average daily rate for the said period was R5220 (per day, per hunter). The cost of the hunt by a foreign hunter depends on the daily rate (to cover the cost of accommodation and meals) and species fee charged by the hunting outfitter who has organised the hunt, as well as the duration of the hunt.


Is there a number you can phone or someone you can contact to ensure that your hunt is legal?

Since the provincial conservation authorities issue the permits, the legality of a hunt can be confirmed directly with the province that has issued the hunting permit.


Who is responsible for arranging the permit to hunt these animals?

The hunting outfitter, who is organising the hunt, has a legal obligation in terms of provincial conservation legislation to ensure that his/her client has all the necessary permits and documents required in terms of any applicable legislation, in order for the hunt to be lawful.


Where can these animals be legally hunted? (E.g. in a reserve, on a private game farm etc.)

These animals can be hunted legally on private land or on provincial protected areas. No hunting takes place in national protected areas


Are there specific criteria that determine if an animal can be hunted? (If so, what are these?)

The following factors must be considered before a permit can be issued:

  1. Whether the species to be hunted is listed as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or protected;
  2. The conservation status of the species;
  3. Whether the specimen to be hunted, will be removed from a wild population;
  4. whether the hunting of an animal will have a negative impact on the survival of the relevant species;
  5. the provisions of a biodiversity management plan for the species involved (if applicable);
  6. any recommendation made by the Scientific Authority in terms of section 61(1)(c) of NEMBA;
  7. whether any hunting off-take limit has been determined by SANBI;
  8. whether a person has been convicted of an offense in terms of NEMBA.


How many applications for permits to hunt one of the big five are received each year?

Since permit applications are submitted directly to the provincial conservation authorities, the DEA cannot indicate how many hunting permit applications are received per species on an annual basis. However, since the applications for rhino hunts are coordinated by the DEA, this information is available.

Number of rhino permit application received each year

2010: 166

2011: 226

2012: 91

2013: 110

2014: 108

2015: 60 as of August 2015

Most applications for permits for the hunting of the Big Five are received from foreign hunters.


There has been a lot of media coverage on trophy hunting since the killing of Cecil the lion. What is the Department of Environmental Affair’s stance with regards to hunting?

South Africa is a signatory country to both the Convention on Biological Diversity and CITES, and therefore the DEA supports sustainable utilisation of natural resources. This includes hunting, provided that it is done in a lawful manner, and in an ecologically sustainable manner that is not detrimental to the survival of a species.


To read the article on the legalities of hunting in South Africa, click here.