Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Hannah Shameema Winkler MP.
The DA has submitted questions to the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, on the export of 12 cheetahs to India, as part of a 10-year cheetah translocation project.
Two of the African cheetahs exported to India – one from South Africa and one from Namibia – have now died in less than a month. The cheetahs were exported, despite widespread apprehension, including the fact that the 2021 non-detrimental findings pertaining to cheetahs had not been adopted.
Section 56 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) states that non-detrimental findings for threatened or protected species must undergo a public consultation process before they are adopted.
However, it has emerged that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) exported the 12 cheetahs to India without the adoption of a formalised non-detrimental finding that has gone through public consultation. Any proposed findings must be published in the Government Gazette, and interested and affected parties must have a period of at least 30 days to make comments. The Minister must also take into consideration any comments received during the public consultation process before making a final decision on the non-detrimental finding.
According to Minister Creecy, ” The DFFE received advice from the scientific authority, which establishes the parameters of export of cheetahs from small private reserves.” The department appears to have violated Section 56 of the NEMBA Act by relying on the advice of the scientific authority rather than a formalised NDF.
Flouting the NEMBA requirements for public consultation in the adoption of non-detrimental findings for protected species can have serious consequences.
These requirements are in place to ensure that all interested and affected parties have a say in decisions that could impact the conservation of threatened or protected species. By not following the proper procedures, the Minister risks undermining the conservation efforts for the cheetah population in South Africa and disregarding the voices of those who could have provided valuable input.
We therefore call on the Minister to provide an explanation for the decision to export the 12 cheetahs to India without a formalised non-detrimental finding that has gone through public consultation. The conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity should always be a top priority, and we hope that the Minister will take the necessary steps to uphold this responsibility.