The SPCA is opposed to the keeping and/or breeding of indigenous and exotic wild animals in captivity for reasons other than for bona fide conservation purposes or purposes which include wildlife rehabilitation and wildlife sanctuaries approved by the National Council of SPCAs.
The South African captive wildlife industry is vast and covers captive breeding centres, sanctuaries, rehabilitation facilities, zoos, aquariums, wildlife interaction facilities, circuses, and the keeping and/or breeding of wild animals as pets. Stakeholders in the industry support their argument of keeping these animals in captivity under the excuse that such facilities play a role in conservation and education, which we refute in most cases.
This argument forms part of the reason that Zoos, amoung the other captive facilities, are legal in our country.
According to our data, there are around 44 Zoos in South Africa. The NSPCA and its member societies conduct inspections at these zoos when it is necessary to do so. During these inspections, The NSPCA and its members may only act within the confines of the Animals Protection Act no 71 of 1962, other legislation is enforced by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).
The keeping of wild animals in captivity is regulated by national and provincial legislation, which is not necessarily written in the best interest of the animals and their welfare, but rather to the benefit of man. In essence; the facilities are allowed to exist by the provincial nature conservation authorities by means of a permitting process.
The NSPCAs lion bone High Court judgment in 2019 makes it clear that no official may take any administrative steps without taking into account the welfare concerns for the animals that will be affected by that decision. Animal welfare is, therefore, a legal obligation for each governmental department. To go against this would not only be in contravention of the ruling, but also against the spirit of Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Although the NSPCAs stance is clear regarding the captivity of wildlife, we often find that the public look to us to shut zoos down. The truth is that this cannot be done without the public petitioning those responsible for allowing them to exist by issuing permits without due consideration for animal welfare. We can, however, act on the welfare or lack thereof for an individual animal.
The public would have to come out in numbers to the DFFE by placing their concerns in writing and following it up. It is very easy to complain on Social Media and call it a day, but, for a substantial impact, a more direct approach may be necessary.
Another reason zoos and other captive facilities remain operational and legal is because of public support. If the public stopped supporting zoos, there would be no demand to keep them operational, and they would have to be closed down and perhaps used for genuine conservational purposes. A move observed across the world.
Lastly, the public could contribute to the efforts of the NSPCA to bring about change, not only for animals in zoos but for all animals kept in captivity unnecessarily across our country, by means of donating.
The NSPCA remains opposed to the keeping of wildlife in captivity unnecessarily. Do not be captured by captivity.