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South Africa puts limits on hunting

February 21, 2007|From the Associated Press

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — South Africa's environment minister announced long-awaited restrictions on hunting Tuesday, saying he was sickened by wealthy tourists shooting tame lions from the back of a truck or felling rhinos with a bow and arrow.

Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, dismissing threats of legal action by the hunting industry, said the new law would ban hunting of large predators and rhinos in small enclosures that offered the animals no means of escape.

In addition, lions bred in captivity would have to be released into the wild for at least two years before they could be hunted.

"Hunting should be about fair chase ... testing the wits of a hunter against that of the animal," Van Schalkwyk said. "Over the years that got eroded, and now we are trying to reestablish that principle."

South Africa is famous as a home to lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo. Its Kruger National Park attracts hundreds of thousands of camera-toting visitors each year. About 9,000 private game farms and government-run reserves also offer visitors a taste of the wild.

But the country has become a choice destination for wealthy hunters willing to pay more than $20,000 to take home a "trophy" lion or rhino.

The law, which goes into effect June 1, bans the hunting of animals that have been tranquilized. It outlaws bows and arrows for large predators and thick-skinned animals like rhinos, one of the practices singled out by Van Schalkwyk as particularly appalling. And it bans the use of vehicles to chase animals until they are too tired and terrified to flee.

"To see people who are half-drunk on the back of a [truck] hunting lions which are in fact tame animals is quite abhorrent," said Van Schalkwyk, an avid hunter.

Conservationists said that the law would be difficult to enforce and that it stopped short of an outright ban on the breeding of lions, leopards and other predators for hunting.

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