By Vernon Pillay
President Cyril Ramaphosa has refuted claims that he profited from breeding and selling animals for trophy hunting from his Phala Phala wildlife breeding operation.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), a non-profit American animal rights organisation, said in a statement on Friday that a secret investigation revealed that Ramaphosa also owns a stake in a hunting company called Tsala Hunting Safaris.
Peta claims that Ramaphosa and his employees have gone to great lengths to conceal his trophy hunting ties to this ’’colonial blood sport’’ from the public.
No permits to hunt leopards are issued by environmental authorities in South Africa, but Tsala Hunting Safaris still organises leopard hunts in Namibia and Mozambique, Peta alleged. Tsala also arranges hunts for 42 different species, including the ’’Big Five’’, Peta said.
In a statement issued on behalf of the president and Phala Phala on Saturday, the Presidency said the accusations by Peta were “unfounded” and ”patently false“.
The Presidency further stated that:
Commenting on the operations at Phala Phala and its relationship with Tsala Hunting Safaris, the Presidency said: “Phala Phala undertakes annual culls of game such as impala, buffalo, kudu and wildebeest to avoid carrying excess numbers.
“Culling is an established wildlife management tool practised around the globe, including in state-run conservation reserves.
“Phala Phala entered into an agreement with Tsala Hunting Safaris to hunt the aforementioned game that would in any event have been culled.”
As a result of the allegations that Tsala engages in the hunting of threatened or protected species on other properties, Phala Phala has given notice to Tsala Safaris to terminate their hunting arrangement, the Presidency said.
’’This decision is in line with Phala Phala’s commitment to sound conservation principles, and its demonstrable compliance with ethical and lawful wildlife management standards, statement added.”
In addition, the Presidency said that Peta has previously made false allegations regarding Ramaphosa’s interest in racing pigeon breeding.
“President Ramaphosa has been a pigeon breeder since the age of 16 and owned a flock of pigeons as a young man living in Soweto in the 1960s and ‘70s.
“The President has been engaging with breeders in Soweto and the Western Cape about the development of the industry, as well as on the increased participation of young, black entrants in pigeon racing,” IOL.