In their letter to Molewa, they pointed out significant risks posed by interactions between humans and captive carnivores.
The letter follows a lion attack on 72-year-old Michael Hodge, who owns the Marakele Predator Centre near Thabazimbi in Limpopo. The attack was captured on camera and the video was circulated online. It showed the lion, Shamba, grabbing Hodge by the head and neck in the enclosure.
The conservation groups, which include the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Blood Lions, the National Association of Conservancies, Panthera and Wild Trust, want the sector to be more effectively regulated.
“There are no regulations governing which carnivores may be kept in captivity, or why; by whom and for what purpose; under which conditions and with what activities related to them,” the letter read.
“As a result, it is highly probable that the incidences of injury or death as a result of interactions with captive carnivores will continue.”
The group said it was aware of at least 12 fatalities and 28 injured people since 1996.
“…the time has clearly come for legislation to be put in place to end all public interactions with carnivores in South Africa. There is no justifiable rationale for the public to be interacting with carnivores in captivity, risking people’s lives.”
“Should the South African government continue to turn a blind eye to this issue, more people will be injured or killed. It is clear that the current system is flawed and a failure to react rapidly to protect people would be negligent,” the group said.
They added that, of the known incidents, 14 of the victims were attacked by captive cheetahs, while 22 people were attacked by captive lions. One incident involved a captive tiger.
The group said victims included men, women and children, which meant that no age group or gender were exempt from being attacked. – News24