WildlifeDirect calls on South Africans to overturn the amendment to the Animal Improvement Act (AIA) that has categorized selected endangered species as farmed animals

Nairobi – October 17, 2019: WildlifeDirect strongly opposes the legislative move by South Africa to list endangered species as farmed animals – although we recognise South Africa’s sovereign right, this is an abuse of a global natural resources.

The move amended the Animal Improvement Act (AIA) to include 33 wild species to the category of farmed animals. The list includes cape buffalos, mountain zebras, lions, giraffes, white & black rhinos, cheetahs, a large number of plains game in addition to animals like ankole cattle, water buffaloes, tankwa and veld goats, bulldogs, Keeshonds, pugs and rottweilers. Passed on the 17th of May 2019, according to our sources in South Africa, Parliament did so without effective public participation which is mandated by the South African Constitution (Section 59).

The AIA’s general intention is to predominantly enhance animal species through breeding practices for improved food production by identifying genetically superior animals and breeding them in order to improve production and performance of the animals. There is no recognised definition of what comprises a ‘superior animal’ and what ‘improved performance’ actually means, creating endless opportunities for interfering with the genetic purity of wild animals resulting in unknown and unexpected outcomes, and opening the door for playing God through genetic engineering.

These unnatural and cross-breeding practices are a threat to the integrity of the genetic purity of wild animals and threaten the genetic biodiversity of the endangered species making them more vulnerable to other threats and impacts like climate change.

“Wild animals are not domestic animals and this reckless decision by the South African Government will create a precedent of creating designer creatures, resulting in confusion about the natural value of wildlife, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems” says Dr Paula Kahumbu.

The law puts the animals at risk of genetic manipulation and genetic pollution, therefore, being in conflict with existing biodiversity conservation legislations that protect indigenous wildlife and maintaining the genetic integrity of wildlife species for current and future generations. The World Charter for Nature prepared by IUCN recognises the genetic viability on the earth and provides that the same should not be compromised and that the life forms, wild and domesticated, must be sufficient for their survival. Also, the creation of the genetically engineered wild animals will create confusion in the implementation of CITES and other laws creating an opportunity for laundering.

This decision comes at a time when animal welfare standards in South Africa have been globally criticized. In April this year, South Africa was on the limelight owing to the horrifically cruel conditions of lion farms in South Africa, e.g. in South Africa’s North West province, more than 100 lions were found packed in filthy overcrowded enclosures with no water and afflicted with skin diseases losing nearly all their fur. There is growing global protests against the cruel and lucrative game farming in the South African lion farms which illustrate the inefficiency of the government to adequately protect the animals in South Africa.

In a reaction to this decision that could threaten these species across the entire continent, African conservation organisations in an unprecedented move, are working together to overturn the law through legal processes like judicial review. We call on the South African public, the South African Development Community, the African Union, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, UNEP and all other conservation organisations to join us in support of this cause.


For more information, please contact:

Trish Sewe – Head of Communications, WildlifeDirect

+254 (0) 705 515 709