South Africa: Victory for Elephant Conservation in Circus Case

In a victory for elephant conservation, circus owner Brian Boswell has failed in his legal bid to overthrow legislation which outlaws exporting the animals for use in circuses.

Boswell wanted to send five of his circus-trained African Elephants to Dubai reportedly for R3m for each.

Two years ago, he applied for a permit but it was turned down by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs and Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife.

They said that “norms and standards for the management of elephants” issued by the national minister of Environmental Affairs under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Nemba) prohibited the export of animals for circuses.

Boswell turned to the courts arguing that the “norms and standards” should be declared invalid because they were not authorised by Nemba.

The issue, closely watched by conservationists, was argued recently before Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay.

In her ruling handed down on Thursday, the judge said there was a “matrix of legislation, regulations, directives and international agreements,” governing the environment and when the interpretation of a single rule arose, all had to be interpreted contextually.

She said Nemba applied to all State organs provincially and nationally. And South Africa gave effect to its international obligations arising from its ratification of CITES under Nemba.

“The minister has to report bi-annually on legislative, regulatory and administrative measures taken to enforce … CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora].

“The norms and standards is such a measure… .as a result of law it must be obeyed unless it is set aside.”

The Judge said different norms and standards applied to different biodiversity and their purpose was to give a flexible application over wide geographic and bio-diverse fields vulnerable to quick change.

Nemba expressly mandates the…

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