“Community perspectives on benefit-sharing in the western boundary of the Kruger National Park”
Presentation by: Linda Tucker, CEO and Founder, Global White Lion Protection Trust, MACantab
“Benefit-sharing” in this critically important ecosystem should not be separated from “ecologically sustainable” principles inherent in Indigenous Knowledge Systems of the stakeholders both in this region, and further afield.
From an Indigenous perspective, Nature is the primary stakeholder; thus, all man-made laws regarding Nature must consider the benefits for Nature.
Therefore, to secure the wellbeing of present and future generations, benefit-sharing is dependent on “right relationship” with Nature. “Wellbeing” does not only relate to material monetary value, and the value of ecosystems is not limited to short-term money-making schemes, but is anchored in intrinsic ecological and cultural value-systems.
Historically, the model for wildlife management in this important region has been one of exploitation of land, animals and local communities. Just as the previous post-colonial trophy hunting agreements negatively affected communities and their interests by alienating people from their wildlife and commoditising their living heritage, so the new Kruger deal perpetuates the sins of the old.
At the epicentre of this issue is the White Lion, a unique living heritage that has been forcibly removed from this ecosystem over a documented period of 6 decades.
Indigenous Knowledge Systems demand that the White Lion be protected, not as a commodity in cages and stuffed on walls, but as a living heritage performing its critical role both within the biodiversity of its natural ecosystem, and “alive and well” within the hearts, minds and souls of humanity. A living heritage is thus essential for wellbeing.
Destroying the living heritage of local Indigenous people is indefensible.
If Brazil destroys its rainforests, the world has lost its lungs.
If South Africa destroys its White Lions, the world has lost its Heart.
To uphold the Letter of the Law in Section 24 of the South African Constitution, which states that everyone has “the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing”, the APNR-SANParks agreements must be critically reworked so as to properly comply with Indigenous Knowledge Systems on the issue of true benefit-sharing.
FULL PARLIAMENTARY PRESENTATION
The Global White Lion Protection Trust has been invited to address Parliament on a solution-based approach to the theme of “benefit-sharing” in the current or previous agreement[s] between the Kruger National Park and the Associated Private Nature Reserves.
As a scholar of Indigenous studies over many more than 3 decades, I would like to present on the Indigenous view.
Our delegation today represents a number of primary Indigenous stakeholder groupings both local to the region under Inquiry and further afield. These stakeholders have not been consulted in the new KNP/APNP agreement, nor the old.
Today we propose that the solution requires important and radical shifts toward a new pioneering conservation model, which is ultimately more African, as well as being more international.
Let’s begin unpacking the term “benefit-sharing” which is so often used interchangeably with “beneficiation”, a policy-making buzzword with respect to ecosystem services.
Beneficiation was first used in 1881 to refer to extractive use – the peak of the colonial drive. It is a term rooted in domination of the earth and Indigenous cultures. This old, exploitative colonial concept is not appropriate for new paradigm conservation strategy today.
But what about benefit-sharing: Who and what are benefiting?
Indigenous knowledge keepers in the region under review and further afield are clear that benefit-sharing, as it is properly intended in relation to ecosystem services, is primarily about how humanity’s actions can give back to Mother Nature, so that future generations, of all species, can benefit and flourish.
How can we be of service?
How can we ensure protection?
How can we preserve the greater good?
This is the spirit of benefit sharing in Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
When Parliament considers “benefit-sharing” and the benefits and value of this critically important ecosystem for local stakeholders, it behoves them to recognise that “value” is not limited to money-making schemes, but is anchored in intrinsic ecological and cultural value-systems. These values and value systems not only support and uphold civil society and community wellbeing but crucially, for the continuity of life and health of people and planet, they also support the wellbeing of the ecosystem in question.
From an Indigenous perspective, Nature is the primary stakeholder and all man-made laws regarding Nature must therefore consider the benefits for Nature.
To address “benefit-sharing”, we must, therefore, take account of who benefited ….and who carried the costs.
Historically, the model for wildlife management in this important region has been one of exploitation of the land, the animals and the local communities. Little regard was given to local community values and time-honoured Indigenous ways of reverential stewardship. Benefit was short term and to the select few.
In drafting the new KNP/APNR agreement, we understand that many scientific and conservation bodies were consulted as advocates for a trophy hunting model, motivating the case on what they term: “sustainable utilisation.” We also understand that these same scientific and conservation bodies usually derive their funding from trophy hunting outfitters.
At the epicentre of the ecosystem under Inquiry is a unique animal, a heritage animal moreover, which according to Indigenous knowledge, deserves a central focus.
We sincerely appreciate the opportunity today to direct this Parliamentary Inquiry to the special case of the heritage animal in question: the White Lion.
Background on the White Lions
And Benefit Sharing in this Region
Believed to be “endemic” to the Timbavati and Kruger regions at the heart of the UNESCO-declared Kruger-to-Canyons Biosphere the White Lions are a genetic rarity which, current evidence shows, occurred only in this region.
Trophy hunting of a rare animal whose genetics is understood to be unique to this region directly impinges on the letter of the law in Section 24 of our Constitution, which references “ecological sustainability” as a statuary right.
It is ecologically irresponsible as well as culturally offensive to remove the apex predator from its natural ecosystem, whose unique role in the biodiversity of this region is yet to be established.
According to African wisdom keeper, Credo Mutwa, this region of South Africa was protected as a “Sacred Site” many hundreds of years before the declaration of Kruger as a National Park, because of the natural reoccurrence of White Lions. The fact that the White Lions’ ancestral wilderness lands has now been identified by the United Nations as one of the world’s most important biosphere regions testifies that the site of the White Lions’ natural occurrence should be officially classified as a global heritage site.
Regarded as the King of Kings by Indigenous members of the local Tsonga and Sepedi communities – a belief supported by other Indigenous authorities around the globe – their iconic cultural value is matched by their conservation importance for the biodiversity of this wildlife ecosystem.
However, instead of being protected in their naturally occurring range – as we would expect for any heritage animal – they have been systematically and forcibly removed over a documented period of 6 decades.
Today, White Lions are held captive in zoos and circuses worldwide, and worse: speed-bred to benefit South Africa’s notorious caged killing industry. In the APNR region, White Lions became technically extinct, due to these forced removals from their natural system.
As a consequence of this exploitative post-colonial model, the community and community values have also been compromised.
Those who honour Indigenous wisdom recognise that the dignity and welfare of communities is directly linked to the survival and wellbeing of their iconic animals.
The White Lion, in particular, is regarded as critical significance whose survival is imperative to the health of people and planet.
The region in question has been identified by the United Nations as one of the world’s most important Biospheres, and is thus declared the UNESCO Kruger-to-Canyon’s Biosphere.
Models for benefit sharing do exist in the UNESCO Biosphere declaration, which emphasises the importance of Indigenous Knowledge Systems in order to “enhance the conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage, maintain ecosystem services, and foster the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources.” (pp28 K2C MAB Strategy 2016-2020).
Background on the Global White Lion Protection Trust – An Inspired Model of Benefit Sharing in this Region
As a longstanding community-based conservation organisation registered as an NPO in 2002, the Global White Lion Protection Trust has pioneered a benefit-sharing model on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park, together with communities with whom we have partnered since 2004. These communities include the Moletele and Mnisi Nations, as well as the First Nation Khoisan peoples.
Founded on the twin objectives of community and conservation, our Public Benefit Organisation is committed to: “Mutual benefits for Lions, Land and People in the greater Kruger area”.
To achieve our mission of securing benefits for Lions, Land and People in the greater Kruger area, the Global White Lion Protection Trust has implemented a multi-level strategy, which celebrates cultural heritage and eco-education, uplifts welfare, and revives the biodiversity of wildlife alongside the cultural diversity of human life.
Since commencing our initiatives in this region, our NGO has invested over 100 Million Rand in protecting the unique White Lions within their natural habitat, and directed over 100 international cultural donor groups into our remote rural Acornhoek community on the western borders of the Kruger.
However, in spite of the success of this inspiring benefit-sharing model that espouses mutual benefits for Lions, Land and People, the Indigenous stakeholders have not been consulted in the agreements under Inquiry, leaving the status of the White Lion today as nothing short of catastrophic.
Although we are the authority on the rare animal in question, the Global White Lion Protection Trust has also not been invited as stakeholders into the discussions and resolutions in the KNP/APNP agreement.
Historic Parliamentary efforts to protect the White Lions as a National Heritage
It is important to point out that in 2008, when we brought the case of the White Lions before Parliament, our current Government showed commitment to ensure the survival and wellbeing of the White Lion, both as a national and a global heritage.
On 20 February 2008, a Parliamentary Meeting of the Portfolio Committee was called to address this issue.
At this Committee Meeting, ANC Parliamentary members raised concerns about the unethical and ecologically irresponsible trophy hunting of lions taking place in the APNR and further concerns were raised that the Kruger National Park was failing to take responsibility for the protection of the White Lions, and to deal with perpetrators of canned trophy hunting within the Timbavati region.
It was noted and gazetted the White Lions are not only conservation heritage, but a cultural heritage of inestimable value to local Indigenous communities, given their sacred symbolism within African societies.
At this time, community stake-holding of this heritage species was the central focus emphasised by the Global White Lion Protection Trust to the Committee, and accordingly Parliamentary Members emphasised that it was government’s responsibility, and particularly that of provincial government, to ensure their protection.
In conclusion, it was Gazetted that:
The Chairperson assured the Trust representatives that… the Committee would ensure that the white lions were protected by legislation. He advised that the National Parks must be prepared to answer for their failure to present to the Committee. He added that the protection and conservation of the white lions had to be treated as a matter of urgency, given its conservative, eco-tourism and cultural value.
What efforts has the South African Parliament made to follow through on their responsibilities identified in the Portfolio Committee Meeting of 20 February 2008?
The answer is that government made significant efforts – initially.
In the same year as the Committee undertook to protect South Africa’s rare White Lions, the Bloemfontein High Court ruled in favour of the South African Government, to prohibit the practice of captive breeding-for-killing of lions (then termed: “Canned Hunting”)
However, South African policy drastically changed one year later with the astonishing Supreme Court ruling (Nov 2010), when the government’s efforts to prohibit the captive lion industry were overruled in favour of today’s captive breeding-for-killing of Lions.
Since this time, South Africa’s unique White Lion heritage has been systematically decimated by this industry, a newly formulated methodology of gross exploitation of wildlife born on the border of the APNR, which has no precedent in international conservation legislation.
African Wisdom Keepers: An Urgent Plea
The catastrophic consequences of losing our White Lion heritage should be understood through the words of Isanusi Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa, the living library of African cosmology, who hails from part Zulu part Khoisan origins:
I hand over to Dr Willem Langeveldt of the National KhoiSan Council to read Credo Mutwa’s plea:
A plea to those who choose to be nothing in the face of monstrous evil:
Leave the lions of Timbavati alone. Do not destroy the sacred lions of the Gods of Africa.
…People come to my motherland, people come to South Africa, to brutally murder the White Lions of Timbavati in the name of manliness and in the name of sport.
And I ask myself: Did we win our freedom for this? This quiet devastation of our country’s most sacred animals? Did we, by joining the ranks of the democratic countries of the world, also join those people who see it as their task to denude this planet of all life?
Please. Leave South Africa’s White Lions alone. Let them breed once more. Let them walk tall in the wilderness which is their mother.
In the past 200 years or so, the human race has lost much that is of importance in Africa. And it continues to lose much. But what is most terrible, what is most tragic, is that it does not realise what it has lost. One day, in the dark valleys of the future, people will try to turn back, people will try to investigate, to look into the past of African humankind with wide-open eyes, but they will find very little because much has been obliterated. When an animal is killed in Africa, that animal takes a large slice of African knowledge into oblivion with it. Because most of the knowledge that Africans possess is intimately intertwined with the animal life as well as the plant life of this continent.
Credo Mutwa’s Plea was delivered in the 90s (and first published in Mystery of the White Lions, 2001)
Dare we answer his question: In the dark valleys of the future… right here and now in Parliament?
What is the purpose of benefit sharing if all that is of true value is lost to future generations?
World Wilderness Congress (Wild9)
At the international World Wilderness Congress held in 2009, attended by delegates from 51 countries, a RESOLUTION was passed to have the White Lions listed for protection. This RESOLUTION was tabled by Indigenous nations from around the globe, and endorsed by multiple scientific and conservation entities, including the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network, and the Global Big Cat Alliance.
IT WAS RESOLVED that World Wilderness Congress supports the recognition of the White Lions as a unique spiritual animal, sacred to traditional Indigenous peoples and an important part of biodiversity in the natural world
This and other examples make it clear that the White Lions are regarded as a Global Heritage.
It is unacceptable for regional landowners to destroy a Global Heritage.
White Lion: Importance as Climate Indicator Species
In Indigenous wisdom the White Lion is understood to have occurred for a reason: being a natural index or “precurser” to ice age conditions, which are dependent on humanity restoring right relationship with our planet.
The White Lions importance for climate change issues becomes more relevant given that the region under Inquiry is a classified UNESCO Biosphere region. The UNESCO Biosphere program sets out “to promote the understanding of the impact of environmental changes, including climate change, and develop and support mitigation and adaptation actions.” (pp28 K2C MAB Strategy 2016-2020).
Protecting the White Lions is of global significance, and the fact that the agreements under Inquiry have failed to do so is of global concern.
Global March for Lions
It is, therefore, not surprising that in 2014, 55 major cities around the world – including London, New York, Paris, LA, Sydney and Jerusalem – marched in protest in a Global March for Lions, and over a million signatures were raised by the international advocacy group AVAAZ calling upon our then President Zuma to shut down South Africa’s notorious captive breeding-for-killing lion industry, recognised as a blight on this country’ international conservation reputation.
At this time, members of the Acornhoek rural community on the western borders of the Kruger National Park marched for their heritage.
The White Lions are iconic. While their ecological value for this region is yet to be fathomed, their cross-cultural totemic value as an animal embodying enlightened leadership is unquestionable.
Furthermore, they are understood by Indigenous cultures the world over to have high spiritual value, and to be the embodiment of ancestry.
It is for this reason that one of South Africa’s preeminent spiritual leaders, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, delivered a Global Prayer for the White Lions at the time of the Global March.
Today, all environmental issues are global issues. All environmental issues are interrelated and jointly impact on today’s climate crisis.
If Brazil destroys its rainforests, the world has lost its lungs.
If South Africa destroys its White Lions, the world has lost its Heart.
Benefit sharing – who carries the cost?
In the spirit of true benefit sharing, we should be seeking mutual benefits for Lions, Land and People in the greater Kruger area.
How do we achieve this goal in one of the world’s most important ecosystems?
Firstly, by applying cutting-edge science in support of ancient Indigenous knowledge.
Secondly, by uplifting human value systems alongside restoration of ecosystems.
Thirdly, by protecting the White Lions within the biodiversity of their naturally occurring home range.
Policy makers, both governmental and private, and the agreements under inquiry have adopted a very narrow, consumerist view of benefit sharing – one in which benefit is short-term and shared only amongst a few of the stakeholders.
What exactly do we understand by the term Indigenous Knowledge Systems and what does it mean to be Indigenous?
Is Indigeneity defined by a community’s genes or proximity to wilderness areas – irrespective of whether value systems may have shifted to the Western, consumerist model? Or is indigeneity defined by those practicing the original deep-rooted ways of plant medicine, earth ceremony and ancestral worship, creating healing and flourishing for people and planet? Is Indigeneity limited to those who first walked these lands many thousands of years before today’s racial and tribal demographic?
Finally, it true to say that since humanity itself originated from Africa, there are traces of the Indigenous in all peoples who recognise our role of earth stewardship as service rather than self-service.
In every nation around the globe, “Indigenous” is synonymous with right relationship to Nature. How does benefit-sharing look from the perspective of right relationship to Nature:
Indigenous culture does not ask what we can extract and exploit from an ecosystem, but rather how we can serve and preserve Nature – and moreover celebrate Nature as a living legacy.
The reason that Indigenous peoples demand that the White Lions be protected as a living legacy in Indigenous knowledge systems is that they recognise Nature not merely as a commodifying resource, but each and every species as an inheritance which demands our responsible stewardship. It must be “living” not only because it is flourishing in its natural landscape but it is “alive” and well in the hearts, minds and souls of humanity ourselves.
Benefit sharing in Indigenous terms
The agreements under Inquiry are gravely antithetical to Indigenous Knowledge systems, risking radical, long-standing, negative impact to South Africa’s most important ecosystem, since they directly threaten right relationship between human communities and ecosystems.
Living heritage is replaced by dead trophies. The word “trophy” (as in the stuffed dead animals on walls that were once a proud living heritage) derives from “atrophy”.
Synonyms for atrophy include wasting away, withering, shrinking, shrivelling, drying up, decaying, , deteriorate, degenerate, grow weak, weaken, wane, fade, crumble, slump, collapse, die and be forgotten.
Where is the benefit in sharing atrophy?
This concept has only one acronym: to Flourish.
It is the responsibility of government to protect the greater Kruger Park as a flourishing ecosystem, , not an atrophying lost heritage.
There are other conservation models that allow for true benefit sharing.
Jason Turner will go on to discuss one such international Precedent.
There are also successful African precedents, and furthermore, there is increasingly significant international funding support for such initiatives, including the recent pledge of $65 Million in support of Africa’s wildlife reserves, of which notably South Africa is excluded, since this African Parks model is based on support for the non-trophy hunting wildlife areas.
Benefit sharing – conclusions
In summary, just as the previous post-colonial agreement[s] between SANParks and APNR negatively affected communities and their interests by alienating people from their wildlife and commoditising their living heritage, so the new Kruger deal perpetuates the sins of the old.
Hunting national game for private gain is unjust and unjustifiable.
Destroying a heritage of the Indigenous peoples who revere and celebrate the White Lions as a living legacy is indefensible.
By contrast with Indigenous Belief Systems, Kruger Park officials and private landowners over the past decades have termed this proud living legacy “freaks of nature” even arguing that the White Lions should be eradicated from the system, labelling them an aberration “without conservation value”. This is more than gross ignorance, it insults the very basis of global Indigenous community thinking.
Given the lack of proper Indigenous stakeholder engagement, any last ditch reference to excluding White Lions from trophy hunting quotas in the current KNP/APNR agreements are inadequate, and nothing short of an insult.
What was once considered “Urgent” by our Portfolio Committee in 2008, is now Critical.
After the Colloquium on the CAPTIVE LION BREEDING FOR HUNTING IN SOUTH AFRICA, CANNED HUNTING AND THE LION BONE TRADE, it is painfully evident that our Government faces a bloody mess of historic proportions.
The legalised abominations are a symptom the logical end-point of an intrenched exploitative mindset that measures Mother Nature’s value in monetary terms only. The Kruger Park Deal does the same.
South Africa could become the world leader in conservation strategy, if respect and reverence is restored in the mindset of our reserves and policies. Without this, canned hunting and other abominable symptoms will erupt and fester, fast destroying our relationship with our planet and rendering longer-term solutions for our country’s wildlife heritage impossible.
My plea here today on behalf of South Africa’s First Nations people and the global Indigenous community is that Parliament stops the perpetuation of this injustice to this preeminent heritage animal in the agreements under Inquiry that has governed our wildlife reserves with an iron fist and the barrel of a gun.
They are antithetical to ancient Indigenous Knowledge systems, which wisdom is needed now more than ever. They have taken place without stakeholder representation from key Indigenous groupings, and within the existing structures and mindsets which are themselves required to be subject to the review.
To ensure the benefit-sharing agreement protects the values of communities in the area
Government must make the shift to non-exploitative service-based stewardship of our planet, and thereby protect our wildlife as a living legacy for future generations.
To consider the practicalities of such a conservation model, I hand over to Lion Ecologist Jason A. Turner who drives the Steering Committee for declaration of Protected Areas for the buffer area bordering onto the APNR. As a lion ecologist who has been studying the lions of this region for 20 years, now completing a Doctoral Study on the ecological importance of the White Lions, Jason Turner is a significant Stakeholder in the region under review.
INTRODUCTION TO THE NATIONAL KHOISAN REPRESENTATION
As seen from the brief video of the Parliamentary Colloquium of 21/22 August 2018, Chief Stephen Fritz of the South Peninsular Khoisan Council addressed that inquiry into South Africa’s lion killing industry in no uncertain terms.
Today, we receive the Statement from South Africa’s National Khoisan Council for Parliamentary Inquiry currently under review into Community perspectives on benefit-sharing in the western boundary of the Kruger National Park.
The Khoisan representation asks that this Plea be followed by a moment’s silence.
ONE MESSAGE ON BEHALF OF SOUTH AFRICA’S KHOI-SAN PEOPLE
Hundreds of rock paintings in what is today known as the Kruger National Park attest to the fact that we walked, honoured and inhabited these lands, many thousands of years before any nation living today.
For countless generations we buried our ancestors on this land.
Yet we are not asking to own the land of the Kruger.
We lived in harmony with the pristine land entrusted to us as stewards of God’s Creation, and we recognise that this land should never be taken away from the animals and plants and rivers, whose land it truly is. This land belongs not only to humans and should remain as a living heritage for future generations just as we, the Khoisan People of South Africa left it, pristine and protected as a living heritage for generations to come.
You speak of “Stakeholders” in the new Kruger deal.
Who are these so-called Stakeholders?
Have the First Nations been consulted?
Have the animals been asked?
Have the plants, the rivers, the earth given their consent?
Has the Lion, King and primary Stakeholder in service to all of Creation, given authorisation for this new Kruger Deal?
We have already said in Parliament:
“If you kill the Lion, you kill the Bushman people.
And now let it be recorded:
“If you kill the White Lion, you kill South Africa.”
The ancestral spirit of the Land and the Lions must be honoured and protected, if we are to bring peace to our nation.
Do NOT kill the White Lion.