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Biodiversity Management

Take only photographs, leave only footprints.

The Cape Peninsula is about 52 kilometres long, so small that London probably wouldn’t even fit into it. A large part of the Peninsula is just rock. However, despite these factors, it has an estimated 2 200 different species of plants – more than exist in the whole United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together. The Table Mountain range alone has the highest concentration of threatened species of any continental area of equivalent size in the world.1

Further north, the Kruger National Park – all 200 000 square kilometres of it – is home to equally impressive statistics: 336 different trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 147 mammals and 517 birds.2

We have some rich flora and fauna resources to protect in South Africa. Which is what the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 20043 aims at, along with other similarly purposed statutes.4 The Act falls under the authority of the Minister of Environmental Affairs, but the MEC for Environmental Affairs in each province carries a delegated responsibility as well.

A. Restricted activities

  1. No one may carry out any restricted activity5 involving a specimen of a listed threatened or protected species, or of an alien species6 or an invasive species, without a permit.7 It is an offence to do so.8

  2. No one may, without a permit, import, export (or introduce from the sea) a specimen of a species which is not necessarily listed in the Minister’s notices, but is listed in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.9

  3. The Minister may absolutely prohibit the carrying out of any activity and it is an offence not to obey such a prohibition.10

  4. If anyone is authorised, by a permit, to carry out a restricted activity involving an alien species, he nevertheless commits a criminal offence if he does not:
    • comply with all conditions under which the permit has been issued;11
    • comply with a directive from a competent authority in the event of any contravention by him of the Act;12
    • take all required steps to prevent or minimise harm to the diversity of our ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part (that is, ‘biodiversity’).13
  5. If anyone is authorised, by a permit, to carry out a restricted activity involving an invasive species, he must take all the required steps to prevent or minimise harm to biodiversity and commits an offence by not doing so. Moreover, if he fails to do so, the Minister can issue a written directive that he take such steps as specified in the directive. It is an offence, further, to fail to implement the steps embodied in the directive.14

  6. Similarly, the owner of land on which an invasive species occurs must do the following:
    • notify the relevant authority, in writing;15
    • take steps to control, eradicate and prevent the species from spreading;16
    • take all steps to prevent or minimise harm to biodiversity.17

    If he fails to do so, the Minister can issue a written directive that he take such steps as specified in the directive. It is an offence, further, to fail to implement such steps.18

B. Bioprospecting

This is research on, or development, or application of indigenous biological resources for commercial or industrial exploitation. It includes collection, gathering, trading, exporting and making extractions.

  1. It is an offence to engage in bioprospecting, where the nature and extent of exploitation is sufficiently established so as to begin commercialisation, without a permit.19

  2. It is an offence to export any indigenous biological resource from the Republic, for any kind of research, without a permit.20

  3. It is also an offence to engage in the discovery phase of bioprospecting (which is where the nature and extent of exploitation is not sufficiently clear so as to begin commercialisation) without notifying the Minister.21

C. Permits

  1. The holder of a permit who performs any activity for which the permit was issued otherwise than in accordance with its conditions commits a criminal offence.22

  2. Any person who:

    • fraudulently alters any permit;23
    • forges any document for the purpose of passing it as a permit;24
    • uses, alters or has in his possession any altered or false document purporting to be a permit;25
    • knowingly makes any false statement for the purpose of obtaining a permit,26

    is guilty of an offence.

D. General

Any person who allows any other person to do, or to omit to do, anything which constitutes any offence as set out above is himself guilty of an offence.27

  1. Wikipedia: ‘Cape Peninsula’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Peninsula

  2. www.sanparks.co.za/parks/kruger

  3. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 14 of 2013. 

  4. See the National Environmental Management: Waste Act 2008; the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act 2003

  5. There is a wide range of activities specified in the Act. Relating to endangered, vulnerable and protected species (which are listed in notices published in the Government Gazette) these include: hunting, catching, searching, pursuing, lying in wait, gathering, collecting or plucking, picking parts of or cutting, uprooting, damaging or destroying, importing, exporting, having in possession or exercising physical control over, growing, breeding or in any other way propagating, conveying, translocating, selling or otherwise trading in, buying, donating or accepting as a gift, or in any way acquiring or disposing of any specimen. Relating to alien species or invasive species, restricted activities include: importing, having in possession or exercising physical control over, growing, breeding or in any other way propagating, conveying, translocating, selling or otherwise trading, buying, giving, donating or accepting as a gift, or in any way acquiring or disposing of any specimen. 

  6. It is important to appreciate that conservation and protection of our indigenous species also involves eradication of so-called alien or invader species. If these overpower our indigenous species, the ripple effect could be telling; the ecology of food chains, pollination, and so forth is all delicately inter-balanced. 

  7. Unless there are exemptions which apply. 

  8. Section 57(1), Section 65(1), section 67(2) and section 71(1) read with section 101(1)(a). 

  9. Section 57(1A) read with Chapter 7 read with section 101(1)(a). 

  10. Section 57(2) read with section 101(1)(b). 

  11. Section 69(1)(a) read with section 101(2)(a). 

  12. Section 69(2) read with section 101(1)(c). 

  13. Section 69(1)(b) read with section 101(2)(a). 

  14. Section 73(1) read with section 71(1) read with section 101(2)(a) and section 73(3) read with section 73(1) read with section 101(1)(c). 

  15. Section 73(2)(a). 

  16. Section 73(2)(b). 

  17. Section 73(2)(c). 

  18. Section 73(2) read with section 73(3) read with section 101(1)(c). 

  19. Section 81(1)(1) read with section 101(1)(a). 

  20. Section 81(1)(b) read with section 101(1)(a). 

  21. Section 81A(1) read with section 101(1)(a). 

  22. Section 101(2)(b). 

  23. Section 101(3)(a). 

  24. Section 101(3)(b). 

  25. Section 101(3)(c). 

  26. Section 101(3)(d). 

  27. Section 101(3)(e) read with section 101(1) and (2).