Managing the South African environment is underpinned by the Constitution which provides amongst others that:
Everyone has the right:
to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and

to have an environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that:
prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
promote conservation; and
secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

South Africa with its wide range of natural resources is an ideal proponent to apply the principle of sustainable use of these resources. In South Africa both consumptive and non-consumptive ways of utilising the resources are applied and this contributes to a large scale to the national fiscus and also probably more importantly to the sustainable development of the country and the upliftment of the people. Consumptive use of wildlife resources plays an important role in the South African economy as is illustrated by the fact that foreign hunters generated more than R250 million during 2001 and the domestic hunting generated approximately R600 million in the same period. The income generated through the non-consumptive use of the natural resources through tourism is something, which cannot be neglected, or be destroyed, as it would be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

There is a wide range of benefits derived from the conservation of biodiversity. A large portion of the South African population are directly dependent upon biological resources for subsistence purposes, including the gathering, harvesting or hunting of plants and animals as a source of food, medicine, shelter and trade. The use of biological resources therefore provides a buffer against poverty as well as a source for economic gain. A number of industries in the country, such as the fishing, hunting, wild flower and wood-harvesting industries are directly dependent on the biological resources of the country.

Local communities benefit in various ways from the trade in biological resources. For example through their involvement in the development of community based tourism facilities such as the Makuleke community in the Kruger National Park who had their land returned to them and where they are developing infrastructure for tourists as well as benefiting from consumptive and non-consumptive wildlife resource use.

Tourism is the 3rd largest earner of foreign currency for the country after mining and agriculture. More than 5.8 million foreign tourists visited South Africa in 2001. The money spent by these visitors contributed more than USD2.6 billion to the national economy during the particular year. This includes all the expenses incurred by the visitors during their stay in the country. The main attractions to these visitors are the nature based tourism facilities such as national parks and private game reserves. Two of the three top tourist spots are nature based, namely Table Mountain and the Kruger National Park.

The commercial value of wildlife has stimulated the sustainable use industry and has, since 1960, resulted in the establishment of conservancies, game ranches, private nature reserves and collaborative reserves. There are presently some 9 000 privately owned game ranches in South Africa, expanding at a rate of 300 000ha per annum. The contribution of these areas in maintaining our unique biodiversity is incalculable, its role in the social and economic development of the country illustrated by the following statistics:

Private and community managed nature areas cover between 15 and 20% of the respective provincial land surface;
They represent capital investments of approximately six billion Rand;
They provide fifteen times greater job opportunities than cattle farming (and more skilled), and result in substantially higher per capita income; and
Are key components in the expansion of South Africa’s tourism industry.

During 2001 the hunting industry generated an income in excess of R250 176 million from day tariffs and trophy fees by the more than 7 500 foreign hunters and their parties. This figure excludes income from other sources such as air travel and personal expenses and taxidermy costs. In South Africa the international wildlife trade involves a wide range of role players, ranging from plant and animal breeders to professional hunters, each with its associated support staff.

Regulation of international trade in wildlife and their products is achieved through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This convention was signed in 1973 and entered into force in July 1975. South Africa deposited its instrument of ratification of CITES on 15 July 1975 and the Convention entered into force for South Africa on 13 October 1975. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is responsible for co-ordination and policy determination and international liaison.

The objective of CITES is to regulate and monitor international trade in species which are or may be affected by this trade.

CITES operates by means of a permit system based on the listing of the species on appendices depending among others on the conservation status of the species and the threat of over-exploitation through international trade on the survival of the species in the wild. Species in Appendix I are those that are threatened with extinction and which are or may be affected by international trade. Trade in specimens of these species are subject to particular strict regulation in order not to endanger further their survival and must only be authorized in exceptional circumstances. Whereas Appendix II includes all species which although not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. In summary, this means that no international trade, for primarily commercial purposes will be allowed for any species on Appendix I but it is allowed for species on Appendix II.

Approximately 230 animal species indigenous to South Africa are included in the two appendices, namely 1 and 98 bird species on Appendix I and II respectively. Of the mammal species in South Africa 8 are on Appendix I and 59 on Appendix II. Typical South African species on the appendices are:
Appendix I leopard, black rhinoceros, cheetah, marine turtles, whales and cycads;
Appendix II Aloe species, the South African population of the African elephant and white rhinoceros, lion, bontebok, monkeys and baboons, a large number of tortoises, lizards and pythons and crocodiles; and
Appendix III Colophon beetle

International trade in wildlife products is not only restricted to South African species and when traders are importing plants and animals the necessary permits are required. Species that are commonly imported are African Grey parrots of which approximately 6 000 are imported annually and parrots from South America such as Amazons (Appendix II) and Macaws (Appendix I).


The following can be used as examples of the success that has been achieved in South Africa in terms of the conservation of endangered species.

White rhinoceros

South Africa presently hosts the most stable population of the southern white rhinoceros in Africa. Through concerted efforts by conservation agencies such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (formerly Natal Parks Board) and the South African National Parks (formerly National Parks Board) the population of this species increased from less than 20 in 1910 and confined to small relic populations to almost 11 000 in 2002 in more than 60 populations distributed throughout South Africa (the total population in Africa is approximately 11 700 animals). Almost a third of the animals in South Africa is currently in private ownership. A significant number of animals have also been relocated to destinations outside the country.

African elephant

In 1910 the elephant population in South Africa was reduced to four remnant populations covering an area of less than 10 000 ha. The efforts of judicious management practises of amongst others the SANP the number of animals of elephants has increased to more than 13 000 in 2001 in more than 50 locations throughout the country. A prime example is the management programme in the Kruger National Park where the number of animals have increased drastically and to such an extent that the active management of the population is required to reduce negative impacts on the ecosystem.


This genus is very popular amongst collectors and this has put the genus under severe threat. Through actions such as legislation and the refining of ex situ conservation efforts artificial propagation has been achieved, currently more than 200 000 seedlings of endangered species of the genus has been sold to the general public. The threat on the wild populations has largely been lifted.


Through efforts of formal conservation agencies assisted by private individuals South Africa has managed to breed large numbers of this species in captivity. Relocation of these animals to protected areas, both within and outside South Africa is common practise.