Our response to the recent Carte Blanche programme
HESC featured in a Carte Blanche programme (a South African investigative journalism television series) last night,17 May 2020, that focussed on the investigation into the illegal trade in wildlife. Lente Roode was appalled to learn that the legal trade in wildlife could in certain cases be supporting the black market in some countries.
“And now it seems that I am implicated, even if only by association, in the illegal and unethical trade in wildlife, something that I would never agree to or participate in. In the thirty years that I have run HESC, I have regularly released cheetahs and other animals into approved areas as I firmly believe all wild animals, whether born in captivity or rehabilitated in captivity, should ultimately have the opportunity to be free in nature in the ecosystem where they belong. I have also sold cheetahs to institutions approved by CITES to generate income to operate HESC – believing a CITES permit would validate the authenticity and suitability of the destination. But, clearly, not all is always as it seems and closer scrutiny of a destination is often required.
HESC operates on a non-profit basis and all income generated through the sale of animals or donations received is ploughed back into the running of the facility. No income is ever kept for personal gain. All activities are conducted in strict accordance with ethical and responsible business principles.
With our cheetah breeding programmes we aim to sustain and increase the numbers and genetic diversity of Southern Africa’s free-ranging cheetah population, and to provide new blood lines to limit inbreeding in small, free-ranging groups of cheetahs. We follow a strict rewilding protocol to release cheetahs back into the wild and this process can take up to three months. Our experience is that cheetahs bred in captivity have the capacity to hunt and breed independently and are thus able to sustain themselves.
We assure you that we never remove cubs from their mothers at birth unless the life of the cub is in danger due to an abnormality or the mother rejects the cub. We don’t sell cheetahs for use as pets. We have never euthanised an animal unless there was a medical or health reason for doing so. Our animals are not kept in cages, but in large enclosures or camps.
I wish I never needed to sell or release a cheetah. I find it emotionally distressing to part with an animal that has been in our care, but one can’t run a conservation business without adequate funding. Conservation of all wildlife and particularly endangered, threatened and vulnerable species, is not only my work, it is my passion and I am totally committed to the cause.”
18 May 2020