By the stroke of a legislative pen, a list of iconic and in some cases endangered wild animals can now be manipulated as farming stock. What happens next is anyone's guess.
Lions, cheetahs, rhinos and zebras were among 33 wild species which became farm animals as of May this year when the South African Parliament approved a brief amendment to the Animal Improvement Act (AIA) which governs livestock breeding.
There has been virtually no mention of this in the media, as the legislation was slipped through without public consultation. There's no international precedent for such an extraordinary "domestication" of wild animals.
This act permits "improvement" of "genetically superior" animals to "increase production or performance" by licensed animal breeders. It states "different kinds of animals or breeds of such kinds of animals may be so declared," but it is unlikely, at the time the legislation was promulgated in 1998, that such a declaration would include wild and especially endangered and iconic species.
AIA permits "animal breeder societies" to manipulate breeding outcomes in the way we have altered aurochs into docile cows, the grey wolf into the many breeds of dogs and produced "golden" impala. Most of these breeds can no longer...