Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) held a Roan antelope meeting at Onderstepoort on 27 June 2013, confronting the controversial issue many roan breeders are currently facing with genetic integrity.
Dr. Johan Kriek, chairman of the then rare wildlife committee and one of the pioneers in the wildlife industry of South Africa, gave a brief overview of the history of the Western Roan (Hippotragus equinus koba) and explained that there are an unknown number of roan breeders who previously bought Western Roan, who might or might not have been aware of the genetic gene being sold on auctions or through independent traders, no longer in the industry today.
Even though the problem has been identified a number of years ago, very little has been done to address the issue, hence a situation of confusion among many roan breeders regarding the status of their roan antelope and the legalisation around the specific issue.
Prof Bettine Jansen van Vuuren from the department of zoology at the University of Johannesburg stated that “there can be no doubt that the West African group, referred to as the koba subspecies, is significantly different to the large East / Central / Southern group.” She continues to say that “… the presence of the West African roan in our gene pool (hybridizing with local roan) significantly weakens our roan and renders them susceptible to parasites and disease. It is of course also prohibited by the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (nr.10 of 2004)”
While Hannes Blom from the Department of Tourism, Environment and Economic affairs says that “Concerning Western roan in the Free State, the animals must be exterminated,” the Roan Management Workshop drafted notes in February 2013 with the key issues as follows:
- Genetic testing
- The mitochondrial DNA testing must continue. Any applications to translocate roan from roan herds that have been contaminated with Western roan (or suspect) should be declined until the nuclear test is finalised.
- Nuclear testing will be developed over the next six months
- Western Roan can be translocated back to the original source (permits should have been issued) (NB: alignment with all legal requirements)
- The landowner must inform all authorities of the test within 24 hours and should the official not be able to be present, the landowner can make use of a veterinarian in possession of a TOPS permit authorising the activity.
- The purchaser to be provided with Samples when animals are loaded in the absence of an official.
- Protocol: use of specified forensic kit (to be specified by authority); procedure to deliver to testing facilities
- Permit requirements for the courier (consider permit requirements for movement of samples)
- Testing facilities: TOPS registered; use correct baseline information. Screen criteria to be provided by DEA
- Facilities to register within 30 days
- The facility currently accepted is the University of Johannesburg.
- Management of Western Roan
- Identification of all existing Western Roan populations (require risk mitigations measures and exit strategy)
- Export to be considered once nuclear DNA testing is finalised.
- Need to confirm if the population is managed in terms of permit conditions
- New populations (illegal) enforcement actions
- Amnesty period to be considered for landowners who have Western Roan
- Possible actions:
- Translocate back to the original source
- Export under the condition that pure western roan can be proved (back to the country of natural distribution)
- Ex-situ conservation projects
- National target date for all Western Roan to be removed
- National norms and standards for species likely to hybridise
- To clarify the common name of Southern Roan
- Database to be developed (DEA to develop a template and circulate to provinces) and to investigate the animal recording device used by DAFF
- Concern regarding the habitat assessment.
The discussion initiated by the WRSA, on finding a solution to accommodate all roan breeders in South Africa, is in progress at the moment and wildboere.com will give frequent updates in this regard.