For thirty years, Legal Netlink Alliance has served the needs of clients worldwide.


For thirty years, Legal Netlink Alliance has served the needs of clients worldwide.

Lopes Attorneys Secures Judgement Against Trophy Hunting in South Africa

May 05, 2022 – Johannesburg, South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Lopes Attorneys is proud to announce that our team has secured a ground breaking judgment on animal welfare in South Africa having successfully interdicted the hunting of leopard, black rhino and elephant for trophies.

On behalf of our client, Humane Society International, Lopes Attorneys took the South African Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to court demanding the interdiction of hunting quotas issued by the minister for the three endangered species leopard, rhino and elephant. The High Court of South Africa, Western Cape Division, Cape Town granted the interdict at the end of April.

The judgement is a ground-breaking and reportable judgment serving to safeguard the welfare of animals. To this end, the judge decided that the Minister’s decision on a prima facie basis was effectively flawed, and the element of irreparable harm was obvious to any person. This judgment is one of the first of its kind in which the irreparable harm noted pertained to the animals concerned, and not to businesses or natural persons, which is normally the case.

The entire team at Lopes Attorneys, led by Managing Director, Rui Lopes, was involved in the mandate and currently remains involved for the case follow up.

This decision is a triumph in its own right in safeguarding the welfare of the animals concerned and is a welcomed victory. This decision serves to enforce the crucial importance served by animal welfare within society and shall remain a stepping-stone for further litigation and expansion of positive animal welfare jurisprudence within our country.” Rui Lopes.

Case strategy

The case was brought in two parts, with Part A being an urgent interim interdict to bring a halt to the decision of the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to set a quotas for the trophy hunting and export of elephants, rhinos and leopards, and the interdicting of any actions seeking to give effect to this. Part B is then the review of the Minister’s decision itself. As such, Part A was brought on an urgent basis before the High Court of South Africa, Western Cape Division, Cape Town, whereby the judgment relating to Part A was handed down on 21 April, 2022. Lopes Attorneys is committed to further promo the interests of these animals as the case progresses. 

The firm also engaged the services of two advocates, namely Advocate Les Morison SC and Advocate Ben Prinsloo, for this particular case. 

Animal welfare expertise

Rui Lopes is regarded as one of the leading animal welfare lawyers in Africa, acting on behalf of a variety of local and international clients in this regard, and having led the firm to being shortlisted at the African Legal Awards in 2021, as a finalist in the Specialist Law Firm of the Year category, as well as gaining various accolades for the firm including Sustainability and Natural Resources Law Firm of the Year for 2022 from the Global Law Experts, and Recommended Law Firm for South Africa for 2021 and 2022 from the Lawyers Global. 

The endangered species

Earlier this year, South Africa's Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment issued quotas of 10 leopards, 10 black rhinos and 150 elephants to be hunted for trophy purposes this year.

The Leopard, Rhino and Elephant are all members of South Africa’s infamous “Big Five”, the critically endangered, being indisputable and indispensable wildlife attractions to the world. Big Five game animals are the lionleopardblack rhinocerosAfrican bush elephant, and the African buffalo. The term was coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, but is now also widely used by safari tour operators

South Africa is the world’s second-largest exporter of hunting trophies, accounting for 16% of the global total – an average of 4,204 a year. This is 50% more than Africa’s second-largest exporter, Namibia, and more than three times that of Africa’s third-largest exporter, Zimbabwe. Between 2014 and 2018 South Africa exported 574 leopard trophies (98% of them wild-sourced), 1,337 elephant trophies (virtually all wild-sourced) and 21 black rhino trophies (all wild-sourced).

The top five species exported as trophies from South Africa are lions (mostly captive), chacma baboons, southern lechwes (captive, non-native), caracals and vervet monkeys. Most foreign hunters come from the US, and the rest from Russia, Denmark, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and France.