The donation of wild animals to King Goodwill Zwelithini by nature conservation body Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife caused a stir at the provincial legislature on Thursday.

This was after it emerged during a committee meeting that wild animals worth about R400 000 had been donated to the Zulu monarch since 2009.

This included eight buffalo (worth about R24 804 each), two baboons, two giraffes (R10 458 each), two duikers and five hippos (each worth R34 500).

One of these animals was the carcass of a hippo donated for the king’s reed dance in September. The hippo had been deemed a problem animal after it had attacked an Ezemvelo staff member.

Finance portfolio committee chairwoman Belinda Scott wanted to know why they were given to King Zwelithini, who she said could afford to pay for them.

“The amount that you give to his majesty the king is a lot,” she told Ezemvelo chief executive Bandile Mkhize. “And he has a huge budget of his own. I’m not sure why he does not pay for it.”

Mkhize defended the donations, saying the king had been a good ambassador for conservation in the province.

“I suggest the legislature take (the matter) up with the king themselves because when the king asks for baboon, and we have a baboon available, we will definitely give the baboon to the king,” he said.

“(When) this house says to us ‘Please stop giving these animals to the king’, we will go to the king and say: ‘The legislature told us not to give these animals (to you).’”

Mkhize said the animals requested by King Zwelithini were not for himself but for communities.

Blessed Gwala, the IFP legislative leader, also stressed that the animals were donated to communities and not the king.

Mkhize said the animals were donated to communities because of the need to include them in nature conservation efforts.

The donations are mainly for traditional functions, he said, adding that most of the wild animals were used at such functions for centuries, “before we fenced them in and took them away from the communities”.