Thanks to the significant increase in game numbers and the land used to breed wildlife, South Africa is quickly becoming the recognised authority in global conservation best practice and the sustainable use of natural resources.
So said Adri Kitshoff, chief executive of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), in a keynote address at the Wildlife Ranching South Africa symposium for game farmers held at Wild Expo at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria West.
“Without hunting there would be no incentive for investing in game; and without hunting many species in South Africa would already be extinct or on the verge of extinction,‖ she said. ―Today we have more international hunting tourists travelling to South Africa each year than to any other country on the continent. We have an unrivalled diversity of species: more than 45 major plains game species and all of the Big Five can be hunted here.”
Kitshoff said that there were an estimated 10 000 privately owned game ranches in South Africa, predominantly in marginal agricultural areas, covering an estimated 20.5 million hectares of land. Fifty years ago, a headcount of all the game in the country would have numbered around 500 000. “Today there are around 20 million, of which about 16 million are privately owned”, she said. ―To put it into perspective: private enterprise owns three times more land and four-fifths of all the game, managed under hugely successful and effective conservation programmes, than all the state-owned parks and reserves combined. South Africa’s wildlife and conservation success story is unparalleled anywhere in the world and it’s almost entirely due to the safari hunting industry.”
“Thanks to hunting, species such as the black wildebeest, bontebok and white rhino have been brought back on the brink of extinction. Our sable and roan populations, most of which are privately owned, are growing again while species are constantly being re-introduced into areas where they have become locally extinct”, she said.
“Kenya by comparison, which imposed a blanket ban on all hunting in the Seventies, has lost almost 85% of all its game. Kenya shows us what happens when there is no incentive for farmers to invest in game.”
According to Kitshoff, South Africa‘s model for sustainable wildlife conservation also had important ramifications to many of the country‘s other social challenges, particularly employment creation, skills development and food security. “More than 100 000 people are employed in the wildlife industry. Additionally, around three times more people are employed on a game farm than a traditional livestock farm.”
“The PHASA Conservation and Empowerment Fund has contributed more than R9m over the past few years to the training of over 800 PDI conservationists, guides and rangers. At the same time, each of the wildlife farms is involved in its own projects and gives assistance to emerging black game farmers”, she said.
However, Kitshoff said there were many challenges facing the industry. Chief among these was the need for PHASA and government to work more closely together to address pseudo-hunting but also to facilitate the issuing of hunting permits. “While we appreciate the need for regulation in this industry, we need to foster a closer relationship with the authorities to look at ways at streamlining the checks and balances in place. An example of this is a provision in the new National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act which allows for a certain measure of self-administration in the industry. We also desperately need to rid the industry of those rogue elements and bad apples that are bringing it into disrepute by abusing the permit system to engage in illegal and unethical hunts”, she said.
For further information contact Adri Kitshoff, PHASA CEO, on 012 667 2048 or 083 650 0442.