I refer to your article, Game price stampede, in the 15 August issue. While I have managed our family game ranch for 20 years and been a partner in a safari outfitter for 12, I have had no interest, direct or indirect, for the last three years in any game ranching or hunting operation, although I remain passionate about hunting and the conservation of our wildlife and wildlife habitats. The same cannot be said for Messrs. Adami, Malan, Grobbelaar and company, however, all of whom have vested interests in breeding and/or selling “wildlife” and whose statements in the above article are disingenuous at best and misleading at worst. In this regard, I advise as follows, namely:
1. The current market for intensively bred wild animals with very big horns and, more specifically, buffalo, sable, roan and Livingstone’s eland, as well as unnatural color variants, has all the hallmarks of a pyramid scheme.
2. In other words, just like the tulip boom in Holland or the sour milk scheme in South Africa, when the number of breeders willing to pay these prices dries up, people will lose money, while those who set the ball rolling will have laughed all the way to the bank.
3. This may explain some of the rumors applicable to the huge auction prices being paid for some of these animals, for example, that in some cases money does not change hands and the bids are rigged to create interest in and demonstrate the worth of participating in these schemes. It may also explain unsubstantiated statements that an 80% return on investments is possible and that the high game prices are sustainable in this business. As the old axiom states, “When things sound too good to be true, they usually are.”
4. These breeding schemes have nothing to do with “global eco-tourism” or “the growing demand for wildlife experiences.” They are designed to attract trophy hunters. Quite simply, it is the price breeders believe that trophy hunters will pay to hunt these animals that underpins their schemes. And this is where they have within them the seeds of their own destruction.
5. Most overseas trophy hunters come from North America (and they are the ones, for the most part, who spend the money hunting trophy animals with big horns), as opposed to local hunters, the majority of whom are after meat. The Boone and Crockett Club is the most prestigious North American hunting and conservation association and does not allow any animal shot behind a high fence to be entered in its record book. Should a member be found to have done so, all his entries are expunged from the record book and he is disqualified as a member.
6. Increasingly, overseas trophy hunters are being influenced by this Club and others like it and want to experience a genuine, ethical hunt in the free range, wildlife habitat expanses of Africa and are reluctant to expose themselves to the ridicule of their peers and hunting associations by being involved, knowingly or unknowingly, in killing intensively bred, domesticated, once wild animals in “canned” or “put-and-take”, small, high fenced enclosures, which is what many of these breeders and their clients offer because, having paid these huge sums (where they have, in fact, been paid), they cannot run the risk of leaving the animals free to roam and live a natural life where they feed themselves, reproduce naturally and can escape their predators.
7. Frequently the word, “rare” is used to describe these intensively bred animals. This is nonsense. Buffalo, sable, roan and eland can be found in numbers in the wild and/or on private game ranches in at least nine countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and every year new entries of these species are added to the top 100 in the major record books. In addition, as many hunters will confirm, while it is always satisfying to hunt a big, old, challenging male, out of the breeding cycle, with heavy and long horns, the overall hunting experience, if anything, is more important.
8. The competitive prices offered by safari outfitters in these various countries will limit the prices chargeable to end users here, namely, the hunters of these animals.
9. The increasing trend of deliberately breeding ever more unnatural color variants or freaks has no justification. It does absolutely nothing for the conservation of wildlife or wildlife habitats. To say that these animals existed in the wild but were shot out because they had no value, is beyond misleading. I do not know of anyone who has ever seen a gold wildebeest, black impala or yellow blesbok (to quote but three of the increasing number of freaks that are being artificially engineered), anywhere in the wild.
10. I do not know of any hunter who would want to hunt one of these domesticated freaks and I predict that other major hunting and conservation associations around the world will follow the lead of the prestigious European hunting and conservation association, CIC – The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation who passed a resolution two years ago opposing, “artificial and unnatural manipulation of wild life”; excluding “all “trophies” of the animals so manipulated from being scored” and, “urging all CIC members to abstain from “hunting” manipulated animals.” As this development spreads among hunting and conservation associations it will be the death knell for those hoping to profit from these schemes.
11. Lastly, the real threat posed by these breeders is to hunting in general in South Africa. If our country acquires the reputation of THE destination for “canned” and/or “put-and-take” hunting of domesticated wildlife and unnatural freaks, not only may record books create separate categories for, or refuse to register, game hunted here but many overseas recreational hunters will stay away for fear of being tainted. Together this will make us less marketable and put at risk a growing multi-billion rand industry providing tens of thousands of jobs primarily in rural areas.
Author: Peter Flack 23. August 2013