Last month we looked at game capture and relocation as well as game auctions as tools of game management. This month we’re looking at the role of controlled sport hunting as a management tool. This is a sensitive topic indeed, so we ask that you bear with us as we expound the facts.
We have established that game auctions have given a monetary value to almost every species of game animals. So – who buys game at game auctions? There is no one answer – many different people do. The main buyers, however, are the owners and managers of private game reserves and game ranches. Apart from increasing the stock of any one species, the wise owner/manager buys in order to boost the genetic strength of the animals already on the property. And a most significant word is “property” – for without land on which to let his animals roam, no buyer can operate. So the buyer is the owner of a sizable tract of suitable land. It is true to state that the game industry has more than doubled the area of land under some form of conservation in South Africa.
Stop and digest that a moment. In KZN the land holdings of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is in the region of 8% of the province. The international standard is at least 9%. Add the area under private ownership and the area soars to well over 9% and over 1 million ha. Each private property has its share of large animals – the antelope, maybe some rhino and elephants. Leopards and lions too, perhaps. But let’s go down the scale a way. The very nature of the land encourages the safe growth of countless lesser species of mammal, fish, bird, insect, reptile, microbe and plant. In other words, the over all benefit to biodiversity conservation is so enormous as to be almost incalculable. Sure, a certain number of animals are hunted on private land – a farmer has to reap a crop in order to make money to keep a farm going – and a game farm is no different. The big difference between an ordinary farm and one that farms wild game, is the benefit we mentioned earlier – the growth of all the lesser creatures who in spite of lesser size, often play massively important roles in the bigger scheme of things. Bats catch vast amounts of insects, snakes keep the populations of rats and mice down…and so it goes on.
So don’t be in too much of a hurry to knock hunting. It is a multi-billion rand industry in this country, and has massively increased the amount of land under some positive form of conservation management, and has created a great many employment opportunities. And as far as hunting itself is concerned, the removal of a relatively small number of iconic animals for trophies or meat is a small price to pay for the enormous benefit to biodiversity conservation as a whole.
The key to the successful hunting industry is that it is sustainable in the very, very, long term