Pretoria, 19 September 2016 – Recent recommendations by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for better regulation and management of wildlife breeding practices have already been incorporated into the constitution and code of conduct of Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA), the association’s president Wiaan van der Linde said today.
This was done to future-proof the wildlife ranching industry and to ensure that the principle of free-market economics – one of the three bedrocks of South Africa’s conservation success – was directed toward protecting South Africa’s natural resources and leaving a lasting legacy for future generations, he said.
The other two pillars of South Africa’s upward wildlife trajectory were an enabling legislative environment – thanks to the policy of sustainable utilisation enshrined in South Africa’s constitution and the 1991 Game Theft Act which allowed for the private ownership of wild animals – and the significant investment from the private sector in wildlife ranches and game.
Because of these three pillars, wildlife attracted a value and South Africa now has more game than it had 165 years ago, following decades of wildlife decimation as a result of disease outbreaks, droughts, wars and associated indiscriminate hunting, livestock and human encroachment.
“Today there are approximately 10 000 private-owned game ranches covering approximately 20 million hectares – most of which is marginal land, unsuited to traditional agricultural purposes – and home to around 12 million head of game,” van der Linde said.
By way of comparison, South Africa’s national parks are home to 6 million head of game in a total area of only 6 million hectares.
The ranching industry in South Africa is worth around R200 billion and contributes approximately R20 billion to the country’s gross domestic product every year through hunting and eco-tourism, game auctions and venison. Its employment levels are generally three times higher than livestock farms, providing decent work for some 140 000 people at salaries three to four times that of conventional agricultural operations.
The industry is also widely accredited for breeding back species on the brink of extinction, including the white rhino, the bontebok, the cape mountain zebra and the black wildebeest (see below).
Van der Linde says WRSA adopted a code of conduct in November last year that prohibits its members from undesirable breeding practices such as cross-breeding; breeding animals with genetically detrimental conditions, such as albinism and dwarfism; genetically manipulating species; and using artificial reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination; embryo transfers; and cloning – except where these can assist in the preservation of threatened species and with the explicit approval from the Department of Environmental Affairs.
“These restrictions are in line with the recommendations announced by the IUCN and, as a proactive and responsible stakeholder of South Africa’s wildlife, we will regularly review our code of conduct to ensure it complies with international best practices and fulfils our conservation imperatives,” van der Linde said.
“South Africa’s ranching industry is well placed to meet the needs of South Africa’s socio-economic challenges through job creation, economic growth, rural development, land reform and food security,” he said. “Plus there is still enormous growth potential.”
“By 2025, we expect land under game ranching to grow to around 30 million hectares; the headcount of game under private ownership to swell to 30 million, to create employment opportunities for around 350 000 members of rural communities; to produce 250 000 tonnes of venison a year; and to contribute more than R75 billion to the fiscus every year,” van der Linde said.
“Compared to east and west Africa, where natural habitats are quickly diminishing as a result of human encroachment, South Africa is emerging as the recognised authority in conservation practices. We have gained a unique comparative advantage in terms of the quality of our genetics, our veterinary expertise, our policy of sustainable utilisation and our infrastructural capacity, and our model has become the benchmark for the rest of the world.”
|List of threatened species c1950 and recovery|
|Total 2015||In Parks||On private ranches||% private ownership|
|White rhino||30||17 000||12 000||5 000||30|
|Black rhino||30||1 960||1 510||450||23|
|Blesbok||2 000||>250 000||25 000||>225 000||90|
|Bontebok||19||>8 000||1 000||>7 000||87.5|
|Sable antelope||450||>5 000||<500||4 500||90|
|Roan antelope||150||>2 500||<200||2 300||93|
|Cape mountain zebra||<80||>2 790||1 925||865||31|
|Black wildebeest||<500||>1 750||1 800||>15 700||87|