Hunting and Nature Conservation in South Africa Dr. David Mabunda, CEO, SANParks, read by Hector Magome, PhD, Managing Executive Conservation Services, SANParks Editor’s Note: The speech of Dr. David Mabunda, was delivered on occasion of the South African Premiere of Peter Flack’s documentary “The South African Conservation Success Story” Introduction In conservation books a hunt is commonly understood as the art of pursuing an animal, usually a large mammal or bird, in order to kill it for food, recreation, or trade with its products. Hunting is a regulated and legal activity as opposed to poaching, trapping or killing animals against the law. Except for subsistence hunting, hunting is practiced largely as a recreation activity hence the term recreational sport. Hunting is an extractive part of ecotourism and it is for this reason that it is often argued by some members of the public, opposed to hunting, that photographic tourism is a non-consumptive activity and that it is, therefore, better than hunting. This is a myth. On the contrary photographic tourism is a consumptive activity, it affects the natural footprint. Economic contribution In the United States of America, hunting is big business that generates more than US$67 billion in economic output, and more than one million jobs (IAFWA 2002, Economic Importance of Hunting in America, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies). Former US President, Theodore Roosevelt, a devout hunter, is one of the icons of the wilderness concept and one of the founding supporters of the US National Park System. In his autobiography (1913), Theodore Roosevelt stated: “There are men who love out-of-doors who yet never open a book, and other men who love books but to whom the great book of nature is a sealed volume” (in Underwood L, 2003, “Theodore Roosevelt on hunting”, The Lyons Press). Similarly, there are people who criticise hunting, but have little knowledge of its contribution to conservation. Equally, there are hunters and hunting practices that are totally bad and these should not be tolerated. South African local hunters, largely biltong hunters, contribute nearly R1 billion directly into the economy while foreign trophy hunters contribute another R1 billion, making a total contribution of R2 billion per annum. While the contribution made by photographic tourism is massive, figures are not yet available on how much of the R70 billion tourism industries accrue from photographic tourism. As a developing country, it would be suicidal to want to make trade-offs between hunting and photographic ecotourism, we don’t have the luxury of choice, we need both. That said the hunting industry still needs to make a quantum leap and huge strides that will make it speak to all the citizens of South Africa. Hunting takes place on land, and land is at the centre of various forms of economic activity. As one of the leading industries, hunting should, like other leading industries, transform itself into an indispensable socio-economic force that makes an impact on livelihoods. The industry can and should create decent jobs. Ecological contribution In remote areas where these properties are located, it is not easy to establish viable photographic ecotourism. In cases like these, recreational hunting provides the owner with the incentive to manage and maintain his land under conservation. Hunting is a component of modern wildlife management and it is often used to maintain a healthy population of animals where reserves are too small to allow natural regulation of populations or where hunting is a key part of the financial objective of the area. However, trophy hunting is exactly that, search for a trophy — an animal eye candy! This is another area where the hunting industry must set very high standards. South Africa cannot to be in the top 5 mega diverse countries and have its big 5 hunting industry in the top 5 bad examples. Therefore, adherence to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004 where TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) is involved is a must! The contribution of hunting to South African’s protected area network, both formal and informal is phenomenal. There is no doubt that this could not have been achieved without incentivising the land owner. Hunting was one such key incentive that even provided the initial short term capital to built photographic ecotourism. Currently, more than 15 million hectares of private land is registered and set aside for conservation and another 15 million hectares is also used for mixed wildlife and cattle farming. This means registered privately owned land is three times more than the efforts of the state. South Africa needs some of these large estates to be formally registered and gazetted as part of the national protected area expansion strategy so that the country to meet the global target of 20% by 2025. Conclusion Tonight is the “Premiere of the South African Conservation Success Story” and it is a night of achievement. In this debut, let us continue to usher in a spirit of excellence, of desire, and of strong determination to manage the industry for the next century! We can!