Conservation Versus Profit: South Africa’s ‘Unique’ Game Offer A Sobering Lesson

Discussion in 'Articles' started by riflepermits.com, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. riflepermits.com

    riflepermits.com SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Veteran

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    South Africa’s wildlife is thriving. One of the reasons for this is that landowners can profit from animals living on their land. Wildlife can be hunted for meat and trophies as well as being used non-consumptively for ecotourism. Thousands of former cattle ranches are now profitable game farms, hunting reserves and ecotourism lodges making South Africa a conservation success story.

    But mixing profit and conservation is not simple. For example, a wildlife ranch generating profit from hunters must have animals that clients wish to hunt while a tourist lodge needs to stock species that are attractive and visible to those enjoying recreational game drives. Successful conservation requires a balanced, long-term approach but sometimes the goals of pursuing profit and long term conservation don’t always coincide.

    One example of this is the market for “colour variants” - unusually coloured forms of particular species caused by rare mutations. Naturally occurring mutations causing colour variations happen in many animals. Rare colour variants of hunted African species have been known for a long time. They include black and white varieties of impala, golden wildebeest and pure white varieties of springbok. Trophy hunters seeking novelty might pay more to hunt these unusually coloured individuals.

    The extraordinary spike, and then spectacular collapse, in the prices that these mutant colour forms sold for in the game auctions of South Africa over the past decade or so provides a timely reminder that profit does not always sit comfortably with conservation. Using resources on colour variant animals will divert from the conservation of other wildlife and can be detrimental.

    The history
    Over the past decade or so, colour variants of a number of species including wildebeest, impala, zebra, blesbok, gemsbok and springbok began to be intensively bred by some game farmers, ultimately for the trophy hunting market.

    In 2012, these rare varieties were estimated to represent only 1% of game in the country. Scarcity and the thought that hunters would pay handsomely for novel trophies led to a confidence that there would be considerable future payoffs. As a result, prices escalated. Normal impala could be bought for R1400, whereas black impala fetched R600 000. These colour variants were not yet being hunted – owners were focused on breeding lines and increasing numbers.

    But over the next 2 years things changed. By 2014 rare game accounted for 16% of turnover at game auctions with the average price for white impala rams reaching R8.2million.

    As prices continued to rise, critics continued to point out problems. Many believed it was putting profit before conservation.

    They pointed out:

    • the dangers inherent in intensively breeding animals from limited genetic stock, leading to the problems associated with inbreeding, including reduced viability and fertility;

    • of offering captive bred animals to hunters, which many believe to be unethical and not “fair chase”;

    • of diverting resources from other conservation as game farms focus on colour variant animals to the detriment of other wildlife.
    Despite naysayers, breeders bred and sold animals that commanded high prices throughout 2015. But talk of a bubble – when the price of an asset is based on past performance rather than actual value – was rife. Once potential buyers realise the asset is overvalued no one wants to buy it and prices collapse.

    This is exactly what happened. At the beginning of 2016 prices started to fall and the devaluation continued spectacularly. Black impala rams now fetch perhaps less than R10,000 (1.7% of 2012 price) and white impala have dropped to R48,000 (0.5% of their 2014 peak value).

    The problem seems to have been that demand didn’t exist on the scale imagined. Hunters were simply not enthused about adding these new colour variants to their trophy rooms. As a result, breeders were only selling to other breeders and to game farmers, many of whom went on to become breeders themselves, exacerbating the problem.

    The problem with the profit motive
    As one bubble bursts another seems to be inflating rapidly.

    Advertisements for unusual colour variant game can still be seen in game ranching publications. But more apparent in the last two years have been captive-bred buffalo, sable and roan. They are normally coloured, but many have massive horns, a trait that is being bred for, and made even larger, by specialised game breeders. These animals are now regarded as the “fashionable” high-value game species and, as with colour variants, their prices are soaring. A buffalo bull went under the hammer for R168 million in 2016.

    Inflated prices and controversy over hunting – especially following the killing of Cecil of Lion in Zimbabwe – make “greedy” wildlife ranchers obvious targets for those who oppose the use of wildlife for hunting.

    But the profit-conservation balance isn’t necessarily any better in non-consumptive models. For example, baiting popular dive sites for sharks, crowding waterholes with cars or pushing boats closer to bird colonies are but a few of the sharp ecotourism practices driven mainly by greed.

    The system works, for now
    For all the faults of ecotourism and wildlife ranching in South Africa, the truth is that allowing wildlife to pay its way does appear, at the moment, to be working for conservation.

    Conservation necessarily involves money and finding ways for humans and wildlife to live together. In many places, making money from wildlife through hunting and tourism satisfies both needs.

    But it seems inevitable that some practitioners of “it pays it stays” will attempt to make wildlife pay more than its rent. The colour variant bubble is perhaps a timely lesson that models to conserve nature must also account for the greed in human nature.


    Source: https://theconversation.com/conserv...cas-unique-game-offer-a-sobering-lesson-82029
     
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  2. Pheroze

    Pheroze AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    I saw the colour variant price crash as a success story for sustainable use. It is proof that the majority of hunters want a natural experience. And, it is our dollars that are defining the industry. People in any business will try new tactics to generate profit, but that is not a reflection of the customer base. This one failed because it does not reflect the practices of the consumers (hunters).
     
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  3. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    I strongly believe hunters want the most natural experience possible. Many of us struggle with the high fence theory. Of course a large tract of high fenced land can surely produce a high quality hunt but it pales I am sure in comparison to a true wild experience. . This color phase culture that has seemed to pass was of absolutely no interest to me. SO yes I think greed got the best of them.
     
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  4. Brent in Az

    Brent in Az AH Elite

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    What happens to the cattle market prices, and supply/ demand, if so many ranchers are turning to huntable wildlife?
     

  5. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Good question.
     

  6. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    I have seen a good bit of mixed use of the land with cattle and wildlife! Both pay so they stay!
     
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  7. Whiskey1

    Whiskey1 AH Veteran

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    These two warthog and the kudu were shot on a 20,000 acre cattle ranch. The only other game species we saw was impala and BIG reedbuck- which we were not allowed to hunt. There were also some HUGE leopard tracks.

    IMG_0481.JPG IMG_0574.JPG IMG_0578.JPG

    Of our eight hunting days this was the most fun and yielded three of our best four trophies. There is something to be said for game ranching but hunting other properties can be terribly rewarding as it was for my family.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
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  8. Odinsraven

    Odinsraven AH Fanatic

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    Actually in Barneys Pub in Port Elizabeth ....noticed the butter was from Ireland Kerrygold brand ......so game is winning ......a good friend of mine told me that in 2016 the price of game passed that of beef on the Eastern Cape
     

  9. Karoo Wild Safaris

    Karoo Wild Safaris SPONSOR Since 2016 AH Enthusiast

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    There's a lot of dairy farms around Port Elizabeth. Parmalet, Clover and a no of dairy companies. Kerrygold is an amenity type of butter packaged especially for the older pub feel. I can assure you there's no shortage of local dairy. It's not a case of one winning over the other. Lamb and beef price paid to the farmer is still higher than venison price. Lamb is at an all time high now of R75 /kg. Venison normally is the same price as C grade beef. R24/kg in the skin at the moment.

    The market will regulate prices, red meat, venison and chicken historically keep each other in check. We hope that venison becomes more widely consumed and bought more in supermarkets. This will be a healthy situation for the game industry.
     

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