South Africa’s government is strengthening relations with the multi-million dollar industry, which it says has increased populations of wild animals and is vital for conservation.
“Sustainable utilisation in the form of hunting, ecotourism, game sales, and translocations have resulted in an increase in a number of scarce game species, including bontebok, roan and sable antelope,” SA’s Minister for Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, said.
But perhaps hunting’s greatest success was encouraging the white rhinoceros population to increase by more than 10 times since hunting of the animals began in 1968, when only 1800 were left in SA. By 2010, there were 18,800.
“The generally positive role that sport hunting has played in the increase in white rhino numbers in South Africa is also recognised by the International Conservation Union,” Ms Molewa said.
“Hunting, together with live-sales and ecotourism, has assisted in giving the white rhino value that has generated incentives. This has played a critical and positive role in the successful conservation of this species in South Africa, and helped encourage the rapid expansion of range and numbers.
“Game farming and hunting contributes significantly to conservation, tourism development, job creation and sustainable development, especially in rural areas, and is part of the broader biodiversity economy,” she added.
The Minister made the comments at a meeting between the government and hunting industry which aimed to bolster the contribution of hunting to conservation successes and economic growth in SA.
“The hunting industry and the game farming industry … play a key role in terms of conservation, tourism, and economic development,” she said.
The industry in 2010 was worth more than $122 million in accommodation and trophy fees alone, with a total value to South Africa that many times higher.
Ms Molewa told the hunting and game industries that they had to help the country’s economy move onto a greener footing, with sustainable use as one of its cornerstones.
“Government alone cannot manage and fund a just transition to a green economy, and the private sector and civil society must play a fundamental role.
“Sustainable use is critical for our development.”
She also called on the industry to continue its role in combating the ever-increasing damage done by poaching, which is continuing to claim hundreds of rhinos every year as well as harming many other species.
“All these successes are being undermined by criminals who come to our shores to steal our heritage,” Ms Molewa said. “We need to continue working together to fight this scourge.
“I am excited to note that the country, and especially the hunting community, is united to resolve and unpack all the concerns and challenges we face, in order to ensure that South Africa remains a leader in biodiversity conservation and continue to demonstrate the conservation achievements that can be realised through the sustainable utilisation of natural resources,” she concluded.