South Africa has developed a wildlife management model that has caused wildlife to flourish making South Africa a great conservation success story
Wildlife numbers are declining fast in most of the African continent due to loss of habitat, human population growth, overgrazing by livestock, poaching and the bushmeat trade, poor management of conservation areas, the charcoal and logging industries, and the inability of politicians and conservationists to realise the potential high economic value of Africa’s wildlife.
By 1960 all game in South Africa belonged to the state and wildlife had almost no commercial value. A survey that was completed in 1964 found that there was only about 550 000 head of game left in the country. Black wildebeest, bontebok, Cape mountain zebra and white rhinoceros were staring down the barrel of extinction, as none of these species amounted to more than 50 in total. A similar survey that was conducted in 2005 found that the total number for game animals had increased to almost 19 million.
The phenomenal growth in wildlife in South Africa was due to the decision that the then government made to transfer ownership of all wildlife on private land to the land owners. This caused the wildlife in the country to have a commercial value, and could thus be utilised accordingly. Landowners started to take much better care of the animals on their land and large number of farmers converted from stock farming to wildlife ranching. The international hunting community soon discovered the rich biodiversity of South African hunting fields and their financial inputs enabled landowners to invest in the growing wildlife industry.
Today there are almost 10 000 game ranches where in the 1960’s there were as little as 3. These ranches provide 21 million hectares of habitat for wildlife in addition to the state owned national parks and reserves. Privately owned conservation land now amounts to more than three times all the land covered by the state’s parks and reserves. Many international hunters now visit South Africa annually, which add to the economy.
South Africa’s hunting industry has aided in the recovery of wildlife numbers as there is now more place for them to roam. There are today more game animals in the country than at any time during the past 100 or 150 years. The hunting industry has also brought in a large amount of foreign exchange into the country. The game ranches provide many jobs, for many people in the rural communities. Hunting has ensured a better use of semi-arid land; that would not be able to be used for agriculture or photographic safaris. The hunting industry in South Africa has brought about the consumption of venison meat which is free of hormones and added chemicals, which makes for a healthier eating option.
Many countries in Africa that do not allow hunting have also noticed a decline in their wildlife numbers. Some countries such as Mozambique and Uganda have re-introduced hunting, and their wildlife numbers are showing a healthy recovery. Namibia is following the South African model of conservation through sustainable utilisation, and these two countries are world leaders in extensive wildlife ranching.
All of this making South Africa, a great conservation success story.