Trophy hunting is big business for South Africa. Foreign trophy hunters spent R1.24bn in the country in 2012, according to new research carried out at NorthWest University.
The Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA), which facilitated the research into the spending of trophy hunters in the 2012 season, said in response that “it just goes to show that foreign hunters are an important component of South Africa’s overall international tourist mix”.
The university’s research was based on feedback from local professional outfitters’ (the only people allowed to market hunts internationally in order to bring foreign hunting tourists to SA) clients, most of whom (88%) were from the US. Respondents stayed at their hunting destination for an average of 10 nights, with an average three additional nights dedicated to tourist sightseeing; Limpopo proved to be the most popular hunting ground, followed by the Eastern Cape.
Some 9 000 trophy hunters come to SA each year, and there are an estimated 250 000 local hunters. The contribution of local hunters to the country’s GDP is estimated at R6.5bn annually.
“It is evident that there is nothing else putting as much value on wildlife as hunting does,” says Hermann Meyeridricks, president of PHASA.
However, the debate rages on regarding the pros and cons of trophy hunting. Neighbouring countries have contrasting views on the matter. For example, hunting has been banned in Kenya since 1977.
The pro-hunting community argues that sustainable trophy hunting is beneficial to wildlife conservation as money from hunts goes back into conservation and allows vast tracts of land to remain pristine and free from human encroachment. Private ownership of game reserves has also allowed for the cultivation of wildlife, with private game reserves in SA growing from four to about 10 000 in just over 50 years. Game headcount rose to 24m from only 575 000 in the same period, of which two thirds are in private ownership.
Despite being hit by the recession, the trophy hunting market is gaining renewed buoyancy in SA. The increase in demand can be attributed to various factors, one of which is other African countries’ banning of hunting.
Botswana banned all forms of hunting on government land in 2012 as, according to Botswana President Ian Khama, the issuing of hunting licences has fuelled poaching in the country and prevented the tourism industry from growing sustainably and significantly. Zambia also banned trophy hunting in some parts during the same year. Namibia and Tanzania are now the major competitor destinations for SA on the continent. According to PHASA, the majority of the lions that are hunted in SA are bred in captivity, while the association does