Wildlife industry looks to future
Wildlife stakeholders discuss challenges and opportunities with eye on growth potential
WILDLIFE ranchers from across the country came together at the weekend to discuss the challenges and opportunities within their industry at both a provincial and national level.
The Eastern Cape branch of Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA-EC) held its second annual conference at Mentorskraal in Jeffreys Bay on Saturday, attracting ranchers, hunting outfitters and game breeders and providing them with a platform to share their opinions and learn from industry leaders.
While a struggling economy and a blemished industry image were among the points of contention, those in attendance were encouraged by regular multimillion-rand game auctions and the potential R12-billion venison trade.
The game industry was also earmarked as the sector within agriculture with the most potential for growth and transformation in South Africa’s politicised landscape.
WRSA national president Dr Peter Oberem said a number of factors had presented challenges for ranchers over the past year.
The continued drought made survival on farms difficult, while crime affected the country’s image and international tourism – one of the key contributors to the wildlife industry’s hunting and eco-tourism divisions.
At the same time, hunting was still widely criticised, and Oberem said it was up to each individual farmer to change people’s opinions and improve the industry’s image.
“There are people out there who don’t want us to succeed, who don’t understand what we do and why we do it.
“We just need to work harder to show people we are doing something positive, and that we believe in sustainable use of game,” he said.
“I believe one way to do that is to contribute to the country’s food security.”
Oberem said the domestic and export venison trade, if run and marketed correctly, could contribute as much as R12-billion to the game industry.
At the same time, exceptional and rare genetics continued to fetch top prices at auctions across the country.
Oberem’s figures showed how game auctions had grown, from selling fewer than 4 000 animals for a total of R21-million in 2007, to reaching its peak in 2014, when 19 000 animals fetched a staggering R660-million.
Despite auctions this year totalling only R165-million, Oberem said the trade had proven itself in recent years and would improve in the near future.
The game industry’s potential for transformation was also highlighted, and WRSA national vicepresident Tebogo Mogashoa praised the Eastern Cape for the camaraderie he had seen among farmers and the strides being made to develop black farmers through training and mentorship that allow for skills to be transferred, as well as assistance in identifying viable investment opportunities.
“Politicians and organised business still constantly beat the drum of transformation, and people are becoming increasingly impatient about inequality,” Mogashoa said.
“But I believe the wildlife industry is best placed to send out a positive message about transformation.
“We have specialised consultants continuously working to explore transformation opportunities.”
Agri Eastern Cape president Doug Stern said the province’s game industry had grown at an unprecedented rate, showing 20% growth year on year.
“More commercial farmers, in various industries, are diversifying into wildlife in some form,” Stern said.