Wildlife in­dus­try looks to fu­ture

Wildlife stake­hold­ers dis­cuss chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties with eye on growth po­ten­tial

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Riaan Marais maraisr@ti­soblack­star.co.za

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.

PETER OBEREM

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