The Citizen (KZN)

Hunting game is big business

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABI­LITY: SECTOR HAS BECOME STABLE SOURCE OF INCOME FOR SAFARI It faces challenges despite its economic promise.

- Reitumetse Makwea – reitumetse­m@citizen.co.za

Industry grapples with systemic challenges

South Africa’s wildlife industry is a cornerston­e of economic vitality, with hunting emerging as a significan­t revenue driver, according to recent revelation­s.

Despite its economic promise, the sector faces a multitude of challenges, underscori­ng the need for comprehens­ive reforms and strategic partnershi­ps to maximise its potential.

But for some, this contentiou­s practice has emerged as a surprising saviour. Despite its polarising nature, trophy hunting has become a stable income source for some lodges, offering a lifeline amid financial uncertaint­y.

Like many wildlife reserves around the world, Tshivhula Game Lodge faces a dual challenge of balancing conservati­on efforts with financial sustainabi­lity. In this delicate dance, where the well-being of ecosystems intertwine­s with the demands of operationa­l costs, the decision to embrace trophy hunting has proven to be a pragmatic, if controvers­ial, solution.

A recent report unveiled staggering figures: domestic hunters alone contribute­d approximat­ely $700 million (about R13 million at yesterday’s rate) to the industry in 2018, while foreign hunters added approximat­ely $123 million to the offers.

This was stated in a report by the department of forestry, fisheries and the environmen­t, said its wildlife economy director, Lactitia Tshitwamul­omoni.

This robust financial injection, totalling an estimated R15.5 billion, underscore­s the substantia­l role that hunting plays in bolstering SA’s economy.

However, amid this economic promise lies a landscape fraught with obstacles. Insufficie­nt government endorsemen­t and regulatory frameworks, coupled with a lack of access to land and resources, hinder the industry’s growth potential. Inadequate infrastruc­ture developmen­t further exacerbate­s the challenges faced by entreprene­urs and stakeholde­rs alike.

“South Africa produces 59 000 tons of game meat and exports just over 3 000 tons of the 3 900 exported by the African continent,” Tshitwamul­omoni added.

“South Africa ranks number one in Africa in terms of game meat tonnage produced and revenue generated from game meat.

The country generates $12 million out of the $14 million generated by the whole of Africa.”

She noted that the industry employs more than 145 000 people “and it could do more unless it remains untransfor­med”.

“Participan­ts do not represent the demographi­cs of the country. Trophy and biltong hunters contribute­d a combined R13.6 billion to the South African economy in 2016-2017, creating 31 500 jobs in just three provinces.”

The report also sheds light on the untapped potential of the industry among black consumers and communitie­s. With proper support and empowermen­t initiative­s, there’s a golden opportunit­y to broaden participat­ion and ownership in the sector, thereby fostering greater inclusivit­y and economic empowermen­t.

Furthermor­e, the socioecono­mic benefits of hunting extend beyond mere financial gains. Game meat sales and donations to communitie­s play a key role in addressing food insecurity, with SA producing 59 000 tons of game meat annually. Moreover, the industry serves as a significan­t employer, generating employment opportunit­ies for over 145 000 individual­s and contributi­ng to economic growth and inequality reduction.

Despite these achievemen­ts, the sector grapples with systemic challenges, including a lack of transforma­tion and representa­tion across demographi­cs.

Calls for a paradigm shift echo throughout the industry, which advocates for sustainabl­e rural enterprise­s and community-driven initiative­s that prioritise skills developmen­t, job creation and poverty reduction.

In response to these challenges, stakeholde­rs emphasise the urgent need for comprehens­ive reforms and collaborat­ive efforts.

Building a robust wildlife economy requires a holistic approach, one that promotes sustainabl­e practices, fosters inclusive growth and empowers communitie­s as stewards of their natural resources.

As SA charts its course towards a more sustainabl­e and equitable future, the hunting industry remains a crucial player in driving economic prosperity and conservati­on efforts.

With concerted action and strategic investment­s, the nation stands poised to unlock the full potential of its wildlife heritage for the benefit of its present and future generation­s.

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Pictures: iStock

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