Almost 300 wildlife ranchers gathered at the annual conference of Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) in Pretoria on 6 April, to hear presentations from prominent business and political leaders and scientists on current developments that have an impact on the wildlife sector.

WRSA president, Tebogo Mogashoa, said this year’s conference attracted many new faces which indicated a growing interest in the wildlife industry. “The conference programme with its selection of high-profile speakers addressed important current affairs that provided essential insight and a fresh perspective into the impact that national and global economic trends have on the South African wildlife sector. It was most encouraging to engage with so many delegates, some of whom are established wildlife ranchers, while others attended the WRSA conference for the first time,” Mogashoa said.

In a message from Nomvula Mkonoyane, minister of environmental affairs, presented by her advisor Dr T Moeme, she emphasised that the wildlife sector is crucial to sustainable development for the future of our nation. In the keynote address, Dr Mathews Phosa, paid tribute to the private wildlife sector’s collaboration with rural communities towards leaving a lasting wildlife legacy for the future.

Economic constraints

Theo Vorster, well-known financial advisor and analyst, said South Africa could not keep up with global economic growth. For the country to improve its position, it needed to move away from a captured state to a constitutional democracy in which many of our current social ills would disappear. Vorster cautioned game ranchers against taking risks in the current volatile environment.

Johan Rabie, an established game farmer, shared statistics about foreign hunters that indicate South Africa to be a preferred hunting destination. This is mainly because of the variety of high-quality game the country offers. Rabie advised game farmers to benchmark their activities carefully against current demands and trends to remain profitable.

Disease prevention and control in wildlife populations remain a crucial game management priority for ranchers. Dr Johan Steyl, veterinary pathologist from Onderstepoort, explained the importance of biosecurity measures on game farms.

Effect of climate change on the wildlife sector

Prof Hannes Rautenbach, dean of the faculty of natural sciences at Akademia, addressed the effect of global warming on wildlife and said game animals may be more resistant to climate change. Rautenbach said that more research was essential to identify vulnerability to climate change and stressed the importance of historical data. He advised game ranchers to erect weather stations for the collection and measurement of weather data which could provide valuable information in man’s response to climate change.

Prof Peet van der Merwe of North West University reported on research undertaken in collaboration with WRSA into land-use options. The results showed that game breeding and hunting were the most popular and viable land-use options, followed by mixed farming, eco-tourism and meat production.

Transformation and land expropriation

Christo van der Rheede, deputy executive officer of AgriSA, and Dan Kriek, president of AgriSA, provided insight into transformation and land expropriation respectively. Van der Rheede urged game farmers to work with the agricultural sector towards achieving transformation. It is estimated that the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and farmers would be expected to provide food for everyone. Kriek encouraged the wildlife industry to demonstrate the value they are adding to the economy, employment opportunities and promoting the country as a tourism destination.

Marketing SA as preferred hunting destination

Norman Adami, successful wildlife rancher, and Wiaan van der Linde, wildlife rancher and hunting outfitter, gave their perspectives on promoting SA as a preferred destination against the odds of international social stigma and ignorance towards hunting. The sector needs the SA government’s involvement to market the country as a preferred hunting destination. – Press release