SA game breeding rebuilds rare animal stocks

2014-09-08 10:37
Sable antelope.

Sable antelope. (Shutterstock)

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Bela-Bela – The success of private game breeding has highlighted the industry’s ability to rebuild populations of animals that have been depleted, after a showcase of high quality animals at the Stud Game Breeders auction held at Mbizi Lodge in Limpopo province.

"I've got more sable than Kruger National Park," said Norman Adami, owner of Nyumbu Game farm, referring to a species of antelope with long curved horns.

The breeding is not only to increase numbers, it is about the quality of the specimen, with the size, colour and disposition of an animal all factored into its price.

"As long as eight years ago, a 38cm sable - a sable with 38cm horns - was a big sable," explains Adami, leaning back into a wicker couch at his farm.

"Now you're seeing sable with 127cm. In 10 years, it's going to be 152cm. Those magnificent specimens are being recreated."

With their exceptional means, private game breeders are also able to rebuild the populations of animals that have been depleted over the centuries.

The rise of the industry is a result of South African legislation giving a private landowner total control over his animals.

"The game farming industry and trophy hunting is a form of eco-tourism," said Brian Reilly, nature conservation professor at the Tshwane University of Technology.

"It's the highest form of eco-tourism."

While conservationists may take issue with the breeders emphasizing unnatural coat colours, many concede that the industry is helping their cause by increasing the number of animals and by protecting them.

'Lesser of any evils'

"It's certainly the lesser of any of the evils, if you consider mining, forestry, or commercial agriculture," said Reilly.

Now the government needs to find a way to reward the private farms for prioritising conservation and biodiversity, he said.

"What's happening in South Africa is there is a transfer of the social responsibility of conservation to the private sector, but the game industry isn't getting anything for it," said Reilly.

"There should be some system of saying if we're going to achieve our biodiversity goals, let's give the land owners some form of compensation," he said. "We've got to find a working model for that."

Until then, the private game breeders will keep making up the rules of their lucrative industry as they go.

Read more on:    polokwane  |  conservation  |  animals

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