“Read about the success of private game reserves in wildlife conservation. These farms, with breeding programs and eco-tourism, made huge contributions in preserving wildlife”
What is the current status ?
If the tourist and the public at large think about wildlife conservation, they invariably think about the state controlled national parks, with internationally acclaimed examples such as Kruger, Kgalagadi, Umfolozi, Addo and many others. Conservation success in these parks indeed has been mind boggling, with a number of rare and endangered species, some on the brink of extinction, being saved to be enjoyed by generations to come.
Notable examples are the black and white rhino, mountain zebra and bontebok, and of course a number of birds, plants and insects species, all on the endangered list, which the casual tourist normally does not even notice. On the downside though, these parks are closed systems which could result in some species coming under pressure for a number of reasons relating to management decisions, disease, predation, environmental changes, movement of competing species and amongst others. Recent examples are the serious decline in sable and roan numbers and buffalo contracting tuberculosis. This is where game farmers and privately owned nature reserves play valuable roles.
In recent years, game farming and private reserves have escalated. They cater for hunting, other African safari activities and eco-tourism, often with associated lodges or guest house accommodation, rendering the visitor and enthralling and unique wilderness or safari experience.
Currently, game farms and private reserves occupy some 20 million hectares and the growth in new applications exceeds 5% per year. Statistics reveal that wildlife numbers outside state controlled areas are of the order of 3 million, which is about three times more than in state controlled areas, indicating the important role of the private sector in assisting with the effort to protect vulnerable species.
The leading provinces are Limpopo with 1.1 million head and the Northern Cape with about 670 000 head, and all wildlife species that you will find inside state controlled areas you will also find in private ownership, even the big five. From conservation of endangered species point of view, private ownership to a larger extent has become the key. Investment in species such as rhino, sable, roan and disease-free buffalo, has created a lucrative market resulting in sharp increases in the number of these species.
Furthermore, because these species are spread across the country, their chances of survival are now greatly improved. Thus, whereas South Africa through its initiative in state controlled parks have been leading the world in saving endangered species in the sixties and seventies, private sector ownership is now continuing with the daunting task and in some areas prove to be even more successful.