“An independent look at the value of hunting as a conservation tool and how wild live has benefitted from the sport.” by Jacquie Geldart – “The wife of a cattle farmer and Professional hunter”
I know to some people, the thought of “hunting as a conservation tool” is like “fighting for peace”. It seems both ridiculous and impossible.
I used to feel that way too. I have grown up in Africa and my family has been here for generations. I grew up in Zimbabwe, where we tended to take seeing wildlife for granted. I moved to South Africa to attend University and stayed after marrying a South African man.
At that time in South Africa (1990’s), there was an abundance of wildlife in certain areas, but not in the farming areas. I was privy to many conversations between farmers in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where farmers were planning driven hunts to reduce the numbers of Bushbuck and Common Reedbuck as they were eating the winter feed planted for the livestock.
Within the next 8 years things started to change drastically. Hunting in South Africa suddenly became popular for the overseas hunters, and hunting outfitters, not allowed to hunt on state owned conservation land, were pushed to find enough animals to fill their quota. The untapped, naturally occurring animals, which had been free ranging on farming land became an overnight commodity.
Suddenly those Bushbuck and Common Reedbuck had an economic value. Definitely worth more than a sheep, and not so prone to be stolen, they were now seen as a viable alternative to stock farming. More winter-feed was grown, for the buck (smaller antelope) this time, not the domestic livestock. Numbers of the antelope grew steadily, farmers started to actively get involved in conservation of the natural species, and the management of the wildlife has become entrenched in farming policies. ALL THIS BECAUSE A MONETARY VALUE WAS GIVEN TO THESE ANIMALS.
Hunting in South Africa is very carefully controlled and very tightly legislated, to ensure sustainable usage. Game counts are done annually, permits for hunting have to be obtained from the wildlife conservation authorities, and careful management of the natural resources has become a working model.
No matter how much anti hunting lobbyists try to convince us that we can bring money into the country by building eco-tourism and having animals for visitors to see, it is a known fact that it takes numerous busloads of tourists paying at the gate of a game farm, to get the same amount of money that can be generated by one hunter who shoots one trophy animal.
Suddenly my interpretation of conservation and my adversity for hunting has been turned on its head, and now I say thank you to hunters every morning, as I look out of my bedroom window onto the slopes of a working COMMERCIAL BEEF FARM and see Blesbuck, Common Reedbuck, Waterbuck, Warthog and Kudu grazing on the hill, where ten years ago there were none.
Hunting as a conservation tool really is possible!