South Africa has been rocked over the last two years
with rhino poaching soaring to unheard of levels in South Africa.
This is having a very negative effect on the private game ranching
industry. Whereas the sale of live rhino (both black and white) has
been vibrant three and more years ago, live sales have virtually
come to a complete standstill. Land owners are now just too scared
to invest a lot of their money on an animal that stands a good
chance of being poached.
This is going to have a very negative effect on
rhino population numbers in the medium to long term. I have thought
long and hard about this problem.
Sometimes the answer to perplexing problems stare us
in the face and we fail to recognize them. We tend to fall back on
ways we have tried to address a problem in the past and continue in
the same old way knowing inherently that it will not solve the
problem or make it go away.
A few months ago a rather strange thought came to
mind. Why arent (domestic) cows on the endangered list? Or domestic
pigs, goats, sheep or chickens for that matter. All of these species
are in huge demand. Millions literally of these animals / birds
are consumed worldwide on a daily basis yet they are not in danger
of becoming extinct! Why then are black rhino, wild dog, ground
hornbills, and thousands of other wildlife species teetering on the
The answer was immediately apparent it was so
obvious that most of us miss it! It is all about that old age
business principle of supply and demand. If a "commodity" is in
demand and is supplied a lively "economy" is put into effect. As
long as the commodity is produced in a sustainable way there will
always be a market for it. The "penny dropped" because domestic
livestock is in worldwide demand people produce cattle, sheep, pigs,
goats and chickens to satisfy (even if it is only partially) the
demand. Because there is a demand they do not now decide that it is
economically unwise to carry on producing these species and stop
farming with them.
that is exactly what conservations and game ranchers are doing! I
like to think of it as a "lager mentality". Because we are losing
rhino (the same would apply to other species as well) we decide to
stop producing rhino because they are being poached. This logic or
lack of it is apparent once we realize what we are doing. Cows
(pigs, chickens, sheep, goats) are produced because there is a
demand for cows so more are produced to meet the demand not
less! That is why these animals are not on any list of endangered
I understand that landowners are reluctant to invest
large sums of money in animals that do stand a good chance of being
poached. But this is where official conservation agencies like the
provincial parks authorities and SANPARS could come to the party if
conservation is high on their list of priorities as we expect it
Some provincial and national parks have fairly large
populations of rhino. A recent survey in the Kruger National Park
indicated that there are
. white rhino and
. black rhino. I am
not going to divulge exact numbers because game counts are at best
estimated but suffice to say there are significant numbers of these
two species in the Park. One of the ways that we can counter
poaching is to "not have all our eggs in one basket" and to
The rhino in the Kruger Park are being heavily
poached at this point in time. So heavily in fact that section and
field rangers have been unable to contain it and the help of the
SADF has been called in to assist. One of the reasons that poaching
will become more focused on the Park is that the number of rhino on
private game ranches is decreasing. Because of the size of the Park
it is very difficult to police effectively and its location
bordering on Mozambique in the east and Zimbabwe in the north make
it particularly vulnerable to poaching.
One way in which SANParks could effectively
contribute towards the long term conservation of rhino as well as
other species is to distribute their assets, not only to other
Parks, but to private game ranches as well. But what must SANParks
do if no one wants to buy rhino any longer because of the fear of
losing the investment?
The answer is to think innovatively. Give the rhino
to game ranchers who have proved their commitment to conservation.
By now all the SANPark financial and conservation managers are
having apoplectic fits. Calm down and pick yourselves up off the
Give the rhino away but under certain conditions.
What conditions? Well they may come up with other suggestions but
here are some to begin with.
There are enough rhino in the KNP to remove some
to other locations without negatively impacting on the
populations themselves. In fact it is sometimes advisable to
reduce population densities in the interest of increasing
Landowners, to whom an adult pair of rhino are
donated, must cover the capture and translocation fees.
An agreement is signed whereby the first calf
born to a breeding pair is donated back to SANParks if they
want it. All calves born thereafter become the property of the
landowner. SANParks to cover the capture and translocation fees
back to a national park of their choosing.
No rhino of a donated breeding pair may be
hunted until the pair have produced two calves.
The original breeding pair may not be sold or
translocated until they have produced two young.
An agreement is signed whereby the landowner
undertakes to implement a comprehensive security plan to protect
the rhino and may be subject to a periodic security audit.
What are the benefits of this sort of cooperative
agreement? Well it is a win win situation.
Assets are distributed. Having breeding
populations of rhino (or any other species for that matter)
spread around the country is a better and ultimately safer
option than having populations concentrated in one spot. Not
only in terms of poaching but also in terms of disease control.
SANParks can replace rhino from donated
populations, in the future, if it becomes necessary. There will
be no cost charged for the animal itself.
We will get out of the "lager mentality" and
start producing more rhino not less. It will therefore benefit
rhino in the long term.
Only older animals that have already produced at
least two young will be hunted.
Landowners will not be able to exploit the
situation for pure financial gain in the short term but will
earn this privilege by first putting back into conservation
before taking out of it.
Smaller reserves are easier to police. In some
well managed private reserves rare or endangered animals are
"shadowed 24/7". This means they literally have an armed guard
looking after them 24 hours a day ever day of the week. This is
impractical on large reserves.
The bottom line is that it will be disastrous at
this stage to implement conservation strategies which will reduce
the incentive to increase wildlife populations and everything should
be done by conservation agencies provincial and national as well
as private game ranching enterprises to STEP UP production. If
there is a demand for more cows to eat the answer is to produce more
cows not less. If rhino are being poached we should not decrease
production we should increase it. If this means a relaxation of some
of the laws pertaining to private game ranching then so be it. The
more restrictive conservation agencies are with regards to ranching
with wildlife the less motivation there will be for private
landowners to go that route or to continue farming with wildlife.
Something else we should guard against is allowing
the price of game to spiral out of control whether it be for live
sale or for hunting. We are beginning to see the consequences of
Landowners not being prepared to pay high prices for
game for fear of it being poached or caught by predators. This is
also negatively affecting predator populations. Landowners that have
expensive animals on their properties dont want predators.
Cheney is a
wilderness trail leader, rated field guide instructor
and the author of many leading articles on the subjects
of tracking, guiding, bowhunting and survival. Cleve has unrivalled experience in wildlife management, game capture and hunting, both with bow and rifle.
Click here to visit his site
Asking too much for animals to be hunted is now also
negatively impacting on the hunting industry as, fueled by the slump
in the world economy, there are more hunters both domestic and
foreign, showing a resistance to paying high hunting prices. Greed
has a nasty sting in the tail! Keep prices moderate not cheap or
exorbitantly expensive. Making things too cheap deprives them of
value. Making them too expensive prices them outside of what the
market is prepared to pay.
Lets be pragmatic.