The inaugural World Wildlife Day (3rd of March) is an ideal opportunity for international conservation organisations and authorities to publicly acknowledge the role that big game hunting plays in the conservation of species and their natural habitat, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) said today.
Adri Kitshoff, PHASA chief executive, said that while trophy hunting is a highly emotional and often misunderstood industry, despite its value as a conservation mechanism having been quantifiably and historically demonstrated.
“We wouldn’t have white rhino today if it wasn’t for trophy hunting,” she said, adding that South Africa is home to almost 90% of all rhino. “Additionally, thanks to hunting our sable, bontebok, wild ostrich, Cape mountain zebra, black wildebeest and many other species have been brought back from the brink of extinction and have successfully been reintroduced into areas where they had become locally extinct.”
Kitshoff said that South Africa is a prime example of how wildlife can flourish provided there are laws that allow for both the private ownership of game and sustainable trophy hunting. “Fifty years ago there were four private game reserves in the country and a headcount of all our game would’ve numbered some 500 000. Today there are about 10 000 private game ranches, covering some 20.5 million hectares and home to an estimated 16 million head of game. By comparison, all South Africa’s national parks only cover 7.5 million hectares, which is home to an estimated 4 million head of game,” she said.
“Game has overtaken cattle, which now number only 14 million, and vast tracks of land, commercially unviable for photographic safaris, have been reclaimed from livestock-rearing and agricultural use for wildlife conservation. The health of our wildlife today is about the same as it was 100 years ago and this development, unmatched anywhere in the world, is almost exclusively due to the impact of trophy hunting.”
According to Kitshoff, most global conservation bodies support trophy hunting but are reluctant to do so publically out of fear of a backlash from animal rights activists and a misinformed public. She said that the recent public outburst over the Dallas Safari Club’s black rhino hunting permit auction, endorsed by the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), was a great opportunity for many of these organisations to help educate the public about the virtues of hunting. Instead it was left to the hunters to defend.
“Our plea to sensible conservation authorities is to stand up and publicly defend activities that have a substantial and measurable positive impact on our environment no matter how unpopular these may be with animal rights activists and the uninformed,” she said.
For further information contact Adri Kitshoff, PHASA chief executive, on +27 83 650 0442.