2016 applicants for the Andre Wenham Bursary had to send in a short essay. The essay below was written by Julia Hollander the 2016 candidate.

“The Game Ranching Industry of South Africa and it’s contribution to biodiversity conservation” 

Game Ranching is the scientific management of many species of wild animals in their natural habitat – on large tracts of land without any effort to domesticate them (Pollock et al 1969). It is a controversial subject which has a multitude of conflicting ideologies and leads to ethical dilemmas. In this essay, I want to give an objective description of the major ideas which drive the game ranch industry in South Africa.

The Game Ranching Industry plays a conservation role as well as an economic role in South Africa. The largest income is generated by the hunting part of game ranches. Trophy hunting is the main contributor when generating revenue for game ranches. It is sustainable as well as low risk if managed well (Lindsey et al 2007). Trophy hunting contributes to endangered species conservation as well as the rehabilitation of natural areas therefore it generates income while still preserving wildlife growth. In actual fact, revenues produced from hunting alone have assisted in the recovery of the White Rhinoceros population. Trophy hunting produces more of an income than ecotourism. This is due to the fact that hunting is very low maintenance and has been known to have low disturbance, low fossil fuel use and low habitat destruction. There is also no reliance on development such as infrastructure.

Although Trophy hunting does help in conservation efforts, there are ethical, social and biological issues which affect conservation in the industry. Lindsay’s (2007) paper “Trophy Hunting and Conservation in Africa: Problems and One Potential Solution” makes the following salient points. Lindsay et al (2007) states that some trophy hunting activities plays a negative role in conservation and generates hostile public perception. This correlates with activities such as the shooting of vulnerable i.e. young or pregnant animas, the manipulation of animals by lure or baite and the practise of canned hunting which poses no possible means of escape for the animal being targeted. It is estimated that 90% of lions shot in South Africa are canned (Lindsay et al 2007). Some of the social issues include the unfair distribution of the revenue that is generated. Communities tend to get the smallest percentage of the revenue which discourages them to conserve the wildlife. Corruption is another issue which affects all levels of the industry, for example, government scouts are paid to overlook over shooting or politicians are paid to favour certain operators when granting concessions (Lindsay et al 2007).

The banning of trophy hunting has proven to have a negative effect on wildlife. It has even fast tracked the loss of wildlife as communities have lost their incentives to conserve wild animals. Therefore it is vital that bans are not put in place for trophy hunting. In order to manage the hunting practise, conservationists, governments and the game ranch industry needs to work together.

I agree with Lindsay’s (2007) suggestion to introduce the certification of operators as well as improving the regulatory and legislative frameworks for hunting. Lindsay et al (2007) states that a majority of US clients were unwilling to perform a hunt if conservation objectives were compromised. Linsay et al (2007) also goes on to state that 86% were more unwilling to purchase a hunt if local communities did not benefit. The certification of operators allows clients to choose an appropriate operator on the basis of their commitment to conservation as well as the incentives given to local communities. I believe that a database of certified hunting operators should be created in order to ensure responsible tourism and hunting practises. I also believe that incentive-based compliance from communities will only benefit wildlife conservation efforts.