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janzin

Interesting Article on Game Ranching in South Africa and its consequences

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This article in Ensia magazine (an environmental/conservation publication) concerns the environmental impact of commercial game farming in South Africa--something I never really knew existed at this level. Full disclosure, this was written by a friend of mine--a South African who used to live here in NYC and who I birded with on occasion, who has since moved back to South Africa.

 

http://edge.ensia.com/fenced-in/

 

I am just posting as I think this may be of interest to some--I am not drawing any conclusions.

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janzin:

 

I think your friend has produced a very balanced article on the subject. I did, indeed, find it very interesting and it tended to confirm and, in some cases, to extend the information that I gleaned on my recent trip to Bushmanland, which is now the subject of a trip report. I will add further thoughts on the subject at the end of that report.

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@@douglaswise I don't have a problem with game ranching per se. I do have a serious problem with hunting endangered species, canned lion hunting and unethical

hunters who break the rules. Furthermore, I can't understand how anyone could advocate for ending the ivory ban. I've even seen professional hunters call for a return

to culling!!! I'd like to know from where.

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@optig:

 

Elephants have two problems in Africa compression and reduction of range is probably the most important overall and poaching represents another major problem. The relative importance of the two varies between countries. Over half of all savanna elephants live in Zimbabwe and Botswana. Unfortunately, elephant populations can increase their numbers by 5%/annum. There is overwhelming evidence that, in some areas of Zimbabwe, for example, elephants are present in surplus numbers and are destroying their habitats. Eventually, of course, populations will self regulate their numbers by extra mortality, increased inter-calving intervals or by migration to, probably, areas that bring them into conflict with humans. Unfortunately, the self-regulation achieved by the arrival of maximum carrying capacity occurs well past the stage of sustainable long-term carrying capacity. Furthermore, maximum carrying capacity, itself, will constantly reduce with increasing habitat damage. If one doesn't cull in such areas or make extra habitat available, one will lose one's elephants anyway and they won't come back any time soon because the habitat will be desertified.

 

When professional hunters call for a return to culling, you should, at least, consider that they are probably doing so for reasons of compassion and care for the environment. If one accepts the logic of culling, the case for a legalised ivory trade becomes more compelling. However, in the past, the proceeds gained tended to go to governments (or into the pockets of corrupt politicians and officials) with little going back to the front line. Were such a scenario to be repeated following a possible resumption in trade, there would be little benefit for elephant conservation. However, it is not impossible to imagine a corruption-free trading system where most of the the proceeds of ivory sales went to the front line and with healthy chunks of such passing from surplus countries to other states experiencing severe poaching and needing more funding to combat it. This, of course, is a big ask and could never happen. Thus, the pro and anti-trade arguments are finely balanced. However, I would ask you to consider what would happen if the antis succeeded totally in destroying demand (again, something that might never happen). Before too long, elephant populations would recover in all range readily available to them to levels representing maximum sustainable carrying capacities and, thereafter, would continue to expand to habitat damaging levels. If demand for ivory has been destroyed in the meantime, Africa will have lost a very valuable source of conservation income, but, perhaps, up to 35000-40000 animal will need to be culled annually just to protect remaining habitat.

 

You are, of course, entitled to your own opinions. I only ask that you try to understand why differing ones are not necessarily an indication of unbridled evil.

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Very interesting article @@janzin. I have read many articles on the breeding of wild animals in South Africa and undoubtedly this is one of the most telling. Almost all of us have a tendency to mirror ourselves in the past, and thus want nature to return to being what has gone. Pioneering in any activity faces many pressures to the contrary. As we have done in the past with our current domestic animals in search of better adapted animals and suitable to our best use, the breeding of wild animals will also lead, at an accelerated pace, to new practical concepts of conservation, as well as to ethical, environmental questions And, in particular, genetic.It is surprising the power that geneticists have in impacting measures positively or not the preservation of subspecies. There are many conservation myths explicit in the report that will be questioned ... Variant colors and subspecies have been in evidence for years awaiting prophylactic measures by the South African government. It is necessary to make adjustments, to follow the unfoldings and tendencies of this economy in ascension and expansion. However, government lethargy only makes it present when actions are already a problem. I have no doubt that this industry, used for practical conservation measures, can reverse this rising wave of numerical animal losses across Africa. The future reallocation / reintroduction market is quite promising. "Nothing more correct than what was said in his final paragraph".

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Posted (edited)

@@Douglas Wise https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/10/10-selfish-reasons-to-save-elephants

 

Modern research confirms that it's a myth that elephants destroy their environment-rather they begin the process of rebuilding it. The trees torn down by elephants are still growing, that is the roots and the branches therefore contributing to the environment as well. Perhaps I'm being overly idealistic but when there are too many elephants confined to one place the idea should be to let them migrate to another place without having too many encounters with humans. This is what Botswana is currently attempting to do with KAZA.

 

Furthermore, I do think that it's impossible to have any trade in ivory without considerable corruption. I can't see culling as being anything other than legalized poaching. Please consider that the Smith Regime carried out massive culling to generate income, as it was boycotted by, practically every nation in the world and forced to trade on the back market.

Edited by optig

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@@Douglas wise I learned long ago in 15 trips to Hong Kong before the historic 1989 CITES ivory ban that at least 95% of the so called ivory for sale was in fact worthless plastic. Furthermore, only an expert could tell the difference. If all those tons of "ivory" for sale in Hong Kong were in fact real, then there wouldn't be a single elephant living in Africa. This is why I'm completely against any trade in ivory because any loophole or exceptions will only lead to more poaching and fewer elephants. Please consider what happened in 2008 when CITES agreed to let Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe sell their reserves of ivory and it led to a huge increase in poached ivory being sold from so called legal stocks of ivory.

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@@janzin - is this the same Adam Welz who works for or runs the NGO, WildAid in South Africa?

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@@Douglas wise I learned long ago in 15 trips to Hong Kong before the historic 1989 CITES ivory ban that at least 95% of the so called ivory for sale was in fact worthless plastic. Furthermore, only an expert could tell the difference. If all those tons of "ivory" for sale in Hong Kong were in fact real, then there wouldn't be a single elephant living in Africa. This is why I'm completely against any trade in ivory because any loophole or exceptions will only lead to more poaching and fewer elephants. Please consider what happened in 2008 when CITES agreed to let Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe sell their reserves of ivory and it led to a huge increase in poached ivory being sold from so called legal stocks of ivory.

Just how the presence of plastic and fakes will have any influence on increasing poaching is beyond me.

 

Please provide scientific material that backs up your claim that the 2008 ivory auction caused an increase in poaching. It is international accepted that the sale, in the form of a once off auction with two buyers and a subsequent ban, was a foolhardy market concept. BUT - there were plenty of other market drivers that could have resulted in the increase in poaching, and all these factors have to be considered when doing an analysis. It could have been because I ordered a pizza in 2008 that resulted in the increase in ivory poaching..

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https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/13/legal-ivory-sale-drove-dramatic-increase-in-elephant-poaching-study-shows

 

@@Bugs this article is just one example of many. My point about all the fake ivory shows exactly just how corrupt and dishonest all sales of ivory are and that it should not be not allowed. No, I'm not arguing about hunting I'm talking about any sale of raw ivory.

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Lets avoid this post from also being diverted by @@optig and lets see if we can have a sensible discussion.

 

Firstly - I will admit that I have locked horns with Adam Welz before, and would like to congratulate him on making the effort to understand the wildlife industry, and for writing this fairly comprehensive article. I would recommend that Optig take time out to investigate the system in SA as he may find it enlightening.

 

I have jotted down a few issues that I want to cover about his perceptions and experiences that he drew from this auction.

  • Welz paints a picture of profiteering over wildlife - although there is a lot of money floating around, I must say that with my experience in the game farming industry, there is much more about "way of life". There are a number of elite and very shrewd ranchers who have made a fantastic and deserved success out of wildlife, but by far the majority are those who simply buy into wildlife ranching as a way of life. Most of these people subsidise their ranching through successful businesses, and dabble a little with the selective breeding and colour variants just to help pay the bills.
  • The reality about colour variants is that very few hunters are interested in hunting a colour variant. However the perception that there is an ultimate better market for these markets has caused people to speculate on your variants. its been a bit of a pyramid scheme, and some people have made money - which is good anyway, as it all contributes to people becoming interested in farming wildlife.. Remember that most of the colour variant breeding is done on the side in smaller camps, and a the important part it the vast amounts of land that get protected outside those camps. Also since the colour variant market was always going to end, it was never much of a worry for me, as they will breed the colours out as fast as they breed them in.
  • Cross breeding is another sore point within the wildlife ranching industry. But I know many ranchers have decided to keep their herds pure, because they know that when things change, their pure bred animals will be worth more because they are still pure. Cross breeding with bontebok and blesbok is an example. They have tightened the regulations and now only DNA tested Bontebok can be sold or moved. As a result the price of pure Bontebok shot up.
  • In the game ranching industry the understanding of intensive and extensive are vastly different to that of domestic livestock. Domestic livestock traditionally involves feedlots and cramped conditions. Intensive game ranching may still involve camps, but those camps are often pretty large, and the animals get a substantial amount of freedom.. I had to point this one out, as the topic does trigger substantial debate.
  • I am aware that pangolins are killed in electric fences, but it is indeed a rarity. In fact the presence of all these ranches and farms should have a net positive affect on pangolins, as opposed to a stock or crop farm.
  • The issue of wiping out of predators is probably a little dramatic. Yes predators are often not tolerated, but generally better tolerated than a small stock farmer would. Many game ranchers would happily welcome a leopard or a python, as the loss of one or two animals wouldnt break their bank in that case. Most high value wildlife, is kept in smaller enclosures that are predator proof anyway..
  • Another point - about the racial exclusivity. This point may have some merit, but the involvement in wildlife ranching is not prohibitive to people of colour. Vast amounts of land is owned by black people, and the incentives are there for anyone to be involved. Perhaps the reason why not many black people are involved in game ranching may lie somewhere else. Perhaps its not as profitable as everyone thinks, and the need for cross subsidisation from alternative sources may have something to do with it.

All said - i would like to encourage more people to get to understand how it works. The media has been unkind and painted every game rancher as a fat wealthy Afrikaner who exploits wildlife. I think that stereotype needs to be addressed, and in my experience in the wildlife ranching industry, I have met some of the most informed conservationists around, and people who have simply found a way to live their dream in the African bush surrounded by wildlife.

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@@optig I don't see what ivory trade has to do with game ranching: please, stay on topic.

 

Matt

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To add to this topic - Here is a recent article in the farmers weekly

 

Cattle farmers learn how to farm game

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@@Bugs I never once said that I was against game ranching in South Africa per se, My comments were about other issues

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@@janzin - is this the same Adam Welz who works for or runs the NGO, WildAid in South Africa?

Yes, I know he has worked for them, not sure if he still does or not.

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@@janzin - is this the same Adam Welz who works for or runs the NGO, WildAid in South Africa?

Yes, I know he has worked for them, not sure if he still does or not.

 

 

I am guessing that WildAid wont be too pleased with the article written. Perhaps he no longer works for them, as it alludes to mention that in his bio.

 

Either way, I would like to congratulate him for his open mindedness and the effort he made to visit and learn about the ranching industry. I have never visited one of these auctions before, but know that they are frequented by the heavy hitters in the industry. Most wildlife ranchers simply stock their reserves through service providers, and many are not involved in high value wildlife. Possibly because the barrier to entry is so high. However the existence of the market sports far more than a number of privateers, it also is a useful way for tourism based reserves to get extra funds. Most of the big private reserves, like Phinda, Shamwari, Timbavati etc will get a little extra funds from game sales. State owned parks also sell surplus wildlife which means that the benefits can be had by everyone.

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