How much it costs to hunt the Big Five in South Africa

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A new report compiled by the US Democrats Natural Resources Committee outlines how hunting is hurting wildlife populations more than helping save them – as is often cited as the reason to allow the practice.

In its report, titled “Missing the Mark”, the NRC notes that money paid to nations like South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to hunt wildlife does little to aid conservation, thanks to poor levels of management in wildlife programmes.

The report said that despite the justification of aiding conservation, populations of the animals most sought after (specifically the ‘big five’) have seen massive decline, with certain species (such as the Northern Black rhino) on the brink of extinction.

“On paper, all four countries examined in this report have equally strong frameworks for ensuring that trophy hunts benefit species conservation. Unfortunately, the implementation of these frameworks has in many cases been marred by corruption and has not produced the advertised and desired results,” the NSC said.

“Even in countries with better execution of wildlife conservation plans, significant questions remain about whether or not trophy hunting is sustainable.”

The NSC noted that keeping track of wildlife data is difficult, as many of the countries base their figures on old data, or are completely unreliable in their reporting.

Declining wildlife populations

  • African Elephant – 420,000 – 650,000
  • White Rhino – fewer than 16,000
  • Black Rhino – fewer than 5,000
  • Leopard – undetermined, but fewer than 4,000 (South Africa), 14,000 (Namibia)
  • African Lion – fewer than 20,000

The report also outlined the average cost of hunting the “big five” – one of the biggest hunting draws on the continent – which ranges between R2.8 million and R4.4 million-plus to get the whole ‘set’.

  • Lion – $8,500-$50,000
  • Elephant – $25,000-$60,000
  • White Rhino – $125,000+
  • Leopard – $15,000-$35,000
  • Buffalo – $12,500-$17,000
  • Average cost – $186,000 – $287,000+

Looking specifically at South Africa, the NSC pointed out that the country is one of the more effective when it comes to hunting and conservation, but raised the issue of rhino poaching which South Africa has failed to stop.

According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), South Africa has lost more than R1.3 billion to rhino poaching since 2008.

“Wildlife management in South Africa is generally better funded than in many other places on the continent, but the country’s wildlife population has been hit hard by poaching in recent years, particularly with respect to its white rhino population,” the group said.

“While trophy hunting industry proponents assert that the presence of hunting operations deters poaching, there is no evidence of such an effect. Rhino poaching has soared during the last decade even as the South African government has encouraged trophy hunting.”

The report also noted that South Africa has recently come under increasing fire for allowing the practice of canned hunting – and has also fallen victim in recent years to a phenomenon known as “pseudo-hunting,” whereby individuals associated with wildlife trafficking rings participate in legally permitted hunts for white rhino with the intention of selling the trophy for profit.

Game hunting in South Africa

A poll run by BusinessTech in 2015 found that 63% of South Africans would be in favour of hunting being banned in South Africa.

However, imposing such ban would have far-reaching, detrimental consequences for one of the country’s biggest industries.

Game hunting is a multi-billion rand industry in South Africa, bringing in over R6.6 billion in various sectors tied directly to the industry (such as the purchasing of permits, meat processing, taxidermy etc), while also boosting other industries such as tourism.

According to the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA), game hunting keeps hundreds of businesses going, employing thousands, while also funding conservation projects in the country.

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