Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


Trophy hunting: Controversy or lifeline for SA’s wildlife economy?

Trophy hunting divides opinion but offers stability to struggling lodges amid financial uncertainty.

South Africa’s wildlife industry is a cornerstone of economic vitality, with hunting emerging as a significant revenue driver, according to recent revelations.

Despite its economic promise, the sector faces a multitude of challenges, underscoring the need for comprehensive reforms and strategic partnerships to maximise its potential.

Trophy hunting stable income source for some lodges

But for some, this contentious practice has emerged as a surprising saviour. Despite its polarising nature, trophy hunting has become a stable income source for some lodges, offering a lifeline amid financial uncertainty.

Like many wildlife reserves around the world, Tshivhula Game Lodge faces a dual challenge of balancing conservation efforts with financial sustainability.

In this delicate dance, where the well-being of ecosystems intertwines with the demands of operational costs, the decision to embrace trophy hunting has proven to be a pragmatic, if controversial, solution.

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A recent report unveiled staggering figures: domestic hunters alone contributed approximately $700 million (about R13 million at yesterday’s rate) to the industry in 2018, while foreign hunters added approximately $123 million to the offers.

This was stated in a report by the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment, said its wildlife economy director, Lactitia Tshitwamulomoni.

This robust financial injection, totalling an estimated R15.5 billion, underscores the substantial role that hunting plays in bolstering SA’s economy.

However, amid this economic promise lies a landscape fraught with obstacles. Insufficient government endorsement and regulatory frameworks, coupled with a lack of access to land and resources, hinder the industry’s growth potential. Inadequate infrastructure development further exacerbates the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and stakeholders alike.

“South Africa produces 59 000 tons of game meat and exports just over 3 000 tons of the 3 900 exported by the African continent,” Tshitwamulomoni added.

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“South Africa ranks number one in Africa in terms of game meat tonnage produced and revenue generated from game meat. The country generates $12 million out of the $14 million generated by the whole of Africa.”

More than 145 000 people employed

She noted that the industry employs more than 145 000 people “and it could do more unless it remains untransformed”.

“Participants do not represent the demographics of the country. Trophy and biltong hunters contributed a combined R13.6 billion to the South African economy in 2016-2017, creating 31 500 jobs in just three provinces.”

The report also sheds light on the untapped potential of the industry among black consumers and communities.

With proper support and empowerment initiatives, there’s a golden opportunity to broaden participation and ownership in the sector, thereby fostering greater inclusivity and economic empowerment.

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Food insecurity

Furthermore, the socioeconomic benefits of hunting extend beyond mere financial gains. Game meat sales and donations to communities play a key role in addressing food insecurity, with SA producing 59 000 tons of game meat annually.

Moreover, the industry serves as a significant employer, generating employment opportunities for over 145 000 individuals and contributing to economic growth and inequality reduction.

Despite these achievements, the sector grapples with systemic challenges, including a lack of transformation and representation across demographics.

Calls for a paradigm shift

Calls for a paradigm shift echo throughout the industry, which advocates for sustainable rural enterprises and community-driven initiatives that prioritise skills development, job creation and poverty reduction.

In response to these challenges, stakeholders emphasise the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and collaborative efforts.

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Building a robust wildlife economy requires a holistic approach, one that promotes sustainable practices, fosters inclusive growth and empowers communities as stewards of their natural resources.

As SA charts its course towards a more sustainable and equitable future, the hunting industry remains a crucial player in driving economic prosperity and conservation efforts.

With concerted action and strategic investments, the nation stands poised to unlock the full potential of its wildlife heritage for the benefit of its present and future generations.

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conservation economy environment hunting wildlife