To be honest, there is so much twaddle written on this subject by so many people that should and often do know better that I normally ignore most of it but the recent press release by Professor Peet van der Merwe of the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University begs just too many questions. Based on a mere 493 responses to questionnaires produced by him where, so I am told, a number of the questions posed were objected to on the grounds they were ambiguous, he makes a number of mind-boggling statements set out in inverted commas below:
- “No other term has dominated the hunting industry in the last couple of years as much as ‘colour variant hunting’.”
Not unless you exclude ‘canned hunting’ but then, in my humble opinion, these phrases are two sides of the same coin. There is definitely no hunting or conservation involved in canned killing and seldom in killing a domesticated, intensively bred, unnatural colour variant, usually brought up in a small enclosure and no more capable of feeding itself, breeding naturally or escaping its predators than the man in the moon.
- “The majority of respondents (81%) from the hunters’ survey from which the report was formulated indicated they never hunted colour variants, while 19% said they have … in 2015.” The colour variants that have been hunted most by local hunters are white Blesbok (92%), black Impala (75%), golden Oryx (75%), golden blue Wildebeest (75%) and black Springbok (62%).”
The professor believes there are 200 000 local hunters as opposed to the 300 000 estimated by Free State University. Nevertheless, using his numbers, if the survey were remotely representative of the country as a whole, it would mean that at least 57 000 colour variants were shot in 2015. Seeing that there are less than 500 intensive breeders in the country based on the recent Endangered Wildlife Trust survey, which we will get to later, that means over 1 100 colour variants per breeder. Really? Are you serious?In the recent Consolidated Draft Report of the National Dialogue Workshop on Selective and Intensive Breeding of Colour Variants dated 25 February 2016, the Wildlife Ranching Association of South Africa advised that, in 2012, the number of the top ten colour variants in the whole country amounted to 5 668 animals in total.
I asked the professor if 75% of the 19% of local hunters participating in the survey had shot black impala, golden oryx and golden wildebeest as he claimed, how many in total were shot and where? Despite promising to do so by Monday last week, the professor failed to do so.
I am not saying that one or two accounts might not have slipped by unnoticed but, to date, I have not read a single account in any of the major, local hunting magazines of anyone hunting a black impala, golden oryx or golden wildebeest, let alone some of the other intensively bred and most definitely genetically manipulated, unnatural colour variants. I would assume that the breeders offering these animals – I do not use the word ‘game’ to describe them – would be very interested in seeing these stories published, not only to promote their offerings but to convince those Doubting Thomases out there like me that they were not engaged in a pyramid scheme without end-users.
- “They are much more open to hunting these animals than previously thought.”
I asked the professor on what he based this statement because, when I last looked, every major hunting association in the world was opposed to the killing of intensively bred and domesticated wildlife for the purpose of creating exaggerated horn lengths and unnatural colour variants, including the Boone & Crockett Club in America, CIC – The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation in Europe, the Nordic Safari Club in Scandinavia, SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association in South Africa, with nearly 40 000 members the largest body of its kind in Africa, and the Namibian Professional Hunters Association. In addition, neither of the two major international record books will allow the entry of these colour variants in their books. I did not receive an answer to this question either.
- “It is estimated that there are 200 000 local hunters, meaning 40- plus hunters had hunted colour variants in 2015.”
I asked the professor to explain this statement as it did not make sense to me. I mean, what is ‘40- plus hunters’? As I pointed out, the claim that local hunters shot 57 000 colour variants last year was, quite simply, unadulterated rubbish. To give the reader some perspective of the scale of the issue here, all the overseas hunters who visited South Africa in 2014, some 7 400 in total, together shot some 45 000 head of game, virtually none of which were colour variants.I put it to the professor that his survey and the conclusions drawn from it were not worth the paper they were printed but have not had a response from him.
- “The majority of hunters agree that there is a future for colour variant hunting.”
See my comments under paragraph 2 above.
- “Colour variants occur naturally in the veld and are not genetically altered.”
Oh please! I would have thought that someone as interested as the professor in the subject would have read Game & Hunt, the intensive breeders’ magazine, with over one hundred full colour pages of adverts extolling the virtues of dozens of different colour variants, including some 20 different springbok colour variations, most of which were most definitely genetically manipulated.
- “The hunting of colour variants by local hunters are (sic) price-dependent. If correctly priced, they will hunt colour variants.”
Seeing as most of these colour variants are too valuable to be allowed to roam the veld and are usually kept in small, electrically fenced paddocks for veterinary, feeding, breeding and protection purposes, it is difficult to see where hunting comes in for starters. Of course, if the price is reduced to that of normal game then people may cull them in these enclosures for the meat but most knowledgeable cullers would be concerned that the meat might contain anti-biotics or growth hormones, the absence of which is a major contributory factor supporting why most people like to eat venison.I really do not want to be rude to Professor van der Merwe or attack his promotion of colour variants as I have been told that a number of intensive game breeders, in the Eastern Cape in particular, are clients of his but to make the broad statements that he has, based on survey of a mere 493 people out of 200 000 to 300 000 hunters – less than a quarter of one per cent – is to beg the questions I have asked and, in my humble opinion, the statements made based on this ‘survey’ are at best irresponsible and at worst not worthy of any scientist and academic in a position such as his.