I don’t think I have ever been this saddened and disheartened about hunting and conservation in South Africa. Last week someone WhatsApped me from Israel and asked, “Did you see the new legislation in SA turning 33 wildlife species into farm animals? What does that mean? It sounds crazy!” My reply was short and to the point, “It sounds crazy because it is crazy. Almost the final nail in the conservation coffin in RSA.”
That this legislation has been driven by roughly the same wonderful people who brought you wildlife manipulated to produce domesticated animals with exaggerated horn lengths or with artificial colours (as well as canned killings), which have decimated the hunting community in South Africa, should come as no surprise because they do not care a fig about wildlife and wildlife habitat, merely the filling of their bank accounts.
It seems incredible to me that, despite all the previous clear predictions of what the effects of the above machinations would produce, followed by the reality of those predictions coming to pass i.e. overseas hunting numbers falling from over 16 000 to barely above 8 000 and the loss of billions of Rands to the economy, they have worked behind the South scenes to influence politicians, obviously including the president, himself an intensive game breeder as well as a breeder of Ankole cattle, which have also been included in the new legislation, to create the wherewithal to hammer the final nail into hunting in Africa with its concomitant damage to conservation in the country.
Hullo out there! Is anyone listening? Has the penny still not dropped? No hunter wants to hunt domesticated animals! No hunter wants to hunt domesticated animals in small paddocks! No hunter wants to hunt domesticated animals let alone those whose breeding has been tampered with! Have they learnt nothing from the disastrous effects of past manipulated breeding, domestication of wildlife and canned killing?
Overseas hunters (who have been the engine pulling the conservation train in South Africa), have stayed away in their droves refusing to be tainted by these machinations and/or having their hunting reputations damaged or destroyed by inadvertently being conned into “hunting” one of these freaks and, I would hazard an educated guess having spoken to many of them, as an indication of their intense dislike for these horrible practices. Now the government has given free rein to all and sundry to apply domestic livestock breeding and inter-breeding practices on 33 species of wildlife. Really? Yes, really! What is next? The cloning of once wild animals?
The capacity of government to almost instinctively choose the wrong path forward has again been ably demonstrated by this latest legislative move. That they have done so without consultation with those most directly affected; that it conflicts with the intent of other legislation already on the statute books; that it is being heavily criticised around the world in conservation and hunting circles; that agricultural legislation is clearly being manipulated and used for purposes for which it was not intended; all tends to fly in the face of logic, especially where the only beneficiaries are a small handful of wealthy individuals. And when logic has excluded all other reasons, what is left must be the truth. Given the above, is it wrong to think that this is yet another case of state capture?
I mean, has an independent cost benefit analysis of the legislation been done? Has there been an independent audit of the Department of Agriculture to establish whether they have the capacity to implement it? And if so, which I very much doubt, who did the studies, when and what did the reports show?
It is not often that I have found myself in agreement with any aspect of the usual drivel by the animal extremist, Pinnok, but his piece in Daily Maverick dated 16 October 2019, was spot on. Where I differ from him, however, is in the inevitable consequences of the legislation in the long run.
If we can agree that hunting has been the major force behind, firstly, the recovery of game numbers in this country over the last sixty years or so – from some 557 000 head of game to nearly 19 million – and the huge growth in land under game – from a negligible amount to some 21 million hectares – then, surely, we must accept that the contraction of hunting, for whatever reason, is going to have the reverse effect. And already the effects of this can be seen on the ground. Scores of game ranches for sale at rock bottom prices. Game ranches reverting to domestic livestock farming. Professional hunters, taxidermists and others who depend on hunting, directly and indirectly, for their livelihoods, battling to stay afloat.
I am glad that I have reached the age I am and will not live to see the full effects of this disastrous and damaging piece of legislation on the once proud, hunting led, quiet South African conservation revolution, which gave rise to the South African Conservation Success Story.