Lynn Williams and David Macgregor
THE Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) raised R6.4-million for conservation initiatives at the annual game auction held near Grahamstown at the weekend.
Excited buyers flocked to the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve to view the animals on offer.
More than 70 buyers bid on some of the 350 animals up for sale, including buffalo, red hartebeest, black wildebeest, plains zebra, white rhino, giraffe and eland.
The surplus animals belonged to reserves such as Baviaanskloof, Fort Fordyce, Mpofu, Great Fish River, Oviston and Tsolwana.
Among the most expensive animals sold were a lot of five buffalo for R230000 and three rhinos for a total of R630000.
A giraffe and her calf were sold for R12600.
Poaching has been blamed for the disappointing rhino prices.
ECPTA’s Sybert Liebenberg said the decision to sell the last three remaining white rhino in Eastern Cape provincial parks was in line with policy to keep only animals that are indigenous to the region.
“Keeping rhino has become a huge security risk. Even though the prices for the rhino were very low we are satisfied with what we got,” he said.
Liebenberg said ECPTA had a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that whoever bought the rhino would not sell them on to hunters.
“Every rhino buyer gets vetted to ensure the animals will not be hunted,” he said.
Not even the antics of smooth- talking game auctioneer Roy “Choem” Hayes – who mixes Eastern Cape boet en swaer-style rap with stand-up comedy to coax buyers to dig deep in their pockets – could realise more than R550000 for a monster male buffalo with an impressive 114cm set of horns.
Although the animal – and another male with 94cm horns – were not sold on the auction, behind the scenes negotiations upped the price to R800000 for the bigger animal.
Apart from the poaching problem, overall low prices were also blamed on the global economic recession and high petrol costs to relocate the animals from seven parks around the province to their new homes on private game reserves.
ECPTA chair Vuyo Zitumane said every cent raised from the auction would be reinvested in conservation at provincial parks.