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Hunters set sights on busy season

Kudu ban lifted in some areas with restrictions as limits set for species

MEC for Finance Sakhumzi Somyo
MEC for Finance Sakhumzi Somyo
Image: Mark Andrew

Eastern Cape game hunters are predicting a bumper hunting season – despite the drought – with the hunting ban already lifted in certain areas.

The kudu hunting ban has been lifted with restrictions in Steytlerville, Cathcart, Stutterheim and Khomga.

The province’s hunting season is between June and August, with some areas restricted to hunt for only a portion in those months.

Each year, the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism releases a provincial hunting proclamation stating restrictions on the number of animals, and certain species, allowed to be shot per hunter.

Last year, hunting kudu in areas hard hit by the drought such as the Steytlerville district, as well as a handful of others, was banned – due to the drought killing off animals.

According to the latest figures, the national hunting industry brings in about R8.8-billion a year.

About R1.9-billion comes from international hunters and about R6.9-billion from domestic hunters, known as biltong hunters.

Of this, the Eastern Cape game industry is estimated to pocket between R600-million and R700-million a year.

A copy of the 2018 Hunting Proclamation, signed by Environmental Affairs MEC Sakhumzi Somyo, reveals that a kudu hunting ban has, however, been placed on East London, Kei Mouth and Macleantown areas.

The proclamation still has to be gazetted, probably in the next two months.

The move by the department to restrict hunting in certain areas – during the hunting season – is to ensure population control and growth.

East Cape Game Management Association chief executive Stappie Staphorst said a good hunting season was expected, despite some areas still being affected by the drought.

“Since last year there has been a little rain which has seen animal numbers increase. This is obviously good for hunting despite the bag limits in certain areas being heavily restricted,” he said.

“Some areas such as around Graaff-Reinet and Grahamstown are expected to see a very good season as they had some good rains.”

Staphorst said the drought often caused animals to die, resulting in the hunting ban being put in place to allow animal numbers to recover and increase in the affected areas.

Asked why a ban had been placed on kudu hunting in East London, Kei Mouth and Macleantown areas, Staphorst said kudu had been moved into those areas only recently.

“These animals need time to establish themselves in these areas and populate.”

Wildlife Ranching South Africa’s Eastern Cape chairman Gerhard Heyneke said it was expecting an excellent season.

“All indications of the marketing done overseas are that it will be a busy and positive hunting season,” he said.

Asked how the hunting season affected ranching, Heyneke said it was a big influence on the breeding industry.

“Progressively, more of the game bred on farms [is] hunted every year,” he said.

“The income generated by local biltong hunters amounts to R6.9-billion annually, while international hunters generate R1.9-billion.

“We believe that these figures will continue to grow and increase in the future.”

The hunting restrictions are based on several factors, including reports from each region’s farmers’ associations.

Heyneke said the various farmers’ associations usually indicated where animals were affected due to drought, disease or insufficient numbers – leading to the restrictions.

“The western part of the Eastern Cape had huge losses in plains game animals and it will take some time to recover the numbers.

“In this highly affected area, trophy hunting will be a challenge for a few seasons.

“Some of the older animals, that usually are the beautiful trophies, die first during a drought,” he said.

However, enclosed farms with proper game fencing and legal certification are allowed to hunt all year round, and are responsible for their own game management.

Heyneke said that a hunting ban is put in place to allow animals time to recover and multiply – ensuring animals for the trophy hunting market.

“The pressure is therefore removed from these breeding herds. However, it cannot last forever and these decisions to ban or to lift a ban are taken in consultation with the entire farming community.

“Due to various factors, the game industry has experienced low price levels. Supply and demand play a major role, but drought has also had a much greater impact than most people realise.

“With the necessary diversification, the game farming industry can recover to a strong and growing industry.”

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