Hunters – Villains or Good Guys?
A topic that comes up on almost all our trips is that of hunters, are they good guys or bad guys? To understand what (legal) hunters are we need to understand a few things. A legal hunter is someone who has undertaken a training course in rifle handling and obtained the necessary permits and licenses. The legal aspects are as follows:
· Before a rifle (or any firearm for that matter) can be purchased a license is needed which is issued by the South African Police Services (SAPS).
· The SAPS will only look at this when the prospective buyer produces a ‘proficiency certificate’ from an accredited training institute. To be issued with this proficiency certificate you need to pass:
ü A test on the Fire Arms Control Act
ü Have undertaken a theoretical and practical evaluation
Once a firearm license has been issued a hunter then needs a permit (issued free) to hunt which is issued by the local Provincial Authority and will only be issued during the hunting season. This permit is only issued to a farmer/land owner who has game on his land and has had the local conservation authority on his farm to assess the amount of game present and the number of animals that can be ‘taken-off’.
That, in a nutshell, are the legal aspects.
There are also a number of reserves that specialize in hunting where interested hunters can go to satisfy their hunting needs. These reserves cater specifically for hunters and have all the facilities needed such as skinning sheds, cold rooms, skinners etc. Basically hunters fall into two categories; trophy or meat. Trophy hunters are looking for big horned animals that they can display on their walls while the ‘meat’ hunters are looking for good condition animals that they can use for meat, biltong etc.
Private landowners are also permitted to hunt on their farms once the legal requirements have been met regarding permits etc and this is where I tend to favor ‘land-owner-hunters’. Farmers who enjoy the odd bit of hunting tend to conserve areas specifically for the wild animals so that they have the necessary ‘space’ to live. Non-hunting land owners generally use as much of their land as possible for crops leaving no natural areas, they plant crops right up to roads and as close to natural forests, dams etc.
Hunting in South Africa is by no means cheap. Most of you have visited some of our game reserves and have seen, for example, the amount of impala that we have. An impala sells for $300 or roughly R2700, a warthog for $450 (R4050), Wildebeest $900 (R8100) and that is for common species. Some hunting outfitters now allow hunters to dart a rhino with an immobilizer whereby the hunter gets photographs next to his ‘downed’ animal and a replica is made of the horn so he still has something to display on his walls.
In conclusion any area, irrespective of how large or how small, with a fence around it requires population control. Some animals will have to be removed in order to maintain a balance and essentially there are three ways to do this; capture for resale, culling and hunting. Hunting is the most profitable and to my mind the least disturbing if done in an ethical manner.
My motivation for writing this post was not to try and sway you one way or the other but rather to get you thinking – are hunters villains or good guys?
Nigel Anderson – Guide for African Insight