Financial Mail : It's not a game

Discussions on how hunters are affected by gun laws.

Financial Mail : It's not a game

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2007-08-21 15:04

It's not a game
Financial Mail (South Africa)
Hunting Industry; Challenges; 64
August 10, 2007
Byline: Sherry Shannon

It's not a game Peter Flack, the former corporate lawyer and business turnaround specialist, owns Bankfontein Reserve, a 3500ha game farm in the Eastern Cape, and laughs off the popular notion that the business is a licence to print money.

I started because I was passionate about wildlife, says Flack, but the biggest problem over the past few years has been the drop in overseas trophy hunters from about 9000 to about 6000. This translates into a loss to the industry of R300m R400m. Most of these foreigners are going instead to Namibia, SA's main competitor for hunting. Flack blames three sources of negative publicity for this shift. First, inevitably, is crime, which frightens off many potential visitors to SA. Then there is bureaucracy. There were instances of people spending four or five hours at airports getting their guns registered under the Firearms Control Act. People would miss connecting flights. Though the situation has improved, the perceptions remain. Third, incidents of fraud by local professional hunters who lead tourist parties have discouraged foreign visitors. The Professional Hunters Association of SA has taken very strict steps against these individuals, but the harm has been done, Flack says.

He adds that SA has done an incredibly shoddy job in marketing the country and its ranches and he believes the bigger game farms those of 10000ha or more have the best chance of good profits.

Then there is canned lion hunting which, despite being outlawed earlier this year, still persists. The ones who make the most money are the ones that offer canned lion hunting. A lion is given food and the client is driven up to it on a truck and shoots it. He then goes home and makes up a story accordingly. Mark Bristow and business partner Les Johnston owned Pidua, a 10000ha reserve in Limpopo, for 10 years, until 2006. Bristow says they restored the reserve with indigenous flora and fauna but gave it up when a land claim was instituted. Bristow says he is considering another farm in the Eastern Cape.

At Pidua, he and Johnston introduced a rhino breeding programme, which did well. The ranch offered exclusive hunting packages to individual clients. We would allow one hunter at a time sometimes the client would bring his family and then allow him exclusive use of the place. For a normal hunt we would charge US$500 $800, plus a charge for the animals shot. For a buffalo hunt the charge would be $15000. Bristow says the business is capital intensive but, if managed well, will pay for itself. He employed about 15 people on Pidua. Bristow agrees that the image of the game ranching industry as a money spinner is inaccurate. It takes seven to eight years, then it starts to become attractive. The challenge is the management of a big property. Once you have fences up, you are obliged to intervene for instance, to keep numbers down. You can't simply let things take their course. Shannon Sherry
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