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SOS Rhino : In the News : New law could hurt game farms

New law could hurt game farms

  Tuesday August 01, 2006 11:37 – (SA)

By Brian Hayward

The Eastern Cape's R1-billion game industry will face "financial ruin" if proposed legislation banning non-indigenous game species in the province is approved.

Among the animals on the chopping block are giraffe, nyala, blue wildebeest, white rhino, impala, letchwe, fallow deer, waterbuck, warthog and gemsbok.

The purpose of the proposed biodiversity Act is to protect the "genetic integrity" of the province's indigenous species.

Any animals seen to be a threat would be phased out gradually with the department working with role-players in the industry to come up with a viable solution, said Leseho Sello, national chief director for biodiversity and heritage at the department of environmental affairs and tourism.

The department is still debating exactly which species are to be considered foreign to the province , but according to written records these would include some of the province's most popular animals.

Sello said it had not yet been decided if banned game would be allowed to die out or if it would have to be moved out.

The Act will also give provincial authorities the power to prescribe which game is brought into the province by farmers and game ranches.

But game farmers and farming unions are up in arms over the government's attempt to interfere in their affairs.

East Cape Game Management chief executive officer Jokl le Roux said there was no evidence to show 'alien' game had negatively affected the environment.

"It's double standards by the government because there are many examples where domestic livestock have devastated the land," said Le Roux.

Research by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University game management head Pieter van Niekerk shows that about 240,000 game animals in the Eastern Cape are either hunted, culled for meat or sold live each year to a value of about R280-million.

The study also found that seven species of "exotic" game – letchwe, fallow deer, nyala, waterbuck, warthog, gemsbok and impala – account for almost 30 percent (R83-million) of the total income of the game industry in the Eastern Cape.

"If you take away 30% of any industry you will kill it," Van Niekerk said.

Rhodes University zoology professor Ric Bernard said the argument over which species were foreign or indigenous was a theoretical one.

"Our understanding of the distribution of mammals only dates back about 400 years," said Bernard. "We have no idea what happened before then and the argument is whether one should make decisions based on written records alone."

Arthur Rudman, chairman of the Eastern Cape International Hunting Outfitters Association - an organisation which markets hunting in the province internationally - said emphasis should rather be placed on effective game management.

Legislation banning certain species of game in the province would be met with legal action, warned Rudman.

But Rudman, who was part of a delegation which met with environmental affairs and tourism MEC Mbulelo Sogono last week, described the meeting as "fruitful and encouraging".

"We have been told that we will be part of decision-making processes," he said.

DEAT deputy director of regulatory and monitoring services, Pieter Botha, said no outright banning of game would occur without consultation with role-players in the industry.

Eastern Cape DEAT inspection unit head Jaap Pienaar said once the draft document had been compiled, public participation workshops would be held around the country.

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