The South African Constitution recognises this challenge and states that while conserving our biodiversity capital, we should also promote its responsible utilisation in support of economic and social development for current and future generations. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) has calculated that South Africa’s ecological goods and services are valued at R73 billion, equivalent to about 3% of the national GDP. Eco-tourism, hunting, game farming, bio-prospecting, bio-trade and the natural product markets all contribute to economic development and improving the quality of life of the people of South Africa, impacting positively on food security, job creation and poverty reduction. According to North West University (NWU), hunting and related activities such as, amongst others, taxidermists and the firearms industry, generated R7.7 billion in 2009. A more recent study by NWU found that the approximately 200 000 consumptive hunters in South Africa alone contributed R6.3 billion to the economy in 2013. This is a 13% increase from the 2010 season (R5.5 billion). Moreover, it is estimated that the industry also provides employment to some 140 000 people. The income from Trophy hunting for 2010 was determined as R557 million.
Functional ecosystems are critical for human well-being and sustainable economic growth. Natural areas and ecosystems are being pressurised increasingly to provide not only basic ecosystem services and livelihoods such as food, forage, fuel, building materials and water, but also to produce more tangible economic benefits. SAHGCA believes that the Wildlife Industry in general, and responsible hunting in particular, can achieve these triple-bottom-line profits, especially in the more arid ecosystems in SA and Africa where people are greatly affected by environmental vulnerability and poverty. As an example, people living in rural areas and around protected areas are very vulnerable to the impact of wild animals. When the animals that pass through their crops or cattle grazing area have a perceived value, humans protect them as they can justify making the trade-off between the damage caused and the potential economic value.
Responsible biodiversity utilisation, including hunting, therefore does not only generate jobs, but the income derived from it also acts as an incentive for biodiversity conservation. Game farmers currently protect vast tracts of land - more than double the size of proclaimed protected areas. More than 23% of the national rhino population finds a safe haven on privately-owned land. Hunting is a key income stream for many of these game farms, creating economic incentives for conservation over vast areas, including areas which may be unsuitable for alternative wildlife-based land uses.
In contrast with legal and responsible utilisation, there is increased plundering of South Africa’s biodiversity as demonstrated by the more than 1000 rhinos that were poached in South Africa in 2013. This trend is continuing despite good conservation efforts by government, private sector and communities. 78% of South Africa's cycads are also threatened and in the period between 2003 and 2010, 3 species only occurring in South Africa - and nowhere else in the world - became extinct in the wild. Illegal harvesting and habitat destruction are the two biggest reasons for this extinction.
Animal rights groups often do not understand the interdependencies between conservation of biodiversity, its responsible use and socio-economic challenges in developing countries. In trying to curb the detrimental impact of illegal and unsustainable use of biodiversity, animal rightists often disregard the positive contribution responsible utilisation can make to both people and biodiversity. Their efforts, therefore, while well-meant, are often counter-productive. This serves to prove that the principles of responsible and sustainable utilisation are not well understood by many people and attitudes are often driven by emotions instead of rational arguments.
The South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA) supports the responsible utilisation of biodiversity if it is done in an economically-, socially- and environmentally-responsible manner and believes that extensive wildlife ranching, hunting and eco-tourism can without a doubt, substantially contribute to the economy and the well-being of poorer communities. Conservation is a priority for SAHGCA and it has therefore, together with Villa Crop Protection, decided to launch the TRUE GREEN initiative.
The mission of True Green is to educate the public and demonstrate, through sound research, the interdependency between conservation and responsible biodiversity utilisation and how this can contribute to responsible socio-economic development, improved well-being of the people of South Africa and biodiversity conservation in arid ecosystems.
- To promote responsible use of biodiversity resources as our common heritage.
- To generate sound data demonstrating the positive role responsible biodiversity utilisation can play in conservation while improving the quality of life of those living in arid ecosystems.
- To promote public awareness of biodiversity utilisation.