There are many free ranging wildlife species for which very limited information is available. Some of these species are under threat, but because they occur naturally in wildlife landscapes and are difficult to monitor, information on their real status may be limited. National surveys are difficult and conservation interventions are challenging as we often do not know where in the landscape they occur, what their densities are, or there is no contact with landowners or wildlife managers that manage their habitats. Therefore, accurate distribution, population data and trends are unavailable.
With its national reach of thousands of members across South Africa, that consist of hunters, wildlife managers, landowners and wildlife enthusiast, SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association is in a unique position to contribute to the conservation of many of these rare and threatened species. The Association’s Wildlife Custodianship Programme has been designed to collaborate with landowners and wildlife managers to conserve species and wildlife habitats for a range of species that had been identified by the Association based on existing conservation initiatives, or for which a conservation need has been identified.
Landowners and wildlife managers that want to participate in the Wildlife Custodianship Programme and demonstrate how hunters and members contribute to conservation, can register their properties where they manage or rehabilitate wildlife habitats or conserve indigenous species. In each case, the wildlife custodians’ contribution to conservation is assessed against sound principles for rehabilitation, habitat, and free ranging wildlife population management. Different species may have different requirements in securing their habitats which wildlife custodians undertake to consider in their management practices. Very often, the requirements may already be in line with the conservation requirements of the species and that of the habitat. It can include recording sightings of the species in an area. Wildlife custodians will receive recognition for their conservation contribution and their properties will be registered as a Wildlife Custodian Site.
The species and geographic areas under management of Wildlife Custodians, will be recorded and data will be collated at a national level in the conservation office where it will form part of the national SA Hunters Wildlife Custodianship Registry. Data for individual sites will be kept confidential, but collated information will be used to contribute to bona fide conservation programmes and will further serve to demonstrate the conservation contribution of members and responsible hunters. It is envisaged that over time, we will be able to indicate how many hectares hunters/members are conserving for different species, as well as their contribution to specific habitats. This will serve as a wonderful showcase of how we contribute positively to conservation of species and habitats.
As part of the family of Wildlife Custodians, members will be connected to other custodians with similar species and they will be informed of relevant conservation initiatives and information that have an impact on their conservation work, including legislative and policy changes. SA Hunters will further work towards greater recognition for the conservation work of members.