Breeding and selling wild game is big business in South Africa, with its growth exceeding that of the JSE in recent years, according to game farmers.
According to Gamevest, over a five year period (between 2007 and 2012), the average selling prices of buffalo and sable antelope grew by 540% and 479% respectively.
On the weekend (6 September), South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa hit the headlines for selling three white-flanked impala at the Stud Game Breeders auction held at Mbizi Lodge in Limpopo province, for R28 million.
Of the three, the highest value impala was R9.7 million, ranking as one of the most valuable animal sales in the country – though nowhere near the current record holder.
Other high-value game sales from the Stud auction included an East African Buffalo, sold for R8.7 million, and a pregnant Matetsi sable for R4 million.
The most expensive wild game sale on record is a Cape Buffalo bull named Mystery, bought by South African billionaire Johann Rupert for a rather sizable R40 million in 2013.
At the same time, a sable antelope named “Wiele” was also sold for R11 million, according to a Bloomberg report.
Other record holders
High prices for wild game are not uncommon: conservation and private game farm group, Gamevest, has also sold game for record amounts.
The most recent sale to reach a new record mark by the group includes a 17” White Saddleback Blesbuck, which sold at the Absa Kirkwood Game Auction for R7.8 million, in June 2014.
The group also sold a 5 year old buffalo bull with an over 51″ horn span for R26 million in 2012 – topping a previous record sale of R18 million for a buffalo sold in 2011.
Buffalo, rare impala and sable antelope fetch some of the highest prices in sale and at auction – often reaching into the multiple millions for single stock.
In comparison, rhino, among the most poached and endangered game in South Africa, can be bought for a paltry sum of up to R350,000, according to wildlife seller ads.
Lions are sold for even less, ranging from between R30,000 for a female, to R210,000 for a young male.
Some of the most expensive wildlife sales in SA
|1||Cape Buffalo||R40 million|
|4||Sable Antelope||R11 million|
|5||White Impala||R9.7 million|
|6||East African Buffalo||R8.1 million|
|7||White Saddle Blesbuck||R7.8 million|
|8||East African Buffalo||R6.5 million|
|9||Matetsi Sable (pregnant)||R4 million|
|10||Buffalo (pregnant)||R3 million|
Game hunting in South Africa has always been a point of some controversy, especially in light of the high prevalence of poaching in the country, particularly with dwindling rhino numbers.
However, private game farms and trophy hunting serve a valuable role in not only the economy, as part of the country’s eco-tourism, but also as part of animal conservation.
The funds raised at auction are typically invested back into conservation programs.
According to Brian Reilly, nature conservation professor at the Tshwane University of Technology, trophy hunting is “the highest form of eco-tourism”, with the industry helping increase animal numbers as well as protecting them.
Norman Adami, owner of Nyumbu game farm, told Sapa-AFP that he has more sable (antelope) than the Kruger Park.
“As long as eight years ago, a 15 inch sable – a sable with 15 inch horns – was a big sable,” Adami said.
“Now you’re seeing sable with 50 inches. In 10 years, it’s going to be 60 inches. Those magnificent specimens are being recreated.”
In the latest Stud auction, over R236 million was raised. Meanwhile, the Absa auction held in June brought in R26.5 million – the largest amount ever for the 13-year old auction.
Some animals are used for trophy hunting, but the best are kept for breeding – which farmers describe as a better investment than property or stock.
“This industry has performed exceptionally well, better than the stock market,” Adami said.