By Tariro Kamuti
Over the past few decades, South Africa has seen a dramatic conversion from livestock or crop farming to wildlife ranching – known locally as game farming. The result has been a rapid rise in areas enclosed by game fences and a high demand for wildlife. Animals are increasingly being traded privately and at wildlife auctions.
But regulation hasn’t kept up with this growth. This is despite the fact that key environmental and agricultural laws have been passed since 1994 that affect the wildlife sector in a number of ways. This includes property rights, the redistribution of land and the conservation of biodiversity. The policy changes were driven mainly by the need to integrate South Africa into the international community and to bring about economic and social transformation in a democratic state.
In the 1990s the state facilitated the early development of game farming by passing favourable legislation. The Game Theft Act of 1991 was hailed as a “game changer” in the wildlife industry as the law gave farmers the right to own game as long as they had appropriate fencing.
Eight years later the Animal Improvement Act tightened up breeding rules in the livestock sector. But certain species of wildlife were exempted under this act. The result is that the law hasn’t kept up with developments in the private wildlife sector. These include new challenges that have emerged like breeding for colour variants, exotic species and canned hunting.