On Friday the 25th of February, the South African government granted hunting and export permits for many big game. On the premise that their population estimates showed an increase in numbers. Included are black rhino, elephants and big cats such as leopards.
According to the forestry and environment ministry, the numbers it allows for hunting on an annual basis are based on current population estimates. Adding that the population numbers for these big game “show an increasing trend at present”.
Annually, the government will permit trophy hunters to hunt ten black rhinos or 0.5% of the estimated population, ten leopards and 150 elephants. Although the government has added certain rules and regulations. For instance, it restricts leopard hunts to cats aged seven years and older. While also only allowing hunting of leopards in regions where populations are “stable or increasing”. With regards to black rhinos, “Only adult male black rhinos will be hunted, and only on conservation management grounds in accordance with a set of strict criteria”.
Are These Animals Endangered?
Government statistics show that the populations of these large creatures have grown. With black rhino numbers currently estimated to be over 5 000. Showing that the population has doubled over the last 30 years. Plus, the government adds that the number of poached rhinos has dropped in recent years. From over one thousand per year to 451 during the 2021 period. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) still list the black rhinoceros as “Critically Endangered”.
In 2016, the mature leopard population estimate ranged from 1 688 to 6 979, and between 2017 and 2018 there was an estimated annual decline of 11 % in protected areas alone. Plus, according to South Africa’s National List of Threatened or Protected Species leopards are classified as “Near Threatened”.
Elephant populations display a slightly better picture than that of the rhino and the leopard. With the 2018 population estimate of 24 000. However elephants are still “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.
The Benefits of Hunting Permits
In the media statement released on the 26th of February 2022, the South African government points out that the hunting sector contributes billions of rands to the economy. While also creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. In terms of economic value, the government even compares the hunting sector to the mining sector. Stating that “The hunting sector conservatively contributed R1.4 billion to the economy in 2019”. While also emphasizing how income generated by trophy hunting is especially critical for impoverished rural communities. Furthermore, it adds that it expects the hunting sector “to continue to show economic and employment growth in the foreseeable future.”
As well as this, the government highlights the possible benefit that hunting could have on South Africa’s wildlife conservation.
“Regulated and sustainable hunting is an important conservation tool in South Africa as it incentivizes the private sector and communities to conserve valuable wildlife species and to participate in wildlife-based land uses”.