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“Wilding the Farm or Farming the Wild”? The Evolution of Scientific Game Ranching in South Africa from the 1960s to the Present

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“Wilding the Farm or Farming the Wild”? The Evolution of Scientific Game Ranching in South Africa from the 1960s to the Present

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This article analyses in some detail the scientific developments relating to extensive game ranching for meat production in South Africa from the 1960s onwards. Initially it recalls how game was utilised in South Africa in the nineteenth century and then reflects on the rise of the modern livestock industry and its detrimental effect on the herds of game that survived in the region into the twentieth century. The roles of scientists from different regions—Britain, the United States and South Africa—are identified and their respective scientific contributions to the wildlife industry evaluated. The narrative is situated within the con-text of a rise in environmental consciousness in the mid-twentieth century and the recent challenges that have faced the formal agricultural and pastoral sector in South Africa.
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“Wilding the farm or farming the wild”?
The evolution of scientific game ranching in South
Africa from the 1960s to the present
Jane Carruthers FRSSAf
Department of History, University of South Africa, P.O. Box 392, Unisa, 0003 South Africa
e-mail: carruej@unisa.ac.za
This article analyses in some detail the scientific developments relating to extensive game ranching for
meat production in South Africa from the 1960s onwards. Initially it recalls how game was utilised in
South Africa in the nineteenth century and then reflects on the rise of the modern livestock industry and its
detrimental effect on the herds of game that survived in the region into the twentieth century. The roles of
scientists from different regions – Britain, the United States and South Africa – are identified and their re-
spectivescientificcontributionstothewildlifeindustryevaluated.The narrativeissituated within the con-
text of a rise in environmental consciousness in the mid-twentieth century and the recent challenges that
have faced the formal agricultural and pastoral sector in South Africa.
Key words: game ranching, South Africa, wildlife conservation, game management.
INTRODUCTION
Between 1959 and 1961 two Fulbright scholars from the
United States worked on a remote Rhodesian cattle ranch with
a mission to save “some part of the magnificent wild fauna of
tropical Africa” (Dasmann, 1964: xi; Dasmann, 1959). Both men
were new to research in tropical climates. Raymond Dasmann,
who had been working on the “cool foggy redwood forests of
California”, and Archie Mossman, “fresh from working on
wildlife problems in Alaska”, had been invited by Reay
Smithers, then Director of the Rhodesia National Museums, to
investigate whether wildlife on land belonging to Ian and Alan
Henderson, covering some 54 000 ha about 200 km southeast of
Bulawayo in the Rhodesian lowveld, could co-exist with and
be ranched in a manner similar to cattle (Dasmann, 1964: 48).
Until Dasmann arrived, with ideas that later attained “almost
paradigmatic status” (Nell, 2003: 102), it was the accepted
wisdom that wild animals and domestic livestock needed to
be separated because they competed with each other for
grazing and because transmittable wildlife diseases threatened
the health of stock (Joubert, 1977: 183). It was thus assumed
that in order for modern agriculture to prosper, the game of
Africa should be exterminated to make way for cattle (Bos
taurus/indicus), sheep (Ovis aries) and goats (Capra hircus), and
throughout Africa in the first half of the twentieth century
Agricultural and Game Departments had acted in accordance
with this objective. In conducting their research into the breed-
ing cycles and habitat use of wild animals on the Henderson’s
property, Dasmann and Mossman instigated a scientific and
cultural change that encouraged wildlife utilisation and which,
some consider, will come to be regarded as “one of the great
agricultural transformations in Africa’s recent history, compa-
rable to the adoption of maize and cattle” (Nell, 2003:96; Jarrell,
2003: 324). Others have described it as “a conservation revolu-
tion since the 1960s in South Africa” (Bothma et al., 2004: 840).
For what Dasmann (later chief ecologist of the Interna-
tional Union for the Conservation of Nature) and Mossman
(whose interest in the subject had been sparked by Transvaal
mammalogist Berndt Lundholm in 1952 (Bond 1977: 3)) postu-
lated was that not only could wildlife survive on cattle ranches,
but that in itself, game ranching held enormous potential for
augmenting Africa’s protein supply. What they had to say
resonated with changing ideas around nature and environ-
mental conservation, wildlife management and sustainable
development as well as with transformations in agricultural
politics and organisation in the late 1950s and 1960s. This was
so particularly in South Africa, the region that is the principal
subject of this article.
Although Dasmann’s and Mossman’s template has been
modified by agricultural scientists and wildlife managers in
subsequent decades, it is nevertheless important to note that in
South Africa today larger numbers of wildlife occur than has
been the case for very many decades. This is the situation not
only in national parks and formal game reserves – as might be
expected – but specifically on private property, where wild-
life is harvested as a source of meat, hunted for trophies, traded
in the market, and viewed by eco-tourists (Du Toit, 2007)
(Figure 1). It has been suggested that there are some 1.7 million
large mammals on 13.3% of the land formerly designated for
agriculture (Van der Merwe et al., 2004), and this should be
compared with the 1966 estimate of about 340 000 animals (Du
Toit, 2007: 17). The Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA)
report (2003) states that there are about 5000 game ranches in
South Africa and more than 4000 mixed game and livestock
ranches, covering some 13% of the land area, in comparison
with 5.8% for all officially declared conservation areas, of
which the national parks comprise 2.8%. In addition to its eco-
nomic importance, in terms of biodiversity conservation, it has
been estimated that 80% of nature conservation in South Africa
takes place on privately owned land (Van der Merwe et al.,
2004). Thus over 17 million ha are used for wildlife production,
with a conversion rate of 2–2.5% annually from livestock to
wildlife production (Republic of South Africa, 2005: 7).
Game ranching has spawned a new scientific discipline
within animal husbandry, and many aspects of wildlife
management now have a respected place in South African
universities. In addition, attempts at commercial game ranch-
ing have contributed immeasurably to improvements in
techniques of translocation, capture and immobilisation,
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 161
developed a resilient market in the sale of live animals,
provided a source of protein for local and export markets,
and encouraged the growth of a new professional class of
wildlife managers and consultants. Moreover, as the title of
this paper suggests, it has blurred the distinction between
“wild” and “tame” as well as between state (public) and private
property, and brought about changes in land tenure and
legislation.
HISTORIOGRAPHY
This paper aims to contribute to the “animal turn” as well as
to the history of science that have become the focus of much
environmental history. Currently there is an emphasis on the
perceived dichotomy between indigenous and exotic, that
which “belongs” in the landscape and the (often disparaged)
alien that has been introduced. In Man and the Natural World
Keith Thomas observed that civilisation and settled society
would be unknown without the domesticated animals that
have become part of the social fabric with specific and often
complex rituals of use and slaughter (Thomas, 1984: 25). As
Harriet Ritvo argued, the most useful animals to humans are
those that are “fully domesticated” (Ritvo, 1987: 17). The animal
turn in the historiography has not only led to a growth of
interest in domestic and indigenous animals, but also to explor-
ing the development of ecology and various animal sciences
(Anker, 2001; Brown & Gilfoyle, 2007; Carruthers, 2007a,b). This
article extends the author’s research into the roots of wildlife
management in the South African protected area estate by am-
plifying the analysis into commercial wildlife management on
private property.
In what follows, for example, it is argued that during the
1960s in South Africa there was little to distinguish between
wildlife management in a national park and on an extensive
cattle ranch because both were managed, indeed manipulated,
for productivity. On being shown the large abattoir in the
Kruger National Park near (but not within sight of) the
Skukuza tourist camp that processed, canned and dried
thousands of culled elephants (Loxodonta africana), buffaloes
(Syncerus caffer) and hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
carcasses, East African conservationist Richard Leakey
exclaimed, “I watched for a while impressed by the size and
scale of the operation, but appalled that this was what wildlife
management’ in the late twentieth century had come to”. As
far as Leakey was concerned, nature and “wild” Africa had
been dispossessed of its ideals and aesthetics, it had become a
modern industrial farm based on an ideology of killing for
sustainable utilisation and maximum production, and to him,
this had always been a “wrongheaded argument … if wildlife
and wilderness were regarded solely as items that generate
money, their days were surely numbered” (Leakey, 2001:
220–221).
If Leakey was disillusioned to find that commercial harvest-
ing of wildlife in South Africa’s premier national park had
lasted from the 1960s into the 1990s, others were delighted to
be able to profit from a renewable resource, both within and
outside of national parks and took the opposite view to that of
Leakey: if wildlife did not generate money, if they could not
pay their way, that was when their days were surely numbered.
During the 1960s there were signs of a bifurcation in protec-
tionist thinking, strict preservationists and those of the “use it
or lose it” school. There were challenges to both paradigms
and the renewable resource potential of wild animals was
recognised by overcoming a number of challenges that are
discussed below. Various factors contributed to the rise of
modern game ranching in South Africa. One was the shared
expertise between wildlife management in state-protected
areas – especially in the wildlife-rich savanna regions of the
then Transvaal – and on private farmland. Another was the
eventual change in South Africa law that facilitated game
ranching as an industry. In addition, questions around how
best to deal with Africa’s growing population focused research
efforts on increased levels of protein production, while conser-
vation and sustainability became international imperatives.
The political environment in South Africa has also played its
part, with the virtual collapse of agriculture owing to closed
international markets and an altered agricultural regime with-
outstatesubsidies,controlboardsandother organs of state that
protected South Africa’s white commercial farmers for so many
decades. More recently, game ranching has been predicated
on the need to reduce farm labour, the prevalence of farm
murders and security issues generally as well as the threat of
land restitution claims and expropriation. Nell has developed
some of the other threads that allowed the spread of wildlife
utilisation as an agricultural innovation, such as the informa-
Figure 1. Change in numbers of domestic animals to game between 1964 and 2007 (Du Toit, 2007: 25–26).
tion flow, core leadership, the relative advantages, compatibil-
ity with existing values and practices, and profitability (Nell,
2003). Since the 1960s, however, game ranching itself has
altered over the decades and many of the early assumptions
have been refined, even abandoned, with changing political,
institutional and organisational structures, particularly the
growth of tourism (Figure 2).
SOUTH AFRICA: BACKGROUND AND DEFINITIONS
South Africa’s settler population, having been indigenised
for more than 350 years, is not homogeneous and there has also
not been the same strong British influence or tradition of “the
hunt” or “game preservation” that is reflected elsewhere
(MacKenzie, 1988, 1990; Carruthers, 1995a). The South African
economy is not typical of the rest of Africa, because it has very
strong commercial, mining, service, manufacturing and indus-
trial sectors that make up 96.9% of GDP (Centre for Develop-
ment and Enterprise, 2005; Van der Merwe & Saayman, 2003;
ABSA, 2003). Urbanisation is currently expanding and agricul-
ture is declining. In the period 1998 to 2002, tourism (princi-
pally eco-tourism) accounted for some 6% of GDP. The decline
in agriculture is remarkable, from some 20% of GDP in the
1920s, it had shrunk to just 3.4% in 2004. Apart from the reasons
mentioned above, a significant factor for this is that South
Africa’s agricultural subsidies are currently among the lowest
internationally,at about 4%t (compared with 22% intheUnited
States, 45% in the European Union, 5% in Japan and 1% in New
Zealand). Moreover, net earnings from agriculture continue to
drop in South Africa, from R110 per hectare in 1990 to around
R80 in 2000.
South Africa has an immensely rich ecology. It is the third
most biodiverse nation in the world, containing at least ten
biomes and an entire floral kingdom (World Conservation
Monitoring Centre, 1992). But it is a small country (1219
912 km2) with limited environmental resources, and arable
land has been calculated as only 13.7% of the landmass. Most
importantly, the western half is extremely arid and conse-
quently very difficult to farm profitably. The total value of out-
put per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa is just US$69.3 in
comparison with a world average of US$266 (Centre for Devel-
opment and Enterprise, 2005; ABSA, 2003: 1). South Africa’s
black rural poor rely on the communal lands to eke out a living
from subsistence crops (mostly maize) and by keeping small
herds of diverse domestic stock.
This article deals with “game ranching” or “wildlife ranching”
and these terms need to be explained. Ritvo (1997: 189) is
correct to suggest that the word “game” indicates not only the
species, but also who would pursue them. Eltringham (1984:
4–5) emphasised that “wildlife” and “game” are not scientific
terms, but unreliable words, used differently in different
conversations. Carruthers observed further that while the
word “game” is sometimes reserved for animals that are
hunted for amusement or sport in a “fair chase”, and “wildlife”
for all indigenous animals, a problem arises in the South
African context because there is no such distinction in the
Dutch or Afrikaans languages, where wild (pronounced “vilt”)
is used interchangeably for both “game” and other “wild”
animals (Carruthers, 1995a: 5). The distinction between “game”
and “wild” animals is not merely of semantic interest because,
as will be explained below, there are significant legal connota-
tions that pertain to the categorisation. Only certain animal
species were (and are) accorded status on account of being
either “game”, “wild” or “vermin”, or indeed, “domestic”, and
they may change categories such as ostriches (Struthio camelus)
havedone.Inmanypartsoftheworld(including South Africa),
certain animals have been classed as “vermin” and their eradi-
cation is encouraged, other species are stringently protected
and yet others are legally harvested. In game ranching, how-
ever, the term “game” generally applies to the ungulates, itself
a broad category of hoofed mammals.
Insofar as “wildlife management” is concerned, Aldo
Leopold, the world’s most renowned “game management”
innovator, defined the discipline as that of keeping game at
desirable levels, or “the art of making land produce sustained
annual crops of wildlife” for recreational use (Leopold, 1986:
3–4). In this respect, Leopold believed that game should be
“positively produced, rather than negatively protected”, that it
was a “crop which nature will grow ” (Meine, 1988: 240). Pollock
(1974: 122) has defined game ranching as the being the scien-
tific management of certain species of wild animals in their nat-
ural habitat without an effort to domesticate them. Grossman
et al. (1999: 261) identify it as the “commercially-orientated
162 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Figure 2. Estimated number of game ranchers in South Africa, 1960–1992 (Nell, 2003: 201).
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 163
stocking and use of game”, in which veld management differs
from nature conservation because production-related consid-
erations, rather than ecological or biodiversity concerns, are
paramount. This is an important distinction.
South Africa’s wildlife management outside of national parks
is commercially focused, and the game management industry
now comprises a number of sub-sectors. “Intensive” game or
wildlife “farming” refers to an agricultural system in which
wild animal species are maintained in order to harvest
by-products such as meat or skins in a domesticated or
semi-domesticated manner by being enclosed in relatively
small areas and provided with regular supplementary feeding
and water. Leopold distinguished between “management”
and “farming” (he did not use the world “ranching”) referring
to “game farming” as an intensified for m of game management
that involved propagating wild species in confinement
(Leopold, 1986: 4). He also used the word “artificial” to explain
the “farming” aspect. Ostriches (imported into southern Africa
from Ethiopia) and crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) are inten-
sively farmed in this way – as is well known, ostriches for more
than a century (Goldie, 1968; Nixon, 1999; Van Sittert, 2005),
crocodiles more recently. Du Toit makes a clear distinction
between “game farming”, being a small fenced area on which
wild animals are intensively managed to produce and harvest
marketable products and “game ranching”, being a large
privately owned or communal area, either fenced or unfenced,
that is extensively managed in order to utilise wildlife products
through hunting, sales, tourism and other “indirect” use,
generally of ungulate species (Du Toit, 2007: 5).
It appears that the word “ranch” was introduced into the
South African vocabulary around the mid-twentieth century
and it was adopted from the United States usage (via Spanish)
that began a century earlier (1840) denoting a very large cattle
breeding establishment. Similarly to the observation above
that there is no distinction between “game” and “wildlife” in
Afrikaans, just “wild”, so too there is not a different word in
Afrikaans to indicate a difference between “farming” and
“ranching”, both are boerdery [farming]. It may even be for this
reason, namely to make a distinction which the Afrikaans
wording lacks, that the adjectives “intensive” and “extensive”
have come into use. One form of South African “wildlife ranch-
ing” involves trophy hunting and/or eco-tourism and this cur-
rently is the most popular and lucrative variety.
Based on scientific rather than more general sources, the
subject of this paper is “extensive” game or wildlife “ranching”.
This is arguably the most direct descendant of the Dasmann
model, in which selected species of ungulates are maintained
on large tracts of land in a semi-wild state that does not involve
regular feeding and water provision (although these might be
provided in drought years) at a level that can be harvested
regularly for meat. In other words, meat production is the main
goal, towards which objective appropriate environmental
conditions are maximised, unlike the manipulation required
for intensive game farming defined above. Much of the scien-
tific research that has been conducted on wildlife management
for extensive game ranching has related to selective breeding,
maximum production, disease control and transporting or
relocating disease susceptible or carrier species, possible
domestication, promoting markets as well as hygienic condi-
tions of killing and processing (Jansen, 1977; Grootenhuis,
2000).
Although it has been indicated that Dasmann and Mossman
generated a new form of agriculture in South Africa, the impor-
tance of wildlife on private property under conditions that can
almost be considered to be “ranching” has a longer history
which may explain why its modern research agenda was so
attractive. This is briefly explored in the section below.
WILDLIFE UTILISATION UNTIL 1910
While autochthonous Africans had hunted many species of
wildlife for aeons, the advent of firearms combined with inten-
sifying European settlement and a market economy led to
increasing extraction that decimated the herds of South Africa.
From the earliest days of the Dutch East India Company’s
station at the Cape (1652), company employees, free burghers,
trekboers and traders alike spread into the subcontinent seek-
ing a lifestyle based on hunting and extensive pastoralism
rather than on labour- and capital-intensive agriculture
(Pollock& Agnew,1983;Van derMerwe, 1945,1995).Buttheera
of greatest wildlife slaughter was from the mid-nineteenth
century onwards, with a thrust of colonial expansion into the
interior. One wave of hunters during the nineteenth century
was that of people who called themselves “sportsmen”. Often
recreational, the initial expeditions of visiting hunters such
as William Cornwallis Harris, whose books were extremely
popular (Harris, 1852), were followed by many Europeans who
soughtadventureandfreedominhuntingthewildlifeofSouth
Africa. More significant, however, were the large Voortrekker
parties who were potential settlers in the 1830s and 1840s seek-
ing to establish independent polities in the interior free from
British control. They cemented partnerships with African
mercenary hunters who, at times, numbered in the hundreds.
These zwarteskutters [black shots] were able to foray out in the
summer months, well beyond the tsetse fly and malaria belts
and on foot, unlike the whites. In 1855 it was estimated that
90 000 kg of ivory was exported from the Transvaal, together
with vast quantities of hide and horn (Carruthers, 1995a: 21).
Species, such as black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) which
occurred in thousands, were slaughtered like the bison (Bison
bison) of North America. In 1866, a single firm in the small town
of Kroonstad exported some 157 000 black wildebeest and
blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus) skins; by 1900 both species were
almost extinct (Vrahimis, 2001). It would appear that the
market was the main driver of game hunting, while recre-
ational sport-hunting added substantially to the destruction.
Various sources testify to the diverse values that different
communities placed on wildlife. Visiting British sportsmen, for
instance, regarded their own sport hunting, profligate though
it was, as “good”, market hunting as “evil” and they believed
that only “backward” people – like Boers and black Africans –
would kill animals for their skins. By contrast, Africans and
Boersfoundithardtocomprehendthatthere were people who
hunted only for amusement and discarded by-products that
had monetary and sustenance value (Carruthers, 1995a:
40–41). By the end of the nineteenth century, when the heyday
of hunting was over because the numbers of wild animals had
dwindled so drastically, owing both to hunting and to the
epizootic of rinderpest that swept through southern Africa in
1896, a landowning class of Boers had emerged in the
Transvaal. They, like their often English-speaking counterparts
in the Cape and Natal, came to value the game on their very
large (and often numerous) farms for its aesthetic and recre-
ational significance (Brown, 2002). As explained by Carruthers
in respect of the Transvaal,a class distinction emerged between
poor and landed whites that had an effect on attitudes towards
game. Property owners took special steps to protect game on
their farms and gained a reputation for a proprietary attitude,
although – in terms of the law – it was res nullius, or an object
that cannot be owned (Carruthers, 1995a: chapter 3).
However, wild animals can be “owned” if a landowner takes
control of them with the intention of becoming the owner (res
intra commercium), in which case res nullius can change status to
res alicuius (things which have owners) (Rabie, 1973, 1976;
Fuggle & Rabie, 1983; Greyling, 1984; Glazewski, 2000;
Higginbottom & King, 2006). Thus wild animals are not the
property of the person on whose land they occur until they are
killed and thereby possessed, an event that landowners went
to considerable trouble to prevent. As a British magazine
expressed it in 1881, “Another thing Boers think a great deal of
is the preservation of game on their farms. They live upon
buck, and consider them private property” (Anon., 1881: 759).
As early as the 1860s farmers in what was then the South Afri-
can Republic (Transvaal) advertised in the Staatscourant (Gov-
ernment Gazette) that their properties were out of bounds to
trespassers, hunters and unauthorised cattle grazers. By 1881
more than 200 such notices had appeared and applied to more
than 300 farms (Carruthers, 1995a: 33) and some owners even
established specific wild kampen (camps for game) to protect
“their” wildlife (Carruthers, 1995a: 77, 86). It appears that the
situation in the Cape Colony was similar (Brown, 2002).
By the 1890s the gulf between landed and non-landed people
is evident from debates in the Volksraad [Parliament] of the
Transvaal Republic. Landowners resisted increasing preser-
vationist laws when it came to hunting on their own proper-
ties, but advocated harsh penalties for Africans and “poor
whites” who hunted on state land. The discourse in this period
contains numerous comments about the fact that “only lazy
and unproductive people” continued to hunt for a livelihood,
and many people believed that while wildlife still survived
outside of private property, poor people would not even try to
find better employment, but would continue to subsist on
game and selling biltong, hides and horn in order to generate
anincomenomatterhowmeagre(Carruthers,1995a:49–50,60,
86). By that time, earning an income in this way was simply not
possible in much of the rest of South Africa as so litle game
survived on state land.
The campaign against market hunting intensified after the
South African War of 1899–1902 when the Transvaal became a
British colony. Particular invective was reserved for African
poachers”, but debates in the Legislative Council around the
prohibition of market hunting were also very emotional. By
selling biltong poor whites, particularly in the Transvaal, could
still make a living from hunting and the colonial government
was intent on stopping the trade entirely, not merely control-
ling it. The demand for biltong was large, some 7000 kg being
exported from a single railway station in the Waterberg in 1907
alone. One lone voice on the Legislative Council at the time
argued that prohibiting the sustainable use of game was waste-
ful and that the principle of saving it merely for the “benefit of
the leisured classes” needed to be questioned. Nicholson even
went further, averring that “to say that this food product of the
country [biltong] is to be wasted in such a fashion is, I think,
bringing legislation to a ridiculous pass”, but he was overruled
byhiscolleaguesandsellingbiltongwas outlawed (Carruthers,
1995a: 111).
In 1910 when the four British colonies united as the Union of
South Africa wildlife protection devolved to the provinces. By
the end of the First World War the South African agricultural
economy was modernising and the well organised Depart-
ment of Agriculture began systematic research into both live-
stock and crops in order to produce more food.
GAME AND LIVESTOCK: 1920s AND 1930s
In the 1920s and 1930s there were two strongly opposing
views on wildlife management in South Africa and there was
no bureaucratic mechanism through which they might be
resolved. National parks and other forms of game reserves
were managed without any scientific foundation by amateur
“wardens” and “rangers” with military precision. From 1902
until 1946 Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton was warden of
the area that became the Kruger National Park in 1926. For
about a decade after his appointment he adhered to the tradi-
tional sportsman’s management objective of game husbandry
by preventing public access, stopping poaching and extermi-
nating predators. Over time, however, he came to alter his
opinioninfavourofamoreholisticapproach based on “leaving
nature alone”. In keeping the park as “natural” as possible, he
advocated no management intervention at all, preferring to be
custodian of a “faunal sanctuary” (Stevenson-Hamilton, 1947:
11; Carruthers, 2001). Other national parks were founded in
the 1930s, three of them were very small, species-specific
game farms”, namely Bontebok (1931), Addo Elephant (1931)
and Mountain Zebra (1937) and even in these, scientific man-
agement was lacking. Moreover, the much larger Kalahari
Gemsbok National Park (1931) which, as an extremely interest-
ing arid region would have benefited from scientific study and
management,wasleftinthecontrolof a local untrained farmer.
The only national park initiated in the 1930s for scientific
reasons, although formally founded only in 1947 – the Dongola
Wild Life Sanctuary – was abolished in 1949 with the coming to
powerofanewgovernmentunderextreme pressure from local
farmers to do so.
Stevenson-Hamilton’s attitude was strongly influenced by
what he had observed went by the name of “science” in terms
of wildlife management. In the first half of the twentieth
century, South Africa’s veterinarians and agriculturalists in
government service were the country’s most powerful field
scientists. Their political influence and high profile was due to
their work in promoting and developing commercial livestock
and crop-farming industries. Believing that wild animals
spread diseases to domestic stock and that rather than estab-
lishing “worthless” game reserves and national parks, all land
should be in some kind of “productive” use, the majority of
menintheDivisionofVeterinary Services of the Departmentof
Agriculture were vehemently opposed to any form of wildlife
conservation (Carruthers, 1995b: 150–178). In terms ofscientific
study, national priority was given to domestic stock and the
veterinary research institute at Onderstepoort (part of the De-
partment of Agriculture) gained international renown (Bigalke
& Verwoerd, 2008). It is possible that scientific research on Afri-
can megafauna lagged behind in veterinary science because
wild animals were extremely difficult to study in the wild
(Haagner, 1916). At that time there were no techniques for cap-
ture, immobilisation, marking or translocation. Moreover, be-
cause game had so little monetary value (if any), there was no
funding for research.
The Division of Veterinary Services demonstrated its power
on two particular occasions in the 1920s. At that time, the
Zululand game reserves were situated in an area of endemic
nagana (trypanosomiasis) and veterinary scientists believed
that wild animals harboured this disease and communicated it
to domestic stock. The result was the wholesale slaughter of
wild animals as a containment measure (Brown, 2005a,b;
Brown & Gilfoyle, 2007: 2–16). In just two years (1929–1931),
more than 35 000 animals were destroyed at a cost to the
taxpayer of the then enormous sum of some £25 000. Dr Ernest
Warren, Director of the Natal Museum, was concerned that the
gameofNatalwouldneverrecoverfromtheonslaught which
P.R. Viljoen, Acting Director of the Division of Veterinary
Services, described as “complete extermination” (Bigalke &
164 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 165
Skinner, 2002) – and that the then rare square-lipped rhinoceros
(Ceratotheriumsimum)mightwellbecomeextinctintheprocess.
A second case of wildlife-agriculture conflict occurred in the
Sundays River valley in the Eastern Cape which had become
the last refuge for a herd of about 150 elephants. When a citrus
irrigation scheme was started in the Addo area these elephants
raided the trees and destroyed the water supplies. Again the
government stepped in to protect commercial agriculture,
employing a professional elephant hunter to exterminate the
elephants. Despite protests, within a year all but 16 elephants
were dead and, belatedly, a game reserve (later to be upgraded
into a national park) was proclaimed to protect this small group
of traumatised animals (Hoffman, 1993). In short, the conserva-
tion of indigenous megafauna and the prosperity of the South
African agricultural industry were regarded as being inimical
to one another. (This was not, of course, an attitude peculiar to
South Africa. A farmer complaining about the restocking of the
Flint Hills in Kansas with native animals is recorded to have
said, “What the goddam hell are they doing putting antelope
back in here for? Everything we worked a hundred years to get
rid of, they’re bringing back!” (Least Heat-Moon, 1999: 243).)
Some farmers in South Africa thought otherwise and
providedthepropertywaslargeandthecontinuedpresenceof
antelope did not impact negatively on livestock and other
farming operations, it was frequently allowed to remain.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s many property owners
allowed game numbers on their farms to climb and it seems
that farms with game on them fetched higher prices than farms
without (Smith, 1937). In the grassveld savannas of the Orange
Free State province, blesbok were the most common animal,
some farmers actually reintroducing them in the 1930s, while
others claimed to have protected them for decades (Von
Richter et al., n.d.; Von Richter, 1971; Vrahimis, 2001). In the
more arid areas of the karoo and the districts around Colesberg
and Graaff-Reinet where properties were extensive, the most
abundant indigenous antelope to be found among the sheep
was the springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) (Beinart, 2003: 328).
There was a small market for venison at the time: in 1933 home
economist Miss E.M. Ferguson provided a number of venison
recipes to readers as well as hints about hanging and trussing
thedifferentcutsofmeatin an article in FarminginSouthAfrica.
In the 1920s and 1930s South Africa was part of a wide inter-
national network of scientists, most of whom were British and
who worked on problems relevant to the African continent as a
whole. In 1938 Lord Hailey’s monumental African Survey
encapsulated many of the challenges of the time. In terms of
game, white settlers, far more than black Africans, were
castigated for destroying wild animals through extermination
programmes to wipe out diseases that might affect livestock
and also because hunting was such a popular recreational
pastime. Importantly, Hailey highlighted game as a meat
supply for the first time, referring to “the problem of ensuring
the perpetuation of a reasonable quantity of wild animals,
which will provide a meat supply essential to the well-being of
the indigenous population, is one which in the past appears to
have received insufficient attention” (Hailey, 1938: 887).
Hailey’s opinion was echoed by E.B. Worthington, a renowned
ecologist who, in his book Science in Africa (1938), also expressed
concern that the diminution of game in Africa resulted from
anti-game campaigns”. He argued that agricultural scientists
were on the wrong track in trying to improve African livestock
breeds, rather than studying indigenous African mammals in
terms of what protein they could provide on a sustainable basis
for local people. Worthington also said that far too many
agricultural research projects were crop-related, and he
considered Burtt-Davy’s work on maize (Burtt-Davy, 1914) to
be wasted effort because so much of southern Africa was
unsuitable for any form of cultivation. In Worthington’s
opinion,moreattentionneededtobepaidtothe new science of
animal ecology, and research funding found for the meat
industry, indigenous cattle breeds and investigating the poten-
tial of mixed farming (Worthington, 1938).
CHANGING IDEAS: THE 1950s
Although there might be an argument that the modern form
of game ranching merely gave scientific, agricultural and
official legitimacy to an older form of land use in which both
domestic and wild animals shared very large farms, there is no
doubt that the 1950s are important. It was then that there was a
combination of scientific and attitudinal changes regarding
wildlife management and also in regard to the “value” of wild-
life generally. Provincial nature conservation in South Africa
required regularisation and, as a result, in all four provinces a
dedicated nature conservation department was established –
although not all of an identical form (Hey, 1977). Although
full-blown scientific interest in game ranching came with the
1960s, some hint of what was to come can be discerned shortly
after the war in a 1945 report that emanated from a Game
Commission of Enquiry in the Transvaal, established to set up
the conservation department mentioned above. In the course
of their work, the commissioners were apparently surprised by
the “keen interest” landowners showed in game preservation.
However, quite incorrectly – they were, after all, men of their
time – the commissioners assumed that game would generally
disappear from private property in the face of intensified
agricultural development, leaving specimens of indigenous
fauna alive only in protected areas. They concluded their
report: “We cannot accept the point of view that game on
privately owned land plays any part in the economic life of the
country as a means of attracting tourists. We cannot visualise
tourists visiting privately owned farms for the purpose of
seeing game … national parks fully cater for this” (Transvaal
Province, 1945: 6–9).
Owing to meat rationing after the war the local consumption
of game grew, but the market was very small and prices
extremely low. In 1949 in Johannesburg, the largest outlet, the
total value was £5019, Kimberley £406, Pretoria £355, Port
Elizabeth £204 and Durban a mere £153. Cape Town did not
rateamention(Skead,1950).The 1940s had been very dry years
and by the 1950s, there were farmers in the arid and semi-arid
areas of South Africa who had noticed that springbok had not
been as badly affected by the dry years as had livestock and
they began to harvest them (Beinart, 2003: 328; 386). In the
northern parts of the country there were similar develop-
ments: “One or two species are … kept in a semi-natural state
on some farms in the Transvaal and produce a useful supply of
venison for the market” (Worthington, 1958: 331–332).
While farmers might have been pleased by the increase in
venison consumption, some conservationists decried the
change in values around wild animals, resenting the rise of a
utilitarian perspective. Cape naturalist C.J. Skead for example,
wrote that it was a pity that “we have to think of our wild
animals as objects of price quotations, but some of this meat
must have come from farmers who have protected it” (Skead,
1948). But another saw the potential, and A.D. Thomas argued
that conservation would succeed better if it were based on
economic principles rather than only on values that were
aesthetic and idealistic (Lundholm, 1952: 122).
Together with a growing economic value in the private sector
and in the market, attitudes towards science and management
in the state protected areas, particularly in the Kruger National
Park, played their parts in public acceptance that wildlife was
not merely beautiful, but was also a valid object of scientific,
even experimental, study. Attitudes changed at many different
levels. With the retirement of Warden Stevenson-Hamilton in
1946 scientists instigated formal research in national parks and
the various provincial nature conservation divisions did like-
wise in the game reserves they controlled. Not only was there
scientific benefit in an active research agenda, but good man-
agement would ensure the stability of the profits to be derived
from game viewing and the growing eco-tourist industry.
Rudolph Bigalke, Director of the National Zoological Gardens,
played a seminal role in demanding that the National Parks
Board establish a research section and employ suitably quali-
fied scientists in senior positions (Bigalke, 1950). Even in 1945
he was insisting that “game preservation is the task of the
scientist, i.e., the work of the biologist” and that the absence of
organised scientific knowledge was detrimental, leading to
human-wildlife conflict and to animal diseases (Transvaal
Province, 1945: 24).
While the role of local scientists like Bigalke is important,
there is a strong argument that it was the influence of scientists
fromoutsideAfricathattipped the balance towards sustainable
game ranching in South Africa. In his 1958 book entitled Science
in the Development of Africa Worthington specifically pleaded for
more scientific attention to be given to Africa’s mammals.
While he praised the research being done by biologist T.G. Nel
(a protégé of Bigalke) in the Kruger National Park, he said that
many more quantified studies were required on how wild and
domestic species competed for grazing and on the prospects
for domestication of appropriate game. Worthington pointed
out that most people were aware that wild animals were
immune to disease, capable of growth and multiplication on
very poor land that was unprofitable for the cattle industry,
and yet little was being done by way of scientific and organised
experimentation in this regard (Worthington, 1958: 193,
200–213, 331–332). Frank Fraser Darling was another interna-
tionally renowned British scientist with similar ideas, and his
workcontainedawarningaboutfutureshortagesof protein for
a growing world population, a shortfall that could be remedied
through game ranching (Darling, 1960a,b; Skinner, 1970;
Ovington, 1963; Apps et al. 1994). Mervyn Cowie, East African
game warden, also wrote at the time, “When the Africans
realise that some land is more valuable for producing wild
animal products than for ranching useless scrub cattle or trying
to grow very scanty crops, they will appreciate that our endow-
ment of wild life is an asset of great value”(Cowie, 1961: 217).
Scientific research cannot take place in a vacuum and
although Worthington was correct in his assessment that more
studies were required, these needed an enabling political,
economic and cultural environments, and these came about
slowly. First, studies on game ranching required technical
expertise and international support. A positive development
occurred in 1953 when the International Union for the Protec-
tion of Nature (founded in 1948) held its Third International
Conference at Bukavu in the Belgian Congo. The conference
supported the transformation in conservation management
from a “negative form of protection” to a discipline based on
knowledge acquired through experimental zoology. It
was appreciated that such studies would require “modern”
ecological methods, “undertaken and developed by groups
of specialists working with assurance of permanence and
continuity” (IUCN, 1953: 534). South African delegates
attended this conference and took heed of these ideas and a
number of them were later to spearhead game research in
South Africa – W.K. Kettlitz and T.J. Steyn (Fauna and Flora
Branch Transvaal Province) and Jack Vincent (Director of Wild
Life Conservation, Natal) among them. As well as research
expertise, technical innovation was required. In this regard, a
breakthrough came with the aerial census, and with the early
workofA.HarthoorninUgandaandI. Hofmeyr and H. Ebedes
in Namibia in developing tranquillising and immobilising
drugs that would enable the translocation of wild, even
dangerous, animals (Ebedes, 1992; Du Toit, 2007: 19–20),
techniques that were soon applied in South Africa. Over the
years further research was done that rendered obsolete the
older methods such as using dogs to ambush and drive fright-
ened animals into snares or pits with attendant casualties and
deaths of animals (Kettlitz, 1962b, 1983a,b).
In the 1950s, before the Dasmann and Mossman era of exten-
sive game studies, domestication and cross-breeding was the
focus of research. This began in South Africa with eland
(Taurotragus oryx). Because of their large size and cattle-like
qualities eland had been identified as Africa’s prime species for
possible domestication from the late 1770s (Pollock, 1974:
119–121). Work on this species that had been conducted in the
1920s was revived and updated in the 1950s by the Natal Parks
Board (Moe, 1953) while Posselt conducted a pilot project in
Rhodesia (Roth, 1970; Pollock, 1974: 121). Bigalke and Neitz
published on the subject in 1954, signaling an early warning
that hybridising eland and buffalo in order to produce a new
domesticated species simply did not work. They had also
crossed two different kinds of eland, but experiments showed
that the progeny were no more domesticable than the parents,
and crossing African with domestic Asian buffalo (Bubalus
bubalus) had simply ended in the deaths of the animals. An
experimental station was established at Onderstepoort to cross
African buffalo with cattle in an attempt to breed an animal that
was immune to disease, but this too was a failure (Bigalke &
Neitz, 1954; Van Zyl & Skead, 1964; Kettlitz, 1983a). In 1956, the
Cape Department of Nature Conservation acquired a farm for
breeding game and to investigate the “relationship between
wildlife and farming practices” (Nell, 2003: 56). The era of
intensifying wildlife management science had begun.
A NEW INDUSTRY DEVELOPS: THE 1960s
Dasmann and Mossman in Rhodesia
There was thus an enabling local and international scientific
and cultural milieu when Dasmann and Mossman arrived in
Southern Rhodesia in 1959 to begin work on the Henderson
property “Doddieburn Ranch”, with the objective of investi-
gating whether there was scientific validity for ranching live-
stock and game together in Africa (Nell, 2003: 71). Dasmann,
Mossman and Thane Riney, another Fulbright scholar who
took part in the project, were all “from the Aldo Leopold school
of thought” (Child, 1996: 356). Aldo Leopold’s 1933 book, Game
Management, was not widely acclaimed in South Africa when it
was first published, although its ideas had enjoyed consider-
able success and publicity in the United States, even generating
a new applied science (Dunlap, 1991: 76–77). With their
Leopoldian background, the Americans came with the opinion
that a distinctive form of “African” pastoralism was possible
that meshed livestock with game “farming” (Dasmann, 1964:
22). They sought a new approach, one that bridged the divide
betweenwildandtame,inwhichgame was conceptualised in a
similar way as cattle, sheep or goats. This would not only have
the desired practical outcome of an increased supply of
protein, but agricultural productivity would be achieved
with consideration for the environmental sensitivity that was
166 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 167
developing worldwide in the early 1960s.
As a research post, Southern Rhodesia had advantages over
South Africa at the time. First, unlike South Africa which was
well on the path to becoming a republic outside the British
fold, there was a benign political climate within the British
Commonwealth and a cooperative engagement with the local
agricultural authorities. Indeed, in 1958 the Southern Rhode-
sian government had created a national Department of Wild
Life Conservation to research and control game outside
national parks. Second, there was considerable public interest
in wildlife, generated by “Operation Noah” that removed
many thousands of wild animals from the site of the Kariba
Damthatwasthenunderconstruction(Child,1996: 355–367).
The work of the British scientist Fraser Darling, as well as that
of the Fulbright scholars, was timely in terms of the incipient
new thinking around pastoral issues in Africa, including South
Africa. These included an emphasis on a population in need
of protein, which the Food and Agriculture Organisation
estimated in 1966 was growing at a rate of 20 million a year. This
population explosion was occurring at a time when agricul-
tural production was falling by 5% on a per capita basis in the
developing countries, causing malnutrition in as much as
one-third of the world’s population (Ovington, 1963;
Crawford, 1968). The men in Rhodesia were also were imbued
with fresh environmental ideas that were given expression in
the IUCN meeting in Warsaw in 1960 around the “Africa Special
Project” that aimed to promote ecologically appropriate game
cropping (Nell, 2003: 59, 146). Moreover, current scientific
research was demonstrating that wild animals, ungulates in
particular, increased quickly in number and that there was a
market for them. The publications of Dasmann and Mossman,
written for a popular as well as a scientific audience, informed a
newgenerationofruralmanagersandfarmersandgenerateda
great deal of interest in the sustainable utilisation of African
wildlife (Darling, 1960a,b; Dasmann & Mossman, 1960, 1961;
Dasmann, 1962a,b; Dasmann, 1964; Talbot et al., 1965;
Mossman, 1975; Mossman & Mossman, 1976).
Fundamentally, the Rhodesian research – so influential on
South African scientists – recognised that much of Africa was
arid or semi-arid and that, because of a “preference for a tame
meat and milk supply in place of a wild one”, together with
Africa’s indigenous “cattle culture” as a marker of wealth and
status, livestock had been encouraged to spread into unsuit-
able habitats which created overgrazing of the vegetation and
led to substandard animals and breed deterioration (Dasmann,
1964: 21; Nell, 2003: 65). In these marginal areas, game was
exterminated and livestock protected, necessitating expensive
infrastructure to support cattle by way of fencing, water
supply, additional feed and – very often – agricultural subsi-
dies. Moreover, the spread of disease from game to cattle –
which Dasmann thought had been “exaggerated” by vested in-
terests – had led to the slaughter of many thousands of wild an-
imals. Referring to wasting the “wild” meat only to support a
“tame”supplyasgovernment sponsored madness”, Dasmann
began from the premise that wild animals “produce” meat in
the same way as livestock. He hypothesised that wild game
would eventually be shown to be more efficient producers,
becausedifferentspeciesusedthevelddifferentlyintheir feed-
ing habits (they found nourishment in distinct vegetation
niches) and could survive the ingestion of many species of
poisonous plants. They could also travel further distances than
cattle without losing condition and they had a much reduced
need for water. In theory, therefore, wild ungulates were the
perfect “farm” animal. The research at Hendersons was com-
plex, and involved population studies, game counts, harvest-
ing levels, feeding habits, birth rates, carcass weights, hunting
techniques, comparative costs of cattle versus game and the
possibilities of developing new domesticated species
(Dasmann, 1964).
The prospects were promising, but there were legal obstacles
that combined with real practical and scientific challenges
around disease and marketing (Dasmann, 1964: 39, 48, 53–56,
60). Dasmann did not underestimate the problems confronting
the new industry. One was the “unpleasant business” of market
hunting, the emotionally “disturbing” nature of large-scale
game slaughter done in a manner so as not to spoil the meat.
Those involved apparently remained at their dreadful task
only by reminding themselves that the alternative to finding a
solution to the cattle–game dilemma was the extermination of
game. There was a conservation imperative involved. In addi-
tion, there were problems with dressing the carcasses and stor-
ing them hygienically in a hot climate with makeshift facilities
that could not be shared with cattle. The first efforts at commer-
cial biltong-making were failures, and an initial marketing
success was mitigated by the quick saturation of the venison
demand among whites and the too-high cost of the product for
blacks (Dasmann, 1964: 56; Westcott, 1984). Many of these con-
clusions and characteristics were later to apply to South Africa
too.
In particular, however, Dasmann emphasised the “funda-
mentally conservative and tied to tradition” mentality of
governments and their agencies, an issue that was to prove
significant in South Africa in retarding the growth of game
ranching (Dasmann, 1964: 71). But as Crawford expressed it,
“with the human population increasing at the present logarith-
mic rate, the need to break away from tradition and explore
new possibilities becomes a matter of real urgency” (Crawford,
1968). Despite the optimistic tone of his book, Dasmann ended
with a caution that he could not “present a bright picture”
because so much remained to be done to prove whether the
initially promising studies would, in fact, lead to permanent
success and to new agricultural and land use patterns
(Dasmann, 1964: 70–73).
The project at Doddieburn Ranch showed that large proper-
ties could ranch game and cattle simultaneously but it had also
stimulated ecological research and training, including studies
around the domestication of eland and buffalo. Indeed, it had
been responsible for the start of crocodile farming, the “inten-
sive” arm of the industry. But above all, it had shown the
importance of private landholders, such as the Hendersons, in
taking the lead (Cumming & Bond, 1991: 3, 6), a trend that
continues today (Du Toit, 2007). Rhodesia adopted the ideas
and the research of these academics enthusiastically, and it did
not take long for legislative and policy changes in that country
to provide incentives and government support, including
permits to harvest game and market the meat. In 1964, a
number of game departments were amalgamated into a
national body in which a wildlife research branch was estab-
lished to service the emerging game ranching industry. What
had taken place in Rhodesia inspired a number of professional
scientists in South Africa and their efforts are analysed later.
Sustainable wildlife utilisation in South Africa: The role
of conservation authorities
The National Parks Board and the Kruger National Park
Once there had been scientific acceptance that killing wildlife
commercially was ecologically acceptable (even desirable), the
first place in which it was practiced as an industry in South
Africa was not on private farmland, but in the Kruger National
Park by a growing staff of professional wildlife managers and
ecologists. In the 1960s ecological studies there had, like the
research at Doddieburn Ranch, indicated the “carrying capac-
ity” of the landscape and how “acceptable” numbers could be
determined and the “excess” cropped (Talbot, 1964; Liversidge
& Van Eck, 1994). This manipulation of wildlife would come to
be called “command-and-control” or “management by inter-
vention” and it is distinct from the newer paradigm of “adap-
tive management” (Venter et al, 2008; Du Toit et al., 2003;
Gunderson & Holling, 2002). In order that the number of
animals remained in “equilibrium” with the food supply – a
stocking density concept – scientific work in South Africa’s
national parks was at that time conducted on population
dynamics and herd structures. Vegetation was monitored from
fixed point photographs to determine feeding habits and
appropriate carrying capacity. Complex modelling deter-
mined optimum numbers of different species, and sophisti-
cated aerial census methods, by fixed-wing aircraft and
helicopter, were developed. Game capture, sedative darting
and translocation created interesting scientific problems which
were solved by biological study and by – more often – develop-
ing and refining equipment, technology and tactics (Visagie,
1968; Kooy, 2002; La Grange, 2006). This form of management
alsoledtothemostcontroversialof the interventionist regimes,
the culling of “excess” animals, and the construction of the abat-
toir near Skukuza rest-camp in the Kruger National Park which
had so horrified Leakey and from which, in the form of dried,
fresh and canned meat or provided as staff rations and for
workers at nearby mines, wildlife was turned into a saleable
item at state expense (Brynard, 1967). Or, as one of the veteri-
narians in the Kruger Park responsible for the culling
expressed it, “sold commercially to offset the considerable
investment in equipment and manpower needed for control
operations” (De Vos et al. 1981). Over a fifteen-year period
(1968–1983) 9456 elephant, 25 857 buffalo and 828 hippo-
potamus were killed (De Vos et al., 1983; Brynard, 1967;
Pienaar, 1983). In many respects, the Kruger National Park was
run on game ranching principles, but being a parastatal entity,
itdidnotcompetewiththeprivate sector or have to reporttoan
unsympathetic and bureaucratic Department of Agriculture.
Provincial nature conservation authorities
At the time, animal husbandry in South Africa (particularly in
theTransvaal) waswelladvancedandexpertswerewellpoised
to take up and test Dasmann’s ideas and turn them into scien-
tifically valid projects. But owing to rigid ideas about what con-
stituted “agriculture”, this proved impossible to push forward.
The formal agricultural sector lost its chance to promote and
develop what was clearly to be an important growing trajec-
tory in environmental management and land-use. It was left to
the conservation authorities to take the lead, and the role of the
Kruger National Park in wildlife ranching has already been
mentioned. However, the provincial nature conservation
authorities in South Africa, the agencies responsible for provin-
cial game reserves and hunting legislation, also began to take
an interest in the emerging science. The Transvaal nature
conservation authorities took the lead in this regard and are
thus employed as the example here. They began much needed
baseline studies in their nature reserves such as Nylsvley, S.A.
Lombard, Percy Fyfe and Loskop, often with the help of out-
side workers (Bigalke & Bateman, 1962; Vincent, 1962; Kettlitz,
1962b,c). As the report of the 1945 Transvaal game commis-
sion had indicated, there was a new generation of South
Africans who cared for game and farmers who protected it, and
in the fifteen years since the Transvaal Division of Nature
Conservation had been founded, it had educated the public
about nature conservation and had also embarked on a
number of research projects, a development that had not
occurred in the rest of the country.
Some of these results were publicised in the Division’s infor-
mal journal Fauna and Flora and they provide evidence of the
enthusiasm with which game ranching and game farming
(the terms were used interchangeably at this time) were
debated. Steyn’s 1961 article emphasised the fact that farmers
often pursued inappropriate livestock practices and that
stocking with game would be fitting in many marginal areas
(Steyn, 1961). Van Zyl (a zoologist) dealt specifically with eland,
but he, like others, appreciated that before eland could be con-
sidered either as a ranching animal or for possible domesti-
cation, more research and statistics were required (Van Zyl,
1962,1968;Posselt, 1963;Roth,1970;Skinner, 1971a; Lightfoot &
Posselt, 1977). Buffalo was also a species earmarked for ranch-
ing, particularly because it responded well to artificial feeding,
and from one to eight years of age increased in weight from
203 kg to 680 kg, producing meat that had no unpleasant odour
and was very similar to beef (Van Zyl & Skead, 1964). As far as
springbok were concerned, formal experiments conducted by
the Transvaal Division of Nature Conservation on the S.A.
Lombard Reserve had confirmed that they bred throughout
the year and yielded a 60% edible carcass, not very different
from buffalo and eland (Van Zyl, 1968).
Ungulates – blesbok, springbok and impala (Aepyceros
melampus) – were already being “farmed” by some landowners,
despite the extremely low prices live animals had fetched in
1961: springbok dead were fetching R4, and alive R12 per
animal, impala dead R10, and live up to R40 (Kettlitz, 1962a,b;
Riney & Kettlitz, 1964). These were not prices that would
encourage commercial farmers. By 1966, at the height of the
drought that characterised that decade, prices had not
improved; in the Pretoria public market, duiker (Sylvicapra
grimmia) went for R4–4.20, springbok, R6–10, blesbok R8–14,
impala R7 R16, blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) R17–20
and kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) R30–55 (Steyn, 1966).
Kettlitz also became involved and he too stressed the paucity
of reliable knowledge around the broader subject of running
game on farms: issues such as carrying capacity (the term
grazer unit” came into use because the carrying load is more
complex to determine for game than it is for cattle or sheep
because of the greater dietary variety and diverse eating
habits), enclosure size, territorial behaviour and veld manage-
mentwerevirtuallyvirginfieldsforresearch.Kettlitz, however,
expressed concern that the enthusiasm for “wildlife” might
result in exotic species being farmed, or even in using indige-
nous species in areas in which they had never naturally
occurred (Kettlitz, 1962a,b; Riney & Kettlitz, 1964), matters
which are still of relevance today.
Commercial agriculture and science
By the mid-1960s the aesthetic and emotional value of wild-
life was well established, but given the sums of money
mentioned above, the commercial prospects were still the
subject of debate. The drought conditions of the 1960s had
contributed to raising the profile of ranching with game but, as
Steyn (1966) cautioned, many of the claims were exaggerated.
In Uganda, for example, research by Petrides and Swank indi-
catedthatgamewasfourtimesas productive as domestic stock,
bred faster, suffered less from disease, needed less labour and
range management and utilised the landscape more efficiently
and thoroughly. However, there were some who thought that
such results might not apply in South Africa, where the range
168 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 169
of animals that could be farmed on private property was
limited. Moreover, game ranching was not only a scientific
problem that required detailed and controlled experimenta-
tion and data, and many in the highly economically developed
circumstances of South Africa appreciated would only be
successful if there was adequate marketing and a strong profit
motive. In this regard, Steyn (1966) considered that opening
areas up for sport hunting might bring in more income to
farmers than ranching for meat, a prediction which eventually
proved to be correct – according to Du Toit (2007: 60) recre-
ational hunting today is generating R3.1 billion in comparison
with meat production of only R42 million.
Together with considering how best to manage game went
new ideas and developments around transport and sale. South
Africa is unusual in that it is one of few countries where indige-
nous wildlife can be traded. The Nature Conservation Division
in the Transvaal found that blesbok, which were easy to main-
tain in fairly small enclosures, sold well, but there was a high
attrition rate through the manhandling that took place with
translocation. By 1968 various methods were being tried and
they could be compared with each other, but the most reliable
and safest had not yet been determined (Visagie, 1968). Work
on this aspect of wildlife management was ongoing and excit-
ing. After heavy losses at the start, Harthoorn, in collaboration
with Ian Player of the Natal Parks Board and U. de V. Pienaar of
the Kruger National Park, developed an efficient immobilising
dart, boma (enclosure) design was modified (the “Oelofse
boma” (Du Toit, 2007: 18; La Grange, 2006) and the stress levels
of the animals minimised (Kettlitz, 1983). Today game auctions
are a regular feature of the South African agricultural enter-
prise with both private sellers and sales from game reserves
and national parks: this was a 1960s novelty that took off at
once (Ebedes, 1994) and it has a monetary value currently of
some R94 million p.a. (Du Toit 2007: 52, 60). Apparently, what
was probably the first ever game auction took place in 1965 on
Peter Knott’s farm “Werkplaas”, near Tshipise in what is now
Limpopo Province, and it was followed by other private
auctions before the nature conservation departments of the
Transvaal and the Orange Free State and the Natal Parks Board
entered the industry, often pleased just to give abundant game
species away (Liversidge & Van Eck, 1994: 54; Nell, 2003: 99;
Van der Merwe & Saayman, 2004) (Figure 4).
Interest in game ranching was aided by the fact that during
the 1960s drought in South Africa beef prices were depressed.
Thismadegameranchingattractivetoprogressivefarmersand
some led the field by practical application without waiting for
scientific validation. Because of the rangeland required for
ungulates, it was the wealthier farmers with very large tracts of
land that formed the “core leadership” of innovation. In Natal,
this included Charles Tinley and Ian Scott-Barnes, while
Andrew Conroy (of “Biesjesfontein” near Victoria West),
Sidney Rubidge (of “Wellwood” near Graaff-Reinet) and P.H.
Bunton were others (Nell, 2003: 97, 158; Marchant, 1985).
SCIENTIFIC PARTNERSHIPS
The helpful intervention of the conservation agencies – the
Transvaal in particular – has been outlined above, but more
important in the South African context was the retarding role
played by the Department of Agriculture, the organ of state
tasked with protecting the country’s farming industry and
which had, throughout what had passed of the twentieth
century, been inimical to any interface between game and
domestic stock. The Department had come into being with the
Union of South Africa in 1910 and was by far the most powerful
of the various branches dealing with veterinary matters. Issues
around disease were compelling, particularly because memory
of the 1896 rinderpest that destroyed almost all cattle in south-
ern Africa was so searing. The Department had no department
or division that studied indigenous animals or plants for their
own sakes, they were only objects of research in terms of their
impact on modern agricultural practice – agribusiness – in the
forms of vermin, pests or poisons. However, the Department’s
research agenda did include the development of ecologically
appropriate farm animals using “indigenous” cattle, and in
this regard the research at Mara and Dohne Agricultural Re-
search Stations in producing hardy productive varieties such
as Bonsmara cattle as well as Dormer and Dorper sheep was
prioritised, but not research into game. Essentially, the Depart-
ment regarded its duty – and it was involved principally with
white farmers, not blacks – as creating a neo-Europe, giving
attention to export crops and agrarian research rather than
promoting the use of indigenous fauna and flora.
In 1961 Transvaal Nature Conservation Division’s T.J. Steyn
was correct to note that game ranching would never succeed
unless there was cooperation and commitment from the
Department of Agriculture and this was not forthcoming.
Steyn appreciated the weak position of the various conserva-
tion administrations which had no say in the management or
allocation of the country’s natural resources, nor were they in
anypositiontoofferinducementstofarmersto use their land in
novelorecologicallysustainableways(Steyn,1961).Still locked
in the mindset of the 1920s, the Department of Agriculture was
averse to game ranching, no doubt over real fears of disease
and veld management, but also because it was determined to
protect vested interests and traditional operations and
research agendas that had been devised decades before.
Moreover,theSouthAfricangamemeat market was principally
driven by biltong rather than fresh, high-quality venison. The
biltong market opened up in the 1960s as many of prohibitions
on its sale were removed, and part of the Department’s
reluctance to support the industry may well be related to the
fact that effort invested in research into low quality meat was
simply not rewarding, scientifically or economically (Nell,
2003: 109–110).
There were, however, a few scientists in the Department
who, interested in what Dasmann and Mossman had done in
Rhodesia, appreciated that animal husbandry had the poten-
tial to benefit commercial game ranching and thought that it
was worth testing scientifically, even if the results would be
slow. Working without the knowledge of his superior because
he knew that he would not have approval, the young scientist
J.D. Skinner was one of them, and he set out to apply “sound
principles of animal production” to the problem (Skinner,
1975a,b; Skinner, n.d.). Skinner took the view that there were
two specific regions in which antelope might prosper more
than livestock. First, where poisonous plants such as
Dichapetalum cymosum were abundant, and second, where
there was a shortage of drinking water. The connection
between grazers and browsers required closer investigation.
Browsers, such as kudus (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), do not com-
pete directly with sheep and other grazers so they assist in veld
management and under extensive range conditions they can
produce more efficiently, grow as fast, dress out at a higher
percentage carcass, and yield a much higher percentage of red
meat” (Skinner, 1985).
There were other aspects of the research agenda that
concerned scientists such as Skinner who had been appointed
to the new Research Institute for Animal and Dairy Science,
Division of Animal Physiology, at Irene, near Pretoria in 1971.
This turned out to be a disappointing stint, without specific
leadership or projects and he therefore decided to pursue his
interest in game ranching. Using connections he had forged a
fewyearsearlier,hebeganresearchat the S.A. Lombard Nature
Reserve with the collaboration of M. von la Chevallerie, a meat
scientist at Potchefstroom Agricultural College (Skinner, pers
comm.). Nell mentions other tentative joint initiatives that
commenced at this time, including those between the Kruger
National Park and the Department of Agricultural Technical
Services on wildlife grazing habits that began in 1962, between
Van Zyl, of the Transvaal Division of Nature Conservation at
the S.A. Lombard Reserve and the Department of Agriculture,
as well as liaison between the Department of Agriculture and
the Natal Parks Board on eland research (Nell, 2003: 61–63).
There was much to be done in terms of research to confirm or
even elucidate and replicate the initial conclusions of Dasmann
and Mossman. In the first instance, it was not proven that wild
animals do not compete with each other for grazing although
this was often stated as a fact. Second, interest began because
poor people in Africa required additional sources of protein.
Game ranchers, however, obtained far more income from
supplying meat to high quality outlets or to Europe and receiv-
ing foreign currency in exchange and it appeared that there
was cultural resistance from black Africans to purchasing game
meat (Kyle, n.d.). Then, some species were disappointing,
despite a high level of research, of which eland, eventually, was
one. Even the expectation that farm management responsibili-
ties would lessen, needed testing (Van Zyl & Skead, 1964; Van
Zyl, 1962, 1968; Skinner 1971a,b; 1975). The euphoria of the
early 1960s that the advantages of game ranching in terms of
disease resistance, a broader spectrum of primary production,
highly fecund species, high dressing out percentage, lower fat
levels and overall, less demanding husbandry, soon dissipated
infaceofmoredetailedstudies (Grossman et al., 1999: 262–263).
The scientific challenges in which the Transvaal took the lead
were principally around energy use and the need for careful
experimental research that was directly related to agricultural
productivity. For example, it may be possible to make biltong
out of large, mature animals shot for trophies, but if tender
meat is required, then young animals needed to be studied in
terms of nutrition and resilience to environmental and other
conditions. It was slowly emerging that game species do, in
fact, compete with one another for food, there is little substan-
tial long-term evidence that they out-produce domestic stock,
and it is generally difficult to compare wild animals with
domestic ones because the latter have been selected for fecun-
dity and productivity, while wildlife has been selected for other
attributes, principally survival (Grossman et al., 1999: 263).
Specific species research
Early research concentrated on those species that had earlier
been identified as possible subjects for domestication. The
eland was the most obvious because it was so similar to cattle,
with high quality meat and a docile nature. In the late nine-
teenth century a herd of eland was taken to Askania Nova in
the southern Ukraine where there had been considerable
success and thus profitable comparisons and deductions could
be made with local South Africa herds (Skinner, 1966; Lightfoot
& Posselt, 1977). However, despite initial promise, even by 1971
it had been concluded that the prospects of eland ranching had
been over-estimated because it was so difficult to exploit the
advantages, namely a higher reproductive rate than Bos
indicus, physiological and behavioural adaptation to hot,
semi-arid environments and a diet that might include plants
that are poisonous to stock. Certainly, eland might thrive
wheretheclimatewasharshandtheparasiteload heavy but, in
such remote parts of the country, marketing was an almost
insurmountable obstacle, given the large size of the animal and
the distance from the sophisticated abattoirs that would be
required. In addition, eland were timid creatures (although
dangerous when cornered) and agile jumpers, almost impossi-
ble to constrain by fencing, they required a great deal of space
and were extremely susceptible to ticks. They were also
extremely expensive animals to buy. Intensive ranching with
eland was simply not an economic option (Skinner, 1971a).
Proving how economically viable extensive game ranching
really would be, was yielding rather disappointing results.
Another species on which research was done was the moun-
tain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula). Using a herd at Loskop
Dam Nature Reserve in the early 1970s as research subjects, I.R.
Irby was initially optimistic because the venison is highly palat-
able, the species grazes in rough terrain, it has a high reproduc-
tive rate and its social structure and territorial behaviour
spreads the population over the available habitat, thereby
reducing the possibility of over-grazing. But these same advan-
tages were, in fact, disadvantages from a husbandry point of
view, because the widely spread population and limited habi-
tat of stony ground that mountain reedbuck preferred made it
extremely difficult to hunt. In addition, population levels were
very low (Irby, 1975). Easier to work on were blesbok because
they adapted to grazing in paddocks and respected conven-
tional fencing. By the early 1970s considerable research had
been done on this tractable species (Skinner, n.d.). Scientists
also worked hard on springbok in the late 1960s and early
1970s. The accepted opinion was that the dressing percentage
was higher for game animals than for domestic stock, and Van
Zyl, Von la Chevallerie and Skinner did controlled experimen-
tal comparisons between impala, springbok and Dohne
Merino sheep. Springbok came out with a higher dressing rate
thansheep,butonlyaboutthesameproportion as cattle, which
were, of course, far easier to farm (Van Zyl et al., 1969; Skinner
et al., 1971; Von la Chevallerie & Van Zyl, 1971; Skinner, 1972b;
Liversidge & Gubb, 1995). Impala are not sympatric with
springbok and it was assumed that, although they switch from
grass when it lignifies, they might be farmed in those northern
areas where springbok cannot occur. Once again, the subject
proved to be full of assumptions, theory and short-term studies
that were not necessarily scientifically valid (Talbot et al., 1962;
Talbot et al., 1965). In more careful research, it was found that
impala in numbers degraded the veld, required considerable
skills which most farmers and their labourers did not have,
and that they were only profitable if the overhead expenses
were carried by beef farming (for which government subsidies
were available) (Collinson, 1979; Carles et al., 1981; Kreuter &
Workman, 1994).
NEW ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURES AND THE ROLE
OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Scientific results cannot be implemented if there is no organi-
sational structure through which to disseminate and support
them. If the 1960s and 1970s were decades of initial and
follow-up basic scientific research, the 1980s ushered in a
period of broader economic and statistical research as well as
changes in organisational arrangements in game ranching,
including, in 1988, the first International Wildlife Ranching
Symposium held in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Despite the lack
of engagement from the Department of Agriculture, the
number of specialist academic studies on game ranching
increased. These led to the founding of a number of organisa-
tions to promote the subject and the training of researchers,
some of which overlapped with the ecological research that
170 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 171
had been done and the need for wildlife management princi-
ples to be taken forward in the public as well as in the private
sector.
Formal support in the educational sector for wildlife manage-
ment was initiated during discussions at the University of
Pretoria in 1962 and a one-year postgraduate BSc Honours
course in Wildlife Management came on-stream at that Univer-
sity in 1965, led for a six-month period by George Petrides of
Michigan State University who had worked extensively in East
Africa (Eloff, 1971a). The purpose of the Centre for Wildlife
Management was designed to assist those “actively engaged in
nature conservation in national parks and provincial, munici-
pal and private nature reserves and even on the large number
of farms where herds of wild animals are being farmed” (UP
Archives file C-3- n.d.). In the year that this course began,
the same university (also with the support of the Transvaal
Division of Nature Conservation’s T.J. Steyn as well as the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.) established the
Mammal Research Institute with taxonomist Jurgens (Waldo)
Meester as its first Director (Bennett, 2008). While the Centre
for Wildlife Management concentrated on the practical and
applied aspects of wildlife management, the Mammal
Research Institute was specifically tasked with the science. As
Eloff expressed it in 1971, “soon after the commencement of the
wildlife course a serious shortcoming in our curriculum
became obvious – nature conservation and wildlife manage-
ment must be based on a scientific knowledge … we simply do
not have these facts at our disposal … fauna research, espe-
cially on the mammals of South Africa, must be iniated [sic]im-
mediately” (Eloff, 1971b). Subsequently, a similar programme
began at the University of Stellenbosch in 1972 (Hey, 1977: 156).
Almost two decades later, in 1988, the first veterinarians could
be trained specifically on wildlife diseases at Onderstepoort
(Du Toit, 2007: 24). Thus an educational infrastructure – which
remains divided between the pure science and the applied
technicalities – was set up to service the new industry. More-
over,privatewildlifeconsultanciesbeganinthemid-1960s, and
in 1970 the South African Wildlife Management Association
was founded (Nell, 2003: 68–73).
Despite the fact that game ranching was envisaged as a solu-
tion to a number of challenges facing livestock farmers at this
time, government support was not forthcoming (Skinner,
1984b). The costs were high. Restraining animals which could
jump over high fences demanded an enormous investment in
high quality fencing. Methods of slaughter were more expen-
sive than merely transporting docile live animals to accredited
hygienicabattoirsascouldbedonewith cattle. The use of costly
helicopters was proving to be the most effective means of
mustering game and, at times, shooting from the air was the
most efficient manner in which to kill large numbers. Alterna-
tively, game could be driven into bomas but skills were
involved in doing this, and these were not generally available.
The actual shooting was also problematic, because in the act of
killing, bullets that entered or damaged the gut of the animal
spoilt the carcass. The costs of dressing the carcass and cold
storage and transport were also impossible for a farmer to carry
without government financial assistance. In South Africa at
that time, there was tax relief, easy Land Bank credit facilities
and government support for white farmers who wanted to
fence for livestock, there were subsidies for marketing, trans-
portation and infrastructural development. In addition, export
drives were government-led and there was a reputable exten-
sion and research service that provided advice and informa-
tion. None of this support was available for game ranching – as
has been explained, wildlife was not even the property of the
landowner – and the Department of Agriculture was very
reluctant to tamper with the status quo. To be fair, it is also possi-
ble that the Department appreciated that “wonderful illus-
trated lectures in East Africa” given by non-African zoologists
overstated the case for game ranching. The necessary research
had never actually been done, indeed when it eventually was,
many of the initial hypotheses were found to be flawed
(Skinner, 1989).
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries could not, how-
ever, ignore the developing game ranching industry indefi-
nitely, particularly as the country ’s game reserves and national
parks were producing wildlife at an increasing rate and either
culling it or selling it to get rid of the “excess” that accrued when
managed within a paradigm of stability and equilibrium. It was
also clear that many scientists and technicians were intensely
interested in the opportunities that were opening up to them
through developments in provincial nature reserves and on
private farms. Important research topics of considerable
national and international importance were being developed.
Moreover, by the 1970s wildlife tourism was a growing
economic sector in South Africa and, despite the opinion of the
1945 Transvaal Game Preservation Commission that wildlife
on private property would never become important from a
tourist point of view (mentioned previously), this was, in fact,
beginning to occur. Something had to be done to satisfy the
growing demands of the private sector for organisational
support and financial security in husbanding wild ungulates,
both for tourism and for farming.
There is no doubt that pressure was brought to bear by
farmers who wanted tax concessions if they fenced their
properties, because only by “enclosing” wildlife could any kind
of control be exercised over it, as ownership was not legally
possible. The Department was reluctant to make a move,
appreciating that when it did so, the state would be obliged to
find large sums of money. As many have observed, govern-
mentbureaucracyisnotoriouslyslowtoaccept transformation,
being hidebound by long-established practices, particularly if a
cost to the fiscus is involved. Moreover sustainable manage-
ment ideas were new, as was the notion – after centuries of
destructive activity – that wildlife had a growing economic
value similar to that it had enjoyed almost a century before
(Child, 1971: 75–77).
Others appreciated better than the Department of Agricul-
ture and Fisheries that changes in the agricultural paradigm
would be environmentally and economically beneficial to
South Africa. Debates began in public fora. From the scientific
community came Skinner who, in 1971, contributed a signifi-
cant article to the Farmer’s Weekly, a magazine widely sub-
scribed to in South African farming circles (Skinner, 1971b).
Further evidence of growing public interest in the subject was
provided by James Clarke, a popular and influential newspa-
per journalist who specialised in environmental topics. In 1974
he published Our Fragile Land: South Africa’s Environmental
Crisis in which he lamented that the momentum begun by
Dasmann and Mossman had been lost. Most of the problems,
Clarke argued, were bureaucratic. An extension service was
lacking, financial assistance was not forthcoming, penalties for
infringing agriculture or nature conservation provisions were
not uniform, indeed the law was either confusing or there was
no appropriate law at all. The country’s most marginal lands
were being compromised by the introduction of cattle at
government expense. While praising the work of the Transvaal
Division of Nature Conservation and some of the scientists
who worked in collaboration with it, the results so far had been
rather puny. As others had done, the journalist pleaded for
some kind of centralised wildlife administration and rational-
ised research and farm management to take the emerging
industry forward (Clarke, 1974: 108). Numerous articles in
similar vein appeared in the popular journal African Wild Life
published by the Wild Life Society of South Africa (Skead, 1950;
Lundholm, 1952; Moe, 1953).
Eventually bowing to pressure from the public and from
landowners, on 22 February 1974, the Department established
aDirectorateCommitteeforGameFarming taskedwithformu-
lating official policy. The Committee, which consisted of seven
people, included two whose opposition to game ranching was
well known, so the prospect did not look rosy. The chairman
was A.J. Pienaar, whose field of expertise was pasture manage-
ment, and who was wedded to the idea of rotational grazing
systems which, of course, had no place in game ranching.
Another antagonist was P. Mansveldt, the former state veteri-
narian at Louis Trichardt and later Chief Director of Veterinary
Field Services, who was adamant in his belief that wild-
life would infect the country’s livestock herds with disease
(Skinner, 1984b). Most receptive to new ideas were D.M.
Joubert, then Assistant Director in the Department of Agricul-
ture and Fisheries for the Transvaal Region, and W.K. Kettlitz,
of the Transvaal Division of Nature Conservation. Although it
must be appreciated that the task of this committee involved
many interviews and site visits, the fact that its report (which
was confidential) took six years to complete would suggest that
it did not regard its undertaking as a matter of particular
urgency. During the time that the Committee did its work,
game ranching was described as “a story of fear, secrecy, preju-
dice and plain muddle” (Bond, 1977), and many hoped that the
Committee would come up with a workable policy to assist this
growing sector.
In the light of the powerful animal rights movement of the
early twenty-first century and the international anti-hunting
lobby, it is interesting to observe the absence of debate in South
Africa around ethical issues in these earlier decades.
Certainly there were controversial aspects to killing game for
the market, but those who were involved tried to develop
techniques to lessen animal suffering, for example, by using
immobilising darts, humane transportation and the harvesting
procedures discussed previously (Halse, 1994; Cooper, 1995).
In 1984 Keith Eltringham, at that time a lecturer in applied
zoology at the University of Cambridge and formerly chief
research officer in the Uganda National Parks, raised the
subject internationally, pointing out the danger of conflating
economic and ecological management imperatives. He
explained that the valid economic motive for exploiting game,
as a natural resource, for food should not be masked by false
arguments over ecology and a conservation imperative for the
“need to reduce stocks for their own good” (Eltringham, 1984:
xi). Extensive game ranching was proving to be an interesting
mix of practical farming, sophisticated science, emotional and
ecological nature conservation philosophy and economics, not
allofwhichresearchorexpertise pointedinthesamedirections
at the same time.
Whilethecommitteewasslowlycollectingitsdata,theindus-
try prospered under the leadership of game ranchers them-
selves (Baard, 1984) (Figure 3). Andrew Conroy (Conroy, 2002)
was one, and in 1976 he addressed the Symposium of the Game
Owners Association on “Venison production and marketing”.
Concentrating on springbok venison, he voiced his opinion
that it was “one of the most under-ratedassets possessed by us …
the more I have eaten of it, the higher my regard for it”. The de-
mand for venison grew in the 1970s and suppliers were able to
meet it. In 1972 the first venison was exported from South
Africa (Conroy, n.d.; Conroy, 1976) and, after the global slump
of 1973 which adversely affected wool and livestock prices,
many farmers converted to extensive game ranching despite
the lack of government support. Together with local consump-
tion, exports increased, particularly to Germany, which was
the largest importer of game meat worldwide. During 1973 and
1974 cold-rooms were built in high production areas around
South Africa, to which farmers could bring their freshly killed
animals. South African venison producers had to work hard to
expand their exports because transport costs were high, veteri-
nary regulations unrealistically stringent (in comparison with
Europe or New Zealand) and there was no government assis-
tance (Westcott, 1984). The growth of venison exports was
greatly helped by the fact that more efficient field harvesting
techniques were being employed (Bigalke, 2000). Increasingly,
helicopters were effectively used and most killing was done at
night using spotlights, which had been shown to stress the
victims less and thus did not detrimentally affect the quality of
the meat. Apparently as many as eight springbok could be
killed every hour by a single person from a vehicle at night
using a spotlight and a high-powered rifle (Conroy, n.d.). In
addition, not only was it catalysed by a growing tourist indus-
try, game ranching was also given an impetus by political
circumstances in South Africa because at that time the African
“homelands” and “Bantustans” were being consolidated with
significant boundary changes, there was general rural insecu-
rity,higherlabourcostsandariseinstock theft. Particular areas
proved favourable for game ranching, Prieska in the northern
Cape, the northwestern Transvaal around Ellisras, Zululand
and the Vryheid–Dundee region of Natal. Despite the incon-
clusive nature of the science and the lack of state support, the
industry began to flourish (Nell, 2003: 100–102).
Meanwhile, in comparison with the slow-moving situation in
South Africa, Rhodesia was forging ahead with extensive
ranching, accelerated by the Parks and Wildlife Act (Act No. 14 of
1975) which formalised categories of wildlife and categories of
land, as well as giving landowners a high level of control and
use rights of wildlife on their land (Wolmer, 2005). “Owner-
ship”, for that is what it was in practice, gave great incentives to
rancherstocareforandmaintain“their wildlifeherdsandthis
led to improved infrastructure around capture, killing and
processing (Bell, 1987: 75, 91). On the other hand, as Nell (2003)
reminds us, in 1977 all hunting was banned in Kenya in an
effort to halt the extermination of the country’s wild animals,
and South Africa benefited thereby, as well as from the percep-
tion that trophy and recreational hunting was safer in South
Africa (Kettlitz, 1983; Kock, 1995). Before long, hunting rather
than controlled husbandry was the most popular form of game
ranching in the subcontinent. In 1980 some 6 421 00 African
mammal trophies (about 88 different species) were imported
into the United States, of which 60% were from South Africa
(Nell, 2003: 115).
Despite the lack of support from the Department of Agricul-
ture and Fisheries, the 1970s were extremely productive years
for research on game husbandry. Many of the studies were
conducted on provincial nature reserves and a partnership
between scientists in different government agencies was a
beneficial result (Skinner, 1984b). Throughout this decade a
number of South African animal scientists were putting statis-
tics to the overstated benefits of game ranching as expressed by
Dasmann and Mossman and by East African workers (Huntley,
1971; Asibey, 1974; Eloff et al. 1973; Skinner, 1973, 1975; Berry,
1975; Collinson, 1979). For example, although eland were theo-
retically better husbandry subjects than cattle or sheep, it was
being established that no game was as efficient as domestic
172 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 173
livestock at utilising energy or converting feed into liveweight
(Skinner, 1971a, 1972a). Seasonal breeding was also a deterrent
to efficient game ranching methods, despite game’s higher
reproductive rate and some successful experiments at manipu-
lation. There was also the issue of a legally determined hunting
season” (only in winter) that applied to game ranching, which,
together with the absence of administrative and technical sup-
port, hampered both research and practical efforts to
determine the scientific merit and profitable future of the
enterprise.
Indeed, the difficulties under which the work was done were
immense, but the one that perhaps affected scientists most
directly was the absence of applying agricultural production
principles to the matter. It was all very well for farmers to shoot
a few springbok or impala on their farms, descendants of
animals that may have been there for decades, and turn them
into biltong or rather tough cuts of meat – or even, in some
cases, more tender ones – but this was not the manner in which
to promote a sustainable effort at efficient commercial
husbandry. Prices for wild animals were increasing, and it was
becoming important to distinguish between those that were
suitable to augment the farming sector and those that might be
more profitably used in the tourism and trophy hunting indus-
try. In addition, absence of research support had meant that
there were many species whose suitability for ranching needed
to be determined (warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus), for
example), and this needed to be accomplished by animal scien-
tists, not by zoologists or wildlife managers, and particularly
not by expatriates working outside of South Africa in places
where circumstances were quite different (Rogerson, 1968). In
terms of social science research the cultural attachment of
Africans to livestock still needed to be investigated and teased
out so that more sustainable pastoral practices might be devel-
oped. As Marchant said of Natal in 1985, there was no basic
ecological grounding, no clear objectives, and no appropriate
management studies. Farms were being acquired for tax relief,
stocked with too many species and were then badly run
by unqualified managers (Marchant, 1985; Boonzaaier &
Collinson, 1985).
In 1980 the report of the 1974 Directorate Committee for
Game Farming finally appeared. The group had consulted
widely with other national and provincial departments and
established that many farms were devoted solely to wildlife
(399 properties, 610 757 ha in extent) but very many more
contained mixed livestock and game. The report identified
numerous problems – overgrazing, selective feeding, seasonal
production (which meant an erratic supply to the market as
well as an irregular demand for hunters and facilities), disease
and carrying capacity – and, perhaps predictably, far fewer
advantages (poisonous plant and a wider spectrum of food
source). It recommended that much more research be done on
the subject – suggesting that the Mammal Research Institute
at the University of Pretoria and various museums become
involved – and outlined many of the areas which such research
should cover. Much of the report was taken up with the ques-
tion of which organs of state were statutorily responsible for
the diverse aspects of game ranching, for example, issues of
public health around abattoirs (which game farmers did not
want to be as stringent as those that applied to beef) (Nell, 2003:
202), difficulties in defining game products legally as “agricul-
tural” for purposes of subsidy and marketing, issues around
ownership” and whether wildlife should be classed as
“animals”, as well as nature conservation, disease control and
overall sustainable development (Republic of South Africa,
1980).
The committee concluded its report with a number of recom-
mendations that at last benefited game ranching. The most
important was the recognition that “intensive wildlife ranch-
ing” be acknowledged as an official branch of “farming”. The
committee took into account that farmers had already made
considerable capital investments in the industry, that it was an
optimaluseofnaturalresources,thatitheldpromisefor revers-
ing bush encroachment and that, without adequate control, it
might well damage livestock farming. For these reasons, inten-
sive game farming was to be placed on the same footing as
other branches of agriculture, and as befitted an industry in its
infancy that needed to grow, it would receive research funding
and the necessary information and financial assistance (by way
of tax relief, subsidies etc.) from the Department of Agriculture.
Additional staff would be taken on to oversee this newly
accepted pastoral practice.
However, very disappointingly to some landowners, the
committee expressly denied extensive game ranching, arguably
the sector that might contribute most to sustainable develop-
Figure 3. Estimated impala, springbok and blesbok populations in South Africa in 1950 and 1974 (Nell, 2003: 159).
ment and appropriate land use, the same status or the same
privileges. Many of the obstacles in the way of carrying out
the recommendations of the committee were not within its
purview to resolve, but it suggested that these, for example, the
matter of defining an “animal” in terms of agricultural, health,
marketing and other legislation, be finalised as soon as possible
(Republic of South Africa, 1980).
The committee’s report was met with considerable pleasure
in many quarters, for at least it seemed as though some of the
research over two decades and private investments had paid
off. Moreover, perhaps with some of the infighting and institu-
tional politics in the Department laid to rest and new ideas
accepted at last, the research agenda could accelerate (Skinner,
1984). At the meeting of the 1984 congress, Andrew Conroy,
then chairman of the South African Agricultural Union’s
National Game Committee, was pleased to confirm that a
number of issues had finally been clarified. First, the Depart-
ment of Health was working on how best to handle venison in
terms of slaughter and hygiene regulations. Second, a chair of
Game Disease Science had been established at Onderstepoort,
and an “Officer for Game Farming”, D. Grossman, had been
appointed (Conroy, 1984). Shortly afterwards, the South
African Agricultural Union established a National Game
Committee of South Africa with Conroy as first chair (Kok,
1984).
In addition, although actual “ownership” of wildlife had not
been conferred on landowners, the matter was now unambig-
uous – if farmers could prove to the authorities that they had
fenced in their wildlife satisfactorily, they were eligible for a
“Certificate of AdequateEnclosure” from each of the provinces,
a move that entitled them to subsidies as well as to other bene-
fits. By the end of August 1982, some 1148 certificates had been
issued in the Cape Province, relating to some 45 125 sq km, and
representing 10% of landowners and some 26% of all private
land in the province. In 1983, “game farm” status was accorded
to some 528 properties in the Transvaal, while in Natal and the
Orange Free State farmers were not encouraged to construct
gamefences,butrathertomanageutilisation on mixed farms of
a large area (Conroy, 1984). The Transvaal numbers soon rose to
711 in 1985 and to 1763 in 1993, fully 11.5% of this province
(Nell, 2003:192). Overall there were apparently 1760 game
farms in South Africa in 1987, covering some 6.2 million ha
(Republic of South Africa, 1990).
Around this period, more synthetic publications about game
ranching began to appear (Conroy & Gaigher, 1982; Colvin,
1983; Bigalke, 1984; Coetzee, 1986; Stroleny-Ford, 1990; Small,
1992). Particular note in this regard should be taken of J. Du P.
Bothma’s edited tome entitled Game Ranch Management: A
Practical Guide on all aspects of Purchasing, Planning, Development,
Management and Utilisation of a Modern Game Ranch in Southern
Africa, first published in 1986 (in Afrikaans) and currently in its
4th edition. At the time, Bothma held the Eugene Marais
Professorship of the Centre for Wildlife Management at the
University of Pretoria and his book is, as the English title indi-
cates, a practical guide to game ranching in South Africa, aimed
at the farmer and technician rather than the scientist. Since it
firstappeared,ithassoldover 30 000 copies (Du Toit,2007: 24).
In addition to an organisational structure and increased
publicity, the effect of the committee’s report was to give assis-
tance to venison farmers. The 1980s were “the most punishing
period this century” according to Conroy, then chair of the
SouthAfricanAgriculturalUnion’sNationalGameCommittee.
With black African resistance inside the country growing in
intensity and violence, the imposition of a new Constitution
(1983), South Africa’s military engagements in southern Africa
against those who assisted African National Congress exiles,
and economic sanctions imposed by many countries, Conroy
saidthatthefactthatfarmerswereevenplanning for the future
said a lot” about their commitment to the land. Farmers
needed to be “smart”, to see what tourism might hold for them
and also to consider diversification as an option (Conroy, 1984).
It is somewhat ironic that these sentiments were expressed at a
time when the venison industry was in peril. In 1982 South
Africa was extremely high on the list of countries supplying
venison to Germany, the biggest importer and the largest
producer of game meat, consuming 40–50 000 tonnes annually
and producing some 20 000 tonnes (Hartge, 1982). Through its
feral and farmed red deer, New Zealand supplied some of the
shortfall and was the favoured importer whose meat had an
unsurpassed reputation”, South Africa a good deal of the rest
(Hartge, 1982), and South African farmers came to rely on this
lucrative outlet for their venison (Conroy, 1984).
In 1977 the venison trade was worth R4 million, by 1980,
R9.7 million, but it then collapsed to only R8.3 million in 1981
and was down to a mere R5.5 million in 1982 (Baard, 1984).
Although a number of sources mention this collapse (Luxmoore,
1985), only two provide an explanation. Apparently South
African venison was sold as “red deer” or “roe deer meat”
(which springbok and blesbok and impala lambs could pass
for) and the market was built up on this subterfuge (Conroy,
1981). Australian kangaroo meat was also sold under the same
name, “red deer”. When this became known, there was an
outcry and a backlashinGermanyagainstallimportedvenison
products and thereafter all game meat products had to be
accurately described. Not surprisingly, springbok prices, that
had been about R1.30 per kg in 1978 and had risen to R2.30 by
1982, plummeted to R0.80 at this time – and springbok
accounted for 80% of the total South African export (Wildlife
Trade Monitoring Unit, n.d.). No substantial domestic market
had been encouraged, and there was accordingly a great local
oversupply that seemed to herald very poor economic pros-
pects (Bigalke, 1984). Exports recovered slightly in the later
1980s, only to be hard hit again after the reunification of
Germany in 1989 when venison from the Eastern Bloc became
available to Europe. At the time, the domestic market in South
Africa simply could not absorb 60 000 to 70 000 springbok car-
casses that had previously gone to Germany (Nell, 2003:
110–111). In the mid-1980s very few South African farmers
depended on game ranching for their income. A survey in 1983
found that of 363 game rancher respondents, only four derived
more than 50% of their farm income from game, 9% less than
10% and 239 referred to this as a “minimal” financial contribu-
tion (Wildlife Trade Monitoring Unit, n.d.).
Because of the economic significance of game ranching in all
its various manifestations, some parts of South Africa have
beenstudiedinsomedetail.Whatemergesis an industry that is
farfromhomogeneous,whetherintermsofscience or manage-
ment. There is no single optimum “model”, but a variety of
game ranching templates that are dependent on the specific
location, climate, vegetation and land use history. None of
them, however, are in areas that were previously designated as
“homelands”.TheworkofSmith&Wilson (2002) demonstrates
that in the thicket biome of the Eastern Cape province (south
and central districts) the size of individual game ranches is
relatively small and that conservancies, or joint management
structures that frequently include the provincial conservation
authorities, are important in contributing to the overall success
of game ranching. Constraints include the extremely high cost
of establishing a game ranch in that area and this has the conse-
quence that the agricultural norm is a mix of livestock and
174 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 175
game. The seasonality of game ranching also contributes to the
dominance of mixed farming. Following the research of
Grossman (1991) the authors of this report consider whether
the factors are “push” or “pull’, i.e. is the growth of game ranch-
ing due to a belief in the inherent superiority of this as a form of
land use, or is disenchantment with livestock farming (for
reasons outlined in this article) the main driver (Smith &
Wilson, 2002: 10–11). A similar study for Gauteng, which is a
small and heavily industrialised province, indicated that
privately owned ranches constituted 67.6% of the total 115
913 ha devoted to game ranching. Ecotourism, rather than
hunting, is the primary revenue earner in this province, which
is an interesting statistic given that of the 89 properties that
were surveyed, 71% were smaller than 1000 ha (median size
654 ha). There was little mixed farming in Gauteng, only 19%
of game ranches had cattle on their properties in addition to
wildlife. Conservancies were found to be uncommon in the
province, and this was different in the Eastern Cape (Reilly
et al., 2003). Cloete et al. (2007) conducted a case study in switch-
ing from cattle to game ranching in the Northern Cape Prov-
ince near Kimberley and concluded that it is not always
profitable to make the change, it takes very many years in order
to break even, and it always involves both enormous upfront
expense and many unforeseen difficulties. Spenceley’s study
deals with wildlife tourism more broadly, an industry that – far
more than game ranching per se – can provide benefits for local
communities who may be beneficiaries and shareholders in
commercial wildlife tourist operations. Of the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) countries, South
Africa has the largest share of nature tourism arrivals (some
4.6 million, including domestic and international), as well as
income, more than US$2 billion (Spenceley, 2007: 4). Extremely
useful current statistics – as well as an outline of the problems
that still bedevil game ranching – are contained in the report by
Du Toit (2007). In this document, the value of meat production
is given as a mere 1% (R42 million) of the total monetary value
of game ranching, compared with 66% (R3.1 billion) for what is
defined as “recreational hunting”; 1% (R510 million) “trophy
hunting”; 16% (R750 million) “translocation and capture”; 4%
(R200 million) “taxidermy”, and 2% (R94 million) “live animal
sales” (Cloete et al., 2007; Du Toit 2007: 60).
CONCLUSION
In the event, while ostrich meat – from intensive farming
operations – has become common on the supermarket shelves
in South Africa, and while venison is increasingly to be found
onrestaurantmenus,itisthebiltongindustry, rather than fresh
venison or any replacement for meat produced by domestic
stock, that drives game ranching (Van Rensburg, 1994;
Hoffman et al., 2004). Given the figures for this product from
thelatenineteenthcentury, onemightarguethatthewheelhas
come around full circle and the trajectory from utilitarian
appreciation for wildlife to the aesthetic and ideological has
reverted back to the utilitarian with biltong the major marker. It
might well be argued that, despite some of the promising scien-
tific research programmes that were instituted, venison was
never able to fulfil its promise to replace beef, mutton and pork
in the popular diet.
However, in comparison with the extermination programmes
instituted by the Department of Agriculture in the first decades
of the twentieth century both in South Africa and elsewhere on
the continent, a complete revolution has come about in the
economic value of wild animals. Prices of wildlife have contin-
ued to rise since the 1980s, auction sales from 1991 showing a
turnover of R8 999 871 had increased to some R102 420 445 by
2003, an average increase of 9%. In 1992 there were nine game
auctions, in 2003 there were 59. The increase in prices of indi-
vidual species over the past decade show a combination of rar-
ity and game ranching suitability in terms of percentage
increase (Van der Merwe et al., 2004; Du Toit, 2007) (Figure 4). A
recent issue of Wild en Jag/Game and Hunt gives a list of the aver-
age prices for wild animals over the three years 2005 to 2007,
almost all of which show a marked increase. Record prices over
the period include a roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) for
R205 000, disease-free buffalo R285 000, eland R27 000, blesbok
R3100, springbok R2400, impala R3550 (Du Toit, 2007: 52–53;
Cloete & Taljaard, 2008). A further benefit has been in terms of
ecosystem conservation, more than 80% of nature conserva-
tion occurs on privately owned land, some of it for tourism, but
increasingly also for the breeding of rare and endangered
species for sale (Du Toit, 2007).
Hunting too, is a lucrative industry for a landowner, and the
popular magazine Wild en Jag/Game and Hunt (February 2008:
46–47) advertises prices of animals available for hunting as,
Figure 4. Total turnover of game auctions in South Africa, 1991–2005 (Du Toit 2007: 52).
176 Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa Vol. 63(2)
Figure 5. Area of exempted game farms in South African provinces in 2000 (Van der Merwe & Saayman, 2004: 104).
for example, blesbok R1500, zebra R5000, kudu R2300, blue
wildebeest R2400. While international visitors comprise a large
number of hunters in South Africa (7000), a recent survey in
Farmer’s Weekly emphasises why local white South Africans –
among them some 200 000 biltong hunters – engage in the sport.
The survey showed that international hunters were after trophies,
locals after meat, particularly for biltong, but that this was often a
pretext for a sense of belonging, of a return to the romance of the
“old days”, of excitement and of relation-ship-building and identity
(especially among males). Some of the motives were summarised
by respondents. One reported: “I think that is makes a difference
that I can provide my own meat … that I can say I made my own
biltong. It makes you proud.” Another referred to the joy
experienced “To be out in the open, nothing to distract you… ”; a
third “It is just nice to be in the veld – even if I walk for two days
without pulling the trigger”. And finally, “I don’t think women like
to see dead animals lying there. That is why our groups mainly
consist of men” and the freedom: “We can be as loud as we want
to, we can talk as we like and about what we like. I don’t have a
problem with women [joining us], but then they have to be like us”
(Bezuidenhout, 2007). Du Toit expresses it differently, but alludes
to the same phenomenon, “the culture of the Boer is to hunt …
hunting can never be classed as a sport because the killing of
animals for food is part of a cultural action and not a sport … South
Africa has about 200 000 cultural hunters” (Du Toit, 2007: 56–57).
The statistics are worth recording. Some 99% of biltong hunters
(springbok is the preferred quarry, although kudu generates the
most income) are well educated males (89% of them married), 79%
are Afrikaans-speaking and by far the majority is in the age group
40–64. Most of them (35%) live in Gauteng, compared with 4% in
Limpopo and just 2% in the Northern Cape, but the preferred
biltong hunting destinations are 37% for Limpopo Province, 15%
for the Northern Cape and the least preferred is the Western Cape,
a mere 3% (Van der Merwe & Saayman, 2008). The economic
impact of this class of hunting on the rural economy is thus
considerable.
In addition to providing this “cultural” outlet, game ranching
employs some 63 000 people (Van der Merwe et al., 2004), and a
very large area is set aside for this purpose. In 2000 it was
estimated that there were 7000 game farms in South Africa, 5061
of which were exempted (i.e. fenced in accordance with national
and provincial specifications for subsidy purposes). The largest
areas being used for game ranching were in Limpopo (3.3 million
ha) and the Northern Cape (4.8 million ha) provinces (Van der
Merwe & Saayman, 2004; Du Toit, 2007: 6–7) (Figure 5). Aiding
the game rancher today are a large number of textbooks and
support for the industry is also provided by consultancies,
organisations and accredited university degrees and diplomas. In
other words, game ranching has changed the face of the South
African agricultural landscape. From being objects of
extermination, wild ungulates are husbanded for a variety of
purposes.
This has, however, not happened entirely in accordance with the
Dasmann and Mossman template. It is difficult to say whether the
live meat market in South Africa would have been greater than it is
and game ranching attained the potential expected of it by the Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the 1960s had the scientific
underpinnings and marketing been encouraged rather than hindered
by government agencies in South Africa. There have also been
specific and fundamental structural drivers of game ranching in
South Africa that could not have been foreseen in those early
decades, specifically the loss of subsidy to commercial farming and
the deregulation of the agricultural sector, the loss of political
power of white farmers, the increase of livestock theft and the
rising costs of labour, the cost impact of animal disease control, as
well as HIV/AIDS and the re-emergence of malaria, land restitution
claims and climate change (ABSA, 2003: 1–2; Van der Merwe et
al., 2004). Import duties on meat have disappeared and South
African farmers are not protected against cheaper imports (ABSA,
2003: 3). About 450 tons of game meat are exported annually
(mainly to Europe), the value of which is about R15 million, three
times as much (1350 tons) as is consumed locally (Du Toit, 2007:
58).
While the transfer of land from traditional agriculture and
domestic stock to more nature-based wildlife pursuits is likely to
accelerate with climate change and political uncertainty around
land issues (Van der Merwe et al., 2004), some experts warn that
game ranching for eco-tourism and live sales might be reaching
saturation point, and – ironically in view of the
Carruthers: Evolution of scientific game ranching in South Africa 177
history outlined above – they advocate devoting more atten-
tion to expanding the market for venison and biltong, as well as
to encouraging trophy hunting (Hoffman, 2000; Van der
Merwe et al., 2004; Hoffman, Kritzinger & Ferreira, 2005;
Higginbottom & King, 2006: 12; Du Toit 2007).
The game ranching revolution has changed the face of the
South African landscape with the scientific research conducted
by animal scientists, zoologists and ecologists who acted
collaboratively rather than competitively in the 1960s, 1970s
and 1980s. In this regard, the role of individual scientists and
ranchers in confronting and resisting bureaucracy was crucial.
The partnerships that were forged between nature conserva-
tion agencies and individual scientists generated important
savanna studies that have been of great benefit to the country ’s
sustainability and environmental health (Féron, 1995; FAO,
1997, 2007). With new subjects, new sciences and technologies
– such as capture and immobilisation – evolved in accordance
with market forces (Norton-Griffiths, 2007). The fact that those
scientists were engaged with the private sector and dissemi-
nated their findings widely added to the body of knowledge
and created new organisational structures. Novel ideas around
ecology and wild ungulate management filtered down to the
public, producing debate as well as information. The distinction
between the management practices on private farms and state
land was eroded. Moreover, the legal relationship between
wildlife, private property and humans altered with the need,
and indeed the desire, to utilise wild animals productively.
In South Africa today there is more game than there was forty
years ago, and perhaps even as much as there was when early
traders, trekboers, explorers and travellers ventured into the
interior in the early nineteenth century. The major difference,
however, is that the game is not free for the taking, nor does it
occur on public or communal land. While the ungulates them-
selves have not generally been tamed or domesticated, the
distinction between wild and tame has, for the many reasons
explained in this paper, become less clear-cut. By conceptualis-
ing game as a commodity, by giving it an economic value both
within the formal protected estate and on private land, the
number of wild animals has increased and the threat of extinc-
tion except in national parks, so realistic until the 1960s, no
longer exists in South Africa.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This is a revised version of a plenary paper presented at the
Centenary Congress of the Royal Society of South Africa, “The
value of science: Looking back and looking forward”, held in
Cape Town, April 2008. I would like to thank Professor John
Skinner for suggesting the research topic and for allowing me
access to his extensive archive on game ranching; Dr Dawn
Nell for sending me a copy of her PhD thesis and permitting
me to quote freely from it; Dr J.G. du Toit for giving me his
important report on the role of the private sector in the wildlife
industry; Professor P.C. Cloete for reference material and
encouragement; Professor Harriet Ritvo for the invitation to
first present this paper in the Environmental and Agricultural
History Seminar Series at Massachusetts Institute of Technol-
ogy (MIT), Boston, in February 2008; participants at seminars at
MIT in Boston, the University of Pretoria, Rhodes University
(Historical Association of South Africa Conference), and the
Smithsonian Center for Conservation and Research, Washing-
ton D.C. who, together with the referees of the Transactions,
made constructive comments for improvement; and Professor
Karen Harris and the very helpful staff of the University of Pre-
toria Archives who went to considerable trouble to make their
records available.
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... In the Timbavati reserve, it is stated that land use changes were prompted by a realization that some activities could lead to habitat degradation 64 . Today, it is widely accepted that livestock farming along with hunting decimated wildlife populations and degraded the land (Carruthers, 2008;Kreuter et al., 2010 While wildlife reserves cite an appreciation of nature as a catalyst for land use changes, farm conversions have also been attributed to "legislative change that allowed private landowners to utilize and manage wildlife on their land without government permits" (Kreuter et al., 2010: 510). During apartheid, this essentially meant that only whites could utilize and keep wildlife legally. ...
... In addition to game legislation, international sanctions against the apartheid regime and the withdrawal of state subsidies made livestock farming less lucrative for white commercial farmers (Carruthers, 2008). All these conditions, coupled with the growing tourism industry (Dlamini, 2020) made wildlife farming all the more attractive. ...
... Many of these were gazetted officially as nature reserves in the same period. Carruthers (2008) attributes these farm conversions to: advances in scientific research, the slump of wool and livestock prices globally, development of wildlife policies, rise in stock theft and increasing labour costs. Furthermore, she notes that as a result of international sanctions against the apartheid regime and the withdrawal of state subsidies, livestock farming became less lucrative for white commercial farmers. ...
... In the Timbavati reserve, it is stated that land-use changes were prompted by a realization that some activities could lead to habitat degradation. 8 Today, it is widely accepted that livestock farming along with hunting decimated wildlife populations and degraded the land (Carruthers, 2008;Kreuter et al., 2010). ...
... In addition to game legislation, international sanctions against the apartheid regime and the withdrawal of state subsidies made livestock farming less lucrative for white commercial farmers (Carruthers, 2008). All these conditions, coupled with the growing tourism industry made wildlife farming all the more attractive (Dlamini, 2020). ...
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In 2016, South Africa launched its National Biodiversity Economy Strategy. This strategy aims to facilitate the development of a ‘wildlife economy’ as a solution to unemployment, loss of biodiversity and rural development. Central to the strategy is the role of private conservation actors, who keenly posit their commercial model as the best way to achieve these objectives. This stands in sharp contrast to recent critiques that suggest that private conservation reinforces structural inequality by denying access to land and perpetuating unjust labour conditions. Using ethnographic data from the South African Lowveld region that includes the Kruger National Park, the paper takes these points further by arguing that a rapidly growing alliance between private conservation and property developers actively conserve inequality by maintaining and even extending spatial injustice in the region. Two popular recent manifestations of this alliance in particular, share block systems that distribute ownership of access to real estate in private reserves and wildlife housing estates, have established new conservation-property linkages that entrench capitalist socioecological fixes. Not only do these initiatives lead to further engrained spatial injustice, we conclude that this conservation-property alliance at the centre of the ‘wildlife economy’ also willingly sacrifices environmental sustainability on the altar of white conservation imaginations and private profit.
... In South Africa, there has been widespread translocation of warthogs since 1963 to game farms and nature reserves in the south of the country, originally from a source considered to be free of ticks and virus. In 2008-2012, Ornithodoros ticks were found in warthog burrows on farms approximately 20 km south of the controlled area, including ASFV-infected ticks in one instance [15][16][17][18][19]. ...
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We investigated the possibility that sylvatic circulation of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in warthogs and Ornithodoros ticks had extended beyond the historically affected northern part of South Africa that was declared a controlled area in 1935 to prevent the spread of infection to the rest of the country. We recently reported finding antibody to the virus in extralimital warthogs in the south of the country, and now describe the detection of infected ticks outside the controlled area. A total of 5078 ticks was collected at 45 locations in 7/9 provinces during 2019–2021 and assayed as 711 pools for virus content by qPCR, while 221 pools were also analysed for tick phylogenetics. Viral nucleic acid was detected in 50 tick pools representing all four members of the Ornithodoros (Ornithodoros) moubata complex known to occur in South Africa: O. (O.) waterbergensis and O. (O.) phacochoerus species yielded ASFV genotypes XX, XXI, XXII at 4 locations and O. (O.) moubata yielded ASFV genotype I at two locations inside the controlled area. Outside the controlled area, O. (O.) moubata and O. (O.) compactus ticks yielded ASFV genotype I at 7 locations, while genotype III ASFV was identified in O. (O.) compactus ticks at a single location. Two of the three species of the O. (O.) savignyi complex ticks known to be present in the country, O. (O.) kalahariensis and O. (O.) noorsveldensis, were collected at single locations and found negative for virus. The only member of the Pavlovskyella subgenus of Ornithodoros ticks known to occur in South Africa, O. (P.) zumpti, was collected from warthog burrows for the first time, in Addo National Park in the Eastern Cape Province where ASFV had never been recorded, and it tested negative for the viral nucleic acid. While it is confirmed that there is sylvatic circulation of ASFV outside the controlled area in South Africa, there is a need for more extensive surveillance and for vector competence studies with various species of Ornithodoros ticks.
... Since the early twentieth century, many farms to the west of Kruger National Park have changed from livestock farms into nature reserves. Over the years, these changes were prompted by concerns about extinction (Ramutsindela et al., 2011), a decline in the profitability of livestock farming (Carruthers, 2008), the privatisation of wildlife (Snijders, 2012) and the dropping of secondary fences between Kruger National Park and the private nature reserves (Jordan, 2016). These conditions, coupled with tourism developments since the 1920s and a major tourism boom since the 1990s, facilitated the mushrooming of nature reserves in the region (Jordan, 2016;Dlamini, 2020;Oosthuizen, 2018;Van Reenen, 2007;WAH, 2020). ...
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In this paper, we explore relations between race, capital and wildlife conservation in the town of Hoedspruit and its surroundings, which has developed into one of the main centres of the lucrative and rapidly growing 'wildlife economy' in South Africa. Behind its image as a shining 'green' example of wildlife-based development is a highly unequal and racialised state of affairs that is deeply unsustainable. At the core of these dynamics are private wildlife reserves, high-end nature-based tourism and gated 'wildlife estates', which have further consolidated land into private , mostly white, ownership. In addition to contestations about the building of a shopping mall and land claims, Hoedspruit's wildlife economy is dependent upon black labourers who commute daily from former homeland areas. Municipal efforts to mediate this situation by building affordable housing, have been thwarted by several wealthy inhabitants and property developers. We build on Mbembe's 'logic of enclosure' to argue that the wildlife economy and its 'green' image perpetuate and reinvent older forms of colonial and apartheid geographies of segregation, in effect creating a form of 'new green apartheid'. While physical-geographical enclosures are at the centre of the wildlife economy, we show that they are reinforced by class and racial enclosures and ideological enclosures, the latter consisting of both the belief in the market as a natural solution for social and environmental causes and apartheid as an historical era that has now ended. We conclude that Hoedspruit serves as an important example of the regressive and unsustainable forms of development that the wildlife economy in South Africa can create.
... For example, the erosion of private property rights in Zimbabwe since 2000 has led to large scale conversion of land that was previously used sustainably and productively as private reserves for wildlife, into unsustainable, unproductive communal agricultural uses (Wolmer, 2005;Williams et al., 2016). In the post-apartheid South Africa, land reform has been at the forefront of government policy, while private land conservation and especially game farming seem to be viewed with suspicion and mistrust by certain scholars, and government, with concepts such as 'extractive philanthropy' and 'commodified wilderness' used to reflect this (Carruthers, 2008;Brooks et al., 2011;Ngubane and Brooks, 2013;Spierenburg and Brooks, 2014;Ramutsindela, 2015). A key risk to the future of PNRs in South Africa specifically, will be the land reform agenda and land claims on land with conservation value, and although much thinking has gone into how this might be achieved successfully, recent practical experience is riddled with implementation challenges (Crane, 2006;Kepe, 2008;Thondhlana et al., 2011;Spierenburg et al., 2012). ...
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Privately protected areas (PPAs) are internationally considered to be important policy implementation instruments to augment and strengthen protected area networks. However, there has been limited reflection on the performance of PPAs over time. This paper aims to identify key risks to the performance of PPAs as policy implementation instruments through the application of Theory of Change (ToC). Identifying and understanding these risks are important to allow for the evaluation and monitoring of PPA performance. The ToC method was applied to a specific PPA policy instrument namely, private nature reserves (PNRs) in the South African context. The research results produced 29 key assumptions translated into 29 key risks. These risk are critically discussed against existing South African and international literature. To test and refine the risks further it is recommended that they be applied to PPA case studies in different contexts.
... To suggest that responses against wildlife crime are biopolitical is just the beginning of an analysis to unearth the multiple values informing these interventions. Others have outlined the history of the development of the private wildlife economy (Carruthers, 2008) and rhino conservation (Emslie and Brooks, 1999). What I will do here is to explore the various interventions and the rationalities they present. ...
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The conservation of biodiversity has increasingly been analyzed as biopolitical. That is, conservation initiatives such as breeding programs and protected areas seek to optimize some nonhuman life forms while exposing others to harm or degradation. Biopolitical conservation studies have looked at the implications of how human and non-human lives have been valued differently. Wildlife has received more attention than the lives of conservation laborers in studies of private conservation. The article builds on Foucault's conceptualization of biopolitics to dissect the responses of the eco-tourism and wildlife breeding industries to rhino poaching in the Lowveld, South Africa. There are two central arguments. First, their responses hinge on creating new, and re-instating old, avenues of capital accumulation that ironically prioritize the optimization of the wildlife economy over the lives of rhino. Second, I show that private conservation disproportionately exposes black laborers to harm while attempting to protect rhino from poachers, a function of how conservation labor has been governed since the onset of poaching in 2008. I conclude that private conservationists in South Africa make value judgments to construct a hierarchy of life with whiteness at its apex, rhinos following closely behind, with laborers, and finally poachers at the bottom.
... Meanwhile, from 1963 onwards, there had been widespread translocation of warthogs to the south of the country associated with the growth of an extensive wildlife ranching and conservation industry, and the extralimital animals flourished to the extent that they are regarded as an invasive species (Figure 3) (17,(22)(23)(24). An investigation conducted in 2008-2012 on farms within 20 km of the boundary revealed the presence of Ornithodoros ticks in warthog burrows beyond the controlled area in NWP, GP, LP, and MP, with ASFV detected in one pool of ticks from MP (14). ...
Article
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Sylvatic circulation of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in warthogs and Ornithodoros ticks that live in warthog burrows historically occurred in northern South Africa. Outbreaks of the disease in domestic pigs originated in this region. A controlled area was declared in the north in 1935 and regulations were implemented to prevent transfer of potentially infected suids or products to the rest of the country. However, over the past six decades, warthogs have been widely translocated to the south where the extralimital animals have flourished to become an invasive species. Since 2016, there have been outbreaks of ASF in pigs outside the controlled area that cannot be linked to transfer of infected animals or products from the north. An investigation in 2008–2012 revealed that the presence of Ornithodoros ticks and ASFV in warthog burrows extended marginally across the boundary of the controlled area. We found serological evidence of ASFV circulation in extralimital warthogs further south in the central part of the country.
... The growth of the ecotourism industry, together with legislation enabling ownership of wildlife, resulted in a surge of development of small (<30 000 ha) game reserves in South Africa from the mid-1980s, predominantly on private land (Carruthers, 2008, Cousins, Sadler & Evans, 2008, Sims-Castley, Kerley & Geach, 2004. These reserves provide potential wildlife reintroduction and often rewilding sites across South Africa. ...
Article
Large (>15 kg) carnivores, namely lions (Panthera leo ), leopards (Panthera pardus ), cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus ), spotted (Crocuta crocuta) and brown hyaenas (Parahyaena brunnea ), have been reintroduced to 16 private- and state-owned reserves in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Objectives behind these reintroductions ranged from ecotourism, ecological restoration, to species conservation. We reassessed the reintroductions’ objectives and updated their outcomes a decade after the initial assessment. Ecotourism and ecological restoration were the most common objectives for the reintroduction of top predators to these reserves. With one exception, these reintroductions were successful in meeting their specific objectives, as only African wild dogs have failed to re-establish in the province. Assessments for leopards and brown hyaenas were inconclusive due to a lack of monitoring data. Causes of objective- and species-specific failures in some reserves included founding same-sex populations, lack of breeding events and changes in reserve management objectives. Long-term monitoring is essential in managing and assessing the success of conservation actions, including reintroductions of threatened species. Our review demonstrates this by highlighting changed outcomes for populations and identifying new challenges that have arisen in the landscape. In the modern parlance of conservation marketing, the multi-species reintroductions that occurred within the Eastern Cape represent successful rewilding within the province.
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Genetic diversity is a fundamental measure of a populations ability to adapt to future environmental change. Subpopulations may carry unique genetic lineages that contribute to fitness and genetic diversity of species across their distribution range. Therefore, considerations, or lack thereof, of genetic diversity in wildlife management practices may result in either population persistence or extinction over time. Some management tools may pose a greater risk to a species' survival than others when populations are impacted. In South Africa, there has been great interest to translocate animals, sometimes with little consideration to the potential impacts on the species and/or populations survival. Thus, there is a need to collate scientific information to better inform decision‐making and review these management practices and their effects on populations. Here, we focus on three antelope species, the blue duiker (Philantomba monticola), oribi (Ourebia ourebi), and tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus). We review the genetic status of each species across South Africa, with regards to taxonomy, genetic diversity and population structure, threats that may compromise the genetic diversity within species and across populations, conservation management actions and how they may compromise or benefit the genetic status and lastly make recommendations on possible alternative management actions and future research to inform conservation policy and sustainable management practice. In South Africa, there has been great interest to translocate animals, sometimes with little consideration for the genetic integrity of the species. Thus, in this review, we collate scientific information to better inform decision‐making and review these management practices and their effects on species integrity.
Article
The concept of carrying capacity originally was developed for domestic grazers and does not make provision for the wide variety of diets found in wild African herbivores. In the African savannas, herbivores are classified into 4 basic dietary classes: low‐selective grazers, high‐selective grazers, mixed feeders, and browsers. Given these conditions, a more appropriate approach was needed than the agricultural method based on livestock units to determine stocking rates for wildlife. Consequently, a new approach was developed that recognizes plant resource variation at the plant community level and differentiates between the grazing and browsing component in the diet of herbivores in the African savannas. The model used to calculate the grazing and browsing capacity on wildlife ranches provides for rainfall variability, quality and quantity of available grazing and browse, dietary requirements of each type of wildlife, and availability of suitable habitat. In this model the conventional conversion of wildlife to a Large Stock Unit has been replaced by a Grazer Unit, which is the equivalent of a 180‐kg blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and a Browser Unit, which is the equivalent of a 140‐kg greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). By separating the grazing and browsing components in the diet of wildlife for stocking density calculation, the diversity in the vegetation resources is optimally utilized. This concept is exemplified with an actual case study of a wildlife ranch in a South African savanna. In doing so, quantitative and clearly defined parameters are provided on which to base wildlife management decisions.