Professional hunters urged to support conservation
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk asked professional hunters to become allies in conservation and tourism. Addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) in Johannesburg he said although his department recognised the economic importance of hunting, it was crucial for the professional hunting sector to play a role in conservation and tourism by identifying and rooting out rogue hunters.
'I am fully committed to strengthening and improving the relationship between my department and this sector but I am equally determined to ensure that our laws and international commitments are respected and upheld.
'We will not hesitate to act swiftly and harshly against unethical or irresponsible hunters who overstep or ignore these restrictions,' said Mr Van Schalkwyk.
The minister added that canned and unethical hunting of lions, rhinos and other animals were despicable and that the department would establish a regulatory framework to eliminate these activities.
'Professional hunters should be the eyes and ears of conservation in terms of what is happening with species, illegal killing, and other local activities,' he said. He said the new SA National Biodiversity Institute will assist to create a comprehensive national database of biodiversity issues would be launched on 2 December.Information such as the number of animals hunted, age and gender ratios to the institution will ge obtained from the hunting industry. Van Schalkwyk also raised the issue of transformation in the hunting sector saying 'hunting remains white and male-dominated and visibly separate from most South African communities'.
'If we are to harness the potential of professional hunting to uplift communities through tourism, then the sector must rapidly and genuinely incorporate all communities as owners, managers, service providers and customers,' he said.
He added that there were many opportunities for Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) partnerships with communities living on communal land adjacent to game farms, those who have had land restitution, as well as with SMMEs and entrepreneurs in tourism.
To date 70 000 jobs have been created and are directly supported by South Africa's 10 000 game farms offering professional hunting opportunities. Last year 7000 foreign clients who travelled to South Africa to hunt contributed about R1 billion to the economy through daily rates, animals hunted and taxidermy