Hunters are conservationsists.
This may seem like a contradiction, but the truth is that hunters were the first conservationists, and without hunting, conservation initiatives would just not have the funds needed to preserve our natural heritage.
South Africa was once wild and teeming with wildlife. As human populations grew and the demand for agriculture and farming spread, wildlife that conflicted with human progress or competed for grazing land was steadily exterminated. Wildlife populations began to plummit, and by the end of the 19th century hunters began to realise that protected areas would have to be established to ensure wildlife populations survived for future hunting. In turn, laws to protect and manage these wildlife populations began to be drafted. The now Kruger National Park was the first of these initiatives.
The game farming industry in South Africa developed in response to the increasing demand of eco-tourism, hunting and breeding instututions for free ranging game. Private farmers realised that wildlife farming was a more lucrative option to domestic farming, and hunting was a sustainable way of generating funds needed to maintain their farms. Privately owned land devoted to wildlife now covers roughly three times more land than South Africa’s National and Provincial parks combined, with approximately twice the number of game animals present than in the country’s parks.
For any enterprise to survive, it needs to be sustainable. Protected areas require millions of Rands to manage and protect their wildlife assets. National parks receive limited government support, but private game farms are on their own and therefore have to be self-sustaining. Eco-tourism generates a fair income, but it is not enough. Hunting fills this gap, and the income received from regulated hunting in turn allows for the preservation and expansion of natural habitats that not only support huntable game species, but the endangered, threatened, and recovering species as well.
Hunting is closely regulated today. Limited seasons, quotas and bag limits assure that populations are healthy and productive, and a strict code of ethics ensures that hunters themselves act with responsibility and respect towards the law, the wildlife, and the people involved.