Colour-variant game prices sour amidst controversy

News from the game industry in 2015 was dominated by the record prices paid for so-called colour-variant species and high-value game species.

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In September, a Zambian sable bull sold for R27 million. Reports of record prices were soon followed by predictions from industry experts about the likelihood of this “price bubble” bursting and it sparked controversy over the “conservation value” of colour-variant game.

In March this year, the South African Hunting and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA) continued the debate about selective and intensive game breeding practices. Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, president of SAHGCA, commented on selective game breeding programmes, saying that deliberately selecting and breeding animals for specific traits such as unusual coat colours or large horn length was not compatible with conservation principles.

In reaction to hiscomment, Barry York, game farmer and one of the first people to breed golden wildebeest, said that while he understood the risk and impact of commercialisation of wildlife, responsible game farming had a positive effect on biodiversity that outweighed the risks.

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According to the Absa Agri Outlook 2016, colour-variant game numbers were going up, while prices reacted by following a downward trend, pointing to a possibility that the market might be saturated.

July Hayward from Absa said that overall game prices had shown a supply and demand trend in prices, but using 2012 as a base year for colour-variant game, data showed that prices had decreased considerably since May 2015. Volumes had, however, increased drastically. Another trend that emerged was that high-value game, such as buffalo, sable and roan, were increasingly being hunted by international hunters.

Absa will be compiling a national game auction index and national hunting index, to be released in February 2016, and
thereafter biannually. Hunters and hunting associations have complained that colourvariant prices were pushing up prices for game hunting.

But Dr Peter Oberem, president of Wildlife Ranching SA, said that, “since 1991 game prices have not increased at a faster rate than inflation and hunters would continue to get a fair deal. Prices of game for hunting is also not likely to rise nearly as fast as other hunting inputs such as vehicles, rifles, ammunition, among others.”