The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns continue to have a negative impact on the private wildlife industry in South Africa.
This was according to Prof Peet van der Merwe of the North-West University’s Tourism Research in Economics, Environs and Society Unit (TREES).
He said research conducted by the unit indicated that these negative effects could linger for the next two to three years.
According to the research results, recently published in the Global Ecology and Conservation journal, the industry lost a total of R4,61 billion between March and May 2020 due to cancellations.
A total of 1 754 wildlife and hunting establishments were registered with Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) in 2020.
On average, game farms registered with the WRSA recorded financial losses of R1,87 million per farm due to these cancellations, while establishments in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal lost more than R3 million on average.
“Wildlife tourism in South Africa is a key tourist attraction for both local and international tourists. The devastating impact of COVID-19 does not bode well for the industry and may cause landowners to exit the wildlife industry in favour of alternatives such as cattle production or crop cultivation,” Van der Merwe said.
Van der Merwe said game farms and/or private game reserves were important contributors to the economic wellbeing of rural communities.
These farms employed 16 employees on average. The research showed that the wages of 33% of employees in the wildlife industry were reduced, 21% had to take unpaid leave, and 19% were laid off between March and May 2020. In total, more than 18 000 jobs were affected in some way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.