Game: a still-growing industry

A scientific analysis of price trends at last year’s game auctions indicates that despite the economic downturn, demand for certain species was high and more animals were being sold directly to game capturers.

The formal national live game auctions notched up their biggest-ever turnover in 2008, with several species setting new records and most retaining the relatively high prices of the previous season, despite unfavourable economic conditions. The industry may still be in a growthphase as demand has been almost unchanged over the past few years.

Last year’s new record turnover of about R162,38 billion reflects a 24,8% increase over 2007, even with an 11,1% decrease in the total number of animals sold. The sharp increase in the price of some higher-value species, particularly in the later part of the period, ensured 2008 will be remembered as an outstanding year for the live game industry.

Buffalo and sable antelope appeared to be the only two higher-value species continuing in an increasing price trend from 2006. This happened despite an increase in the number of these animals under the hammer over the past two seasons.
The rising prices for these two species are attributable to the overall growth of the wildlife industry, as well as the under-performance of financial markets.

Investors are starting to view game as an alternative investment opportunity, increasing demand for certain species, the prices of which climbed substantially in the last three to four months of 2008. At the same time, prices and numbers for other higher value species sold remained relatively unchanged from 2007.

Comparatively speaking
The price tag for cats, specifically lions, also showed a sharp increase during 2008, although this was largely a result of good sales at Tswarelano and Bandur Safaris in Limpopo, where male lions sold for up to R180 000 each. The poor economic climate seems to have had less impact on larger mammals. The popularity of white rhino and hippo resulted in higher average prices, although numbers sold remained almost unchanged from 2007. Most bigger mammals were offered by the National Parks Board.

The tables opposite show that despite small fluctuations in the price of the so-called common species, game prices were largely unchanged from 2007. The price of more popular species, including springbok variations, impala, kudu, blue wildebeest and eland, increased notably, coupled with a drop in the number of animals sold. The decline in the numbers offered could mean more animals are being traded directly between farmers and game capturers.

Contact Flippie Cloete at the University of the Free State’s Department of Wildlife Economics on (051) 401 9367 or 083 272 0871.