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Wildlife auctions

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Wildlife auction trends

25 July 2014

Despite that only an estimated smaller fraction of all the wildlife being sold annually in South Africa are being done so on official wildlife auctions, these auctions are the only reliable source of trade in live wildlife. The first official live wildlife auction in South Africa was held on 7 May 1975 on the property of Mr K. G. Giliomee in the Hoedspruit district of Limpopo when 128 wild animals were sold for a turnover of R20 362 at a mean price of R159.09 per animal.

Live wildlife sales usually focus on wild herbivores because carnivores are seldom sold. Only lions were once sold regularly but their prices per animal have dropped by 27 per cent from 2011 to 2012 while no lions were sold in 2013 mainly because a resistance has developed to unethical canned lion hunting. A few spotted hyaenas were sold in 2008, cheetahs in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, and caracals and African wild dogs in 2008 and 2009. A current peak turnover on live wildlife auctions was reached in 2013 when 23 963 live wild animals to the value of R1 029 591 920 were sold at a mean price of R42 965.90 per animal.

The wildlife that are currently being sold indicate a change in the market demand, with increasing numbers of rare and expensive animals being sold in recent years. Consequently, the turnover in 2013 was 50 564 times that of the initial wildlife auction of 1975, although only 187 times the number of animals was sold. The switch to rarer and expensive wildlife is further reflected in the changes in the mean prices per animal for 1975 and 2013. However, meat-producing animals remain in demand because the local meat hunters still form the backbone of the hunting industry.

In 2013, some of the exotic colour and morphological variants started to lose their exorbitant values compared with 2012 and other years, with the mean price for several animals dropping markedly. Compared with 2012 the mean price of a black-backed impala dropped 62 per cent; that of an East African buffalo 152 per cent; that of a golden gemsbok 214 per cent; that of a black, so-called heartwater resistant springbok 219 per cent and that of a white greater kudu 410 per cent. However, the mean price of genetically pure, indigenous animals such as the a roan antelope and bontebok remained high and showed increases of 22 and 67 per cent respectively.

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The meat-producing animals had become neglected on wildlife auctions in recent years, probably because of an overly ambitious demand for colour and morphological variants. However, with the decrease in the demand for the latter in 2013, the mean prices of the common, meat-producing wildlife have increased again in 2013 over 2012 by 13 per cent for an impala, 14 per cent for a springbok, 17 per cent for a blesbok and a red hartebeest, 21 per cent for a gemsbok, 23 per cent for a Cape eland, 27 per cent for a blue wildebeest and 38 per cent for a greater kudu. It may also be that having animals of pure, indigenous genetic stock is becoming a new factor in driving the market demand, particularly since the mean prices of the more exotic animals put such expensive wildlife out of reach of most hunters. Moreover, the international trophy hunters are increasingly averse to hunting so-called genetically manipulated, intensively produced game.

Live, wild animals can currently be purchased in South Africa from conservation authorities; on boma, catalogue and internet auctions; from wildlife capture and marketing enterprises; and directly from wildlife ranchers. The animals can be transported by the seller, the buyer, or a professional wildlife transporter. Reliable sellers guarantee that all the animals will be delivered in a good physical condition. If not, the buyer is reimbursed for any losses being sustained during transportation and in some instances for up to two weeks after the date of delivery. Buyers are also able to obtain insurance that will compensate for any losses during the production lifetime of the animals. However, this insurance has to be renewed every 12 months.

Live wild animals can be marketed in the following ways: the animals are captured after a buyer has placed an order, the animals are captured by a capture operator and are then marketed on behalf of the wildlife rancher in a mutual agreement, the animals are marketed by a capture operator who buys the animals outright from a wildlife rancher, and the animals are marketed in the published media or on the internet by the owner, who contracts the services of a professional wild animal capture team, or personally captures the animals such as with a passive capture system.

The animals that are being put on auction can be presented to potential buyers on a boma, catalogue or internet auction, private transactions can be concluded between individuals, marketing institutions such as wildlife auctioneers and marketing enterprises can be used, the animals can be marketed to potential buyers locally and in foreign countries and the animals can be bought on tender from government institutions. As it is expensive to buy and maintain the necessary mass-capture equipment, it is often preferable to make use of reliable, professional animal capture teams.

Recent developments in computer software has enabled auctioneers to transmit the proceedings of boma and catalogues auctions live on the internet. This means that potential buyers can buy animals from the comfort of a home or office without having to travel great distances to get to the venue where the auction occurs. Potential buyers are required to register in advance to bid interactively on the animals that are being auctioned on a specific day and place. The licence for the software is owned by wildlifeauctions.

When deciding what to buy or sell, it is important to remember that the mean prices on wildlife auctions are usually nominal and have not been corrected for inflation. Real values can be calculated by dividing the nominal price by the Consumer Price Index in decimal form. Moreover, the occasional exorbitant prices that are currently being reported in the media for some individual animals distort the expectations of sellers because the overall mean prices for the same types of animal are markedly lower.

The mean price per animal and the annual turnover on wildlife auctions vary with the supply of and demand for various types of wildlife in a typical free-market system. At the start of the wildlife ranching industry, expansion was rapid and the demand appeared to be insatiable, with wildlife prices increasing steadily and even rapidly in some cases. Recently there have been efforts by wildlife producers to improve the value of their wildlife stock by buying expensive local and imported animals with unique colour and morphological traits. This has resulted in a structural change to a stud as opposed to a commercial, free-ranging, conservation approach by some wildlife producers. However, this is of doubtful long-term interest for the wildlife industry because it is affecting the integrity of locally adapted, indigenous stock.

It is best to consult a wildlife economist when buying wildlife on auction to decide if the prices are realistic. Moreover, a qualified wildlife ecologist should be consulted to determine the chances of building up a viable herd in a given habitat. Moreover, wildlife geneticists should aslo be consulted on the long-term chances of survival of exotic colour and morphological variants in their new environment.

References:

Baldus, R D. 2012. Is this the future of Cape buffalo hunting? African Indaba 10(1): 7.

Bothma, J du P. 2005. It is time to end the debate on introducing exotic wildlife. S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 35(1): 97 - 102.

Cloete, P C, J du P Bothma, J G du Toit & J van Rooyen. In Press. Buying and selling wild animals. In J du P Bothma & J G du Toit (Eds), Game ranch management, sixth edition. Pretoria: Van Schaik.

Cloete, F 2014. Amptelike wildveilingomset breek deur die miljard merk. Game & Hunt 20(2): 63, 65 & 67.

Niehaus, C 2014. Runaway game prices and economic bubble? S A Hunter, March: 68, 70.

 

Article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

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