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Wildlife auctions

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Wildlife auctions

6 October 2014

Only a small proportion of the live wildlife being sold in South Africa annually appear on auctions because most of the animals being sold involve private transactions. However, there are various types of auction, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Most of the animals are being sold on boma auctions after being kept temporarily in pens at the auction site before being transported to the release site. Boma auctions often yield unrealistically high prices for individual animals partly as a show of the buyer’s social status and boma auctions are important social events for the wildlife industry. Moreover, these auctions provide a marketing platform for many peripheral services. The prices that the buyers are willing to pay vary regionally and are also influenced by the lot composition in terms of the sex, age, physical condition and type of animal.

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The wildlife at a boma auction must be captured with the minimum of stress before being transported to temporary holding pens at the auction site where they will be kept for a few weeks and allow prospective buyers to view and evaluate them. Better results are obtained when complete family groups are captured and sold as a lot, and prospective buyers get a better return on their investment when buying family groups rather than making up lots from unrelated individuals.

Boma auctions are popular because the social competiveness of some buyers often generates unrealistically high prices for specific individual animals. The disadvantage is that high prices reduce the potential core of buyers. Wildlife can also die in the pens due to diseases and injury, or become infested with parasites. The stress of capture, transportation, confinement and eventual transportation to a final destination may also cause mortalities. Boma auctions should be limited to autumn and spring to avoid excessive cold or heat which will increase the chances of mortaility among the wildlife in the pens. Auctions in the late dry season cause the wildlife that have been purchased to be released on habitats that are in their poorest annual condition and will increase their chances of dying before acclimating.

Rather buy wildlife that have been captured, transported and auctioned by people with an excellent track record. Whenever possible, a genetic certificate of parentage, original origin and genetic purity should be obtained. A veterinary certificate on the health and parasite loads of the animals being bought should also be obtained, and it should be ensured that the animals are not under long-term tranquillization. Sick or weak animals are listless, eat poorly, have a coarse coat and often suffer from diarrhoea. Also avoid animals that show lesions from cuts, bites and horn wounds, or those that have fresh wounds, especailly around the tail bases, and those that carry heavy tick burdens. Specify payment only after at least two weeks after release to avoid paying for animals that die from capture myopathy after release. This waiting period should be extended for the sable antelope, gemsbok, tsessebe, blesbok, bontebok and red hartebeest.

Rarer animals are often sold on catalogue auctions that are based upon videos or other images of the wildlife on offer. Bidding is done at a convenient location, and the animals are only captured and transported to the buyer after the conclusion of the auction. This removes two vital sources of stress: initial transportation and temporary confinement in an auction pen. It reduces mortality and does not disturb other wildlife. The purchase price is kept in a trust fund until the delivery and successful adaptation of the animals to their new environment. Catalogue auctions often increase the mean prices that are being paid for the rarer types of wildlife, although fewer animals are usually being sold on cataloque than boma auctions.

2001, the mean price per animal on catalogue auctions has consistently exceeded that on boma auctions, in part due to a developing trend to combine boma and catalogue auctions. This retains the social status of being seen to be able to buy expensive wildlife. The animals that are bought on cataloque auctions adapt better to their new environment because of fewer changes in their food than those being sold on boma auctions. A veterinary and genetic certificate can still be issued since the animals have to be captured at some stage. Moreover, catalogue auctions do not require special auction pens and the animals can be kept in any adequate facility, or even not at all.

The major disadvantages of cataloque auctions are that the buyer cannot inspect the animals physically and the animals may only be delivered several months after having been bought, sometimes not at all when the buyer receives a refund from a trust account, usually with interest. Buyers should also ensure that they receive what they bid for, especially sex and age groups.

Internet auctions are in step with international developments in communication and can be used in combination with holding pens and passive capture bomas. Videos and other imagery of the animals on offer appear on the seller’s website, where prospective buyers can place bids. Professional wildlife transporters are used to deliver the animals to their destination. An example of an internet auction appears on the web site www.leopard.tv but the internet is also now being used to bid on boma and cataloque auctions without being present personally.

The type of animal, with rare animals being especially popular, and higher prices following better rainfall as a result of wildlife deaths during drought often lead to increases in the mean prices per animal. It follows that it is best not to buy wildlife for release during a drought.

Individual or a group of wildlife producers with the necessary facilities can conduct a capture operation, contract a professional capturer or build up stocks over time with passive capture bomas and sell them at their own auction. However, there should be at least 15 different types of animal on the auction, there should be no more than 400 individual animals on auction, the common types of wildlife should not represent more than 80 per cent of all the animals on offer, there should be no more than 100 lots of wildlife for sale on a medium-sized auction, the whole auction must not take longer than three hours and images of the specific animals that are for sale should be provided when these animals cannot be viewed in pens. For catalogue auctions that are being combined with boma auctions, the animals on sale by catalogue must not form more than 15 per cent of the animals being sold. Choose an attractive venue and take the auction to the buyers rather than trying to attract the buyers to the auction, sell trophy-quality and young animals at the end of the auction, provide the prospective buyers with details on the origins, parentage and genetic purity of the animals being sold and provide valid certificates of animal health in all cases.

 

Reference:

P C Cloete, 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.

 

Article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

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