The decades since conditional private ownership of wildlife was granted in 1991 saw a significant shift from cattle farming to game ranching. Owing to this expansion, the total area covered by these privately owned ranches exceeds that of all national parks and provincial nature reserves put together. Limpopo has around half of the country’s game farms, followed by the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape.

Wildlife ranching incorporates various subsectors, ranging from extensive wildlife ranching (with minimal human intervention) to intensive wildlife ranching (with supplementary feeding). It provides consumable activities (such as recreational hunting, trophy hunting, biltong and game meat) as well as non-consumable activities (such as accommodation, breeding material, wildlife viewing, adventure and tourism). Other sub-sectors are the wildlife capturing/translocation industry and taxidermy.

In addition, the wildlife sector makes a large contribution towards conservation because it is in its interest to preserve wildlife. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world where the number of animals of rare or threatened species has increased in recent years, and native wildlife numbers are at their highest since the past 100 years. It has played a role, and continues to play a role, in saving species (e.g. white rhino, bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, black wildebeest), as well as protecting the rich diversity of vegetation types. The wildlife ranching industry has “transformed more than 20 million hectares of marginal agricultural land into thriving game ranches, thus enhancing food production units, attracting tourists, creating jobs and developing rural communities”, reads a Wildlife Ranching pamphlet.

The industry makes an annual contribution of some R20 billion to the GDP and maintains 140 000 sustainable jobs (Dry, 2015).

Sources: "An analysis of market potential of game meat" by Dr G. Dry (2015); North-West University article “Acknowledging the contribution of the South African Wildlife Industry” prepared by Dr PC Cloete; ; Wildlife Ranching press release 19 March 2010.

Acknowledging the contribution of the South African wildlife industry

When conditional private ownership of wildlife was granted in 1991, many livestock producers switched to extensive wildlife production. On the back of the economic and ecological advantages of extensive wildlife production, the industry experienced an average annual growth rate of 5.6% up to the mid-2000s. However, an increase in intensive breeding practices, especially of high-value animals since the mid-2000s, resulted in a further acceleration at a growth rate of 6.75% per annum. As a result, the wildlife industry is the fastest growing agricultural sector in South Africa, with over 10 000 game ranches using in excess of 17% of the total land area. This industry is globally recognized, resting on several consumable and non-consumable pillars (i.e. recreational hunting, trophy or biltong hunting, venison production, live game trade and eco-tourism), with hunting and eco-tourism being the main contributors towards the economy of this industry.

Despite the growth and transformation experienced within the industry, several discussions remain with regard to the current, or potential, contribution of the wildlife industry towards overall economy growth, poverty reduction and ensuring food security. It is often argued that the expansion of the wildlife sector has taken productive land out of the system, causing higher levels of food insecurity and poverty. In disparity to this view, it can be argued that the wildlife industry is making a significantly contribution towards the economy by adding significant value to wildlife, by creating considerable skilled and semi-skilled employment opportunities, and by providing an alternative food production system.

Moreover, benefits from growth within the wildlife industry stretches beyond the economic scope as the sector also contributes towards conservation and wildlife management. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world where the number of animals of rare or threatened species has increased in recent years. Native wildlife numbers are at its highest since the past 100 years.

The growth of the wildlife industry may be hampered due to the present speculative market dynamics as well as several proposed changes in legislation. These have created uncertainties and apprehensiveness about the direction and sustainability of the sector. This will subsequently impact its socio-economic contribution as long-term and structural investments are put on hold.

It still remains very difficult to estimate the impact of these dynamics without reliable data; which is one of the largest backdrops of the South African wildlife industry. Therefore, to ensure the sustainability and viability of the wildlife industry, adequate information systems are a necessity. The Agricultural Economists at the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management of the North-West University are directly involved with the sector; conducting data collection and research in order to maintain a comprehensive information system for the wildlife industry.

Source: Dr PC Cloete, Eenheid vir Omgewingswetenskappe en –Bestuur, North-West University (Potchefstroom). Write to Flippie.Cloete [at] or call 018 299 4245

Local business environment

Game ranching in South Africa is unique, not only in terms of species diversity, but also in terms of our institutional environment, i.e. South Africa is one of only a few countries in the world where ownership of wildlife is vested in private landowners, which presents game ranchers with a comparative advantage second to none – there is no reason why game ranching cannot become or remain one of the leading agricultural land use options in years to come. Dr Flippie Cloete, ABSA Agricultural Outlook 2017.

Four pillars of the wildlife industry are breeding, hunting, wildlife tourism and meat production.

Five methods are used in South Africa for trading with wildlife, namely:

  1. Private sales negotiated between the buyer and the seller (Professional wildlife catchers play an important role by translocating the animals)
  2. Public live wildlife auctions
  3. Public wildlife catalogue auctions
  4. The tender system (This method is used mainly by municipalities that own wildlife and nature reserves. The SANParks calls for tenders to buy animals like elephants and rhinoceros)
  5. Electronic auctions


Further reading:

See also the items under “Websites & publications” heading.

For the newcomer

To develop a wildlife ranch or convert a livestock farm into a wildlife ranch requires major capital investments in fencing, stocking and other infrastructure.

  • To fence a property for wildlife ranching is very expensive. The height of the fences will be 1.2 m, 1.8 m or 2.4 m depending on the type of wildlife kept.
  • Once a property is fenced in terms of the minimum standards required by Nature Conservation, an exemption certificate is issued that is valid for a period of three years. This allows the holder or owner to hunt, capture and sell particular species of wild animals all year round on the exempted property. Without an exemption certificate hunting is restricted to the hunting season, from March to September.
  • The cost of stocking a property with wildlife may also be regarded as an inhibiting factor. The rare species are animals that were almost extinct three decades ago. They have been bred at such a rate that there is currently no fear that they will become extinct. These animals are now available at high prices which are determined by the market. The expectations of sellers are also high, with the result that they prefer to keep the animals rather than sell them at lower prices. The numbers of these animals are therefore steadily increasing.
  • If the wildlife rancher wants to expand into accommodation, infrastructure developments to provide this service also require a major capital outlay. The conservation of the local environment as outlined in the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act guards against the movement of wildlife to unsuitable habitats. One of the main inhibiting factors in South African wildlife management is demarcated areas. This regulation means that wildlife ranchers are prohibited from keeping particular wildlife species in specific areas because these areas are not regarded as natural habitats for those species.
Source: Deon Furstenburg

National strategy and government departments

Find the “Documents” option at for legislation, permits etc.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Tel: 012 319 7597 / 7493 In terms of game ranching, game is considered to be an agricultural product as defined in the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act, 1996 (Act 47 of 1996). The Directorate: Animal Production has, as its primary objective, the sustainable management, use and ecological protection of range and forage resources, as used by both livestock- and wildlife (game)-production systems, across provincial boundaries. Find the “Veld, Forage And Wildlife Ranching Division” option on the directorate’s web pages. The National Game-Farming Working Group consists of all relevant stakeholders in the game-farming industry to ensure that all the parties concerned are represented and participate fully.

Whereas DAFF heads up agricultural production (including wildlife husbandry), the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) leads environmental conservation. Visit The Department of Tourism has to create a climate for the strengthening of South Africa as a globally desired hunting destination by facilitating, inter alia, responsible and ethical hunting operations. See The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) has as its prime responsibility the enhancement of international trade. Visit Find contact details for all government departments through the website

Role players


Find details of the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA), the Confederation of Hunters Associations of South Africa (CHASA) and other associations in the “Hunting” chapter.

  • Buffalo Owners Association Tel: 082 555 3367
  • Cape Wildlife Group andre [at] or john [at] Promoting the Western Cape as a tourist wildlife destination
  • Eastern Cape Game Management Association Tel: 041 933 1394
  • Game Abattoir and Meat Exporters of South Africa (GAME-SA) Tel: 049 891 0622
  • Private Rhino Owners’ Association (PROA) Tel: 082 299 3161
  • Southern Africa Rare Game Breeders
  • Southern African Wildlife Management Association Tel: 021 554 1297 elma [at]
  • Stud Game Breeders Find a list of breeders on the website
  • Wildlife Translocation Association (WTA) Tel: 016 341 2534 The WTA is the organisation in South Africa that represents wildlife capturing operators.
  • Wildlife Producers Association The WPA is the registering authority for wildlife in South Africa, authorised and registered by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in terms of the Animal Improvement Act, 1998 (Act 62 of 1998). Its aim is that “within the near future all wildlife products from South Africa will carry a DNA Register logo indicating that the product is registered and can be traced to its lawful owners, place of origin, and, who handled the product”.
  • Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) Tel: 012 335 6994 The WRSA is the official mouthpiece of game farmers whose farms are situated in South Africa. WRSA negotiates benefits for game farmers with provincial authorities, assist with firearm and renewal licenses, compliance with exemptions for game farms and transport of livestock, annual game auctions and training courses i.e. meat processing, tanning of skin, game farm management meat inspectors, etc. For further information refer to the website.

Other NGOs

  • Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) EWT Wildlife Trade and Ranching Project Tel: 011 372 3600 andrewt [at]
  • Field Guides Association of South Africa (FGASA) Tel: 011 886 8245
  • Game Rangers’ Association of Africa
  • National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) Wildlife Unit Tel: 011 907 3590/1/2 National issues and problems are addressed through the development of standards and codes of practice for the benefit of animals within the wildlife ranching industry, physical inspections of game auctions and game capture operations, wildlife rescue operations, lobbying to outlaw unethical practices, and assisting member societies with wildlife issues in their respective areas.
  • TRAFFIC International TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa Tel: 012 342 8304 The TRAFFIC Network is the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring programme with offices covering most parts of the world. It aims to ensure that the trade in wild plants and animals does not impinge on nature conservation.
  • WWF South Africa (World Wide Fund)

Training and research

Find details of South African Journal of Wildlife Research under the “Websites and publications” heading.

  • Africa Land-Use Training Tel: 078 228 0008 Veld management experts
  • Africa Nature Training Field guide training
  • Aldam Game School Tel: 051 821 1783
  • Bushwise Field guide training
  • Care For Wild Sanctuary for orphaned rhinos
  • Geo Wild Consulting Deon Furstenburg dfurs [at] Renowned wildlife scientist
  • Ghoenaskraal Training Centre Tel: 012 548 4708 Courses are presented for farm owners and workers and include training in processing of game meat, hunting guide training and a one-day game tanning course.
  • Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA)
  • Impala Field Guide Training Tel: 083 256 0210 Field guide training
  • International School of Tanning Technology Tel: 046 622 7310 Gameskin tanning
  • Nelson Mandela University (NMU) (i) Agriculture and Game Ranch Management Tel: 041 504 3527 (ii) School of Natural Resource Management (Saasveld Campus) Nature Conservation & Game Ranch Management Tel: 044 801 5018 / 43 National Diploma and B. Tech degree offered in Game Ranch Management
  • North-West University Potchefstroom Campus (i)Tourism research in Economic, Environs and Society (TREES) Tel: 018 285 2331 B.A, B.Com and B.Sc qualifications in tourism are offered. Game is included in the studies. Data is collected and research done order to maintain a comprehensive information system for the wildlife industry. (ii) Research Unit: Environmental Science and Management Prof Klaus Kellner Tel: 018 299 2510 Klaus.kellner [at]
  • Northern Cape Nature Academy Wildlife Guides, Lodge Management, Game Farm Management
  • SanWild Wildlife Trust Anti-poaching training for wildlife rangers
  • Skills for Africa Tel: 012 379 4920
  • South African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Sciences
  • South African Wildlife College Tel: 015 793 7300
  • Stellenbosch University Department of Animal Sciences Prof Lourens Hoffman Tel: 021 808 4747 Meat science
  • Tshwane University for Technology Department of Nature Conservation Tel: 012 382 5306 Ecotourism Management (guides, eco-destination planners, and tour operators), Game Ranch Management (professional hunting, game capturing) and Nature Conservation (protected area managers, rangers, environmental education etc)
  • University of the Free State (i) Department of Genetics Prof JP Grobler Tel: 051 401 3844 (ii) Department Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences Prof HO de Waal Tel: 051 401 2210 (iii) Department Zoology & Entomology Prof L Basson Tel: 051 401 3244
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Life Sciences
  • University of Pretoria (i) Centre for Wildlife Management Tel: 012 420 2627 (ii) Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies Tel: 012 529 8558 (iii) Animal and Wildlife Sciences Tel: 012 420 4018 (iv) Conservation Ecology Research Unit (CERU) Tel: 012 420 2753 (v) Mammal Research Institute Tel: 012 420 2066 (vi) Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station (HHWRS) A research and training platform managed by the University of Pretoria as part of a collaborative agreement with the Peace Parks Foundation and Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency
  • University of the Witwatersrand Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences (APES) Tel: 011 717 6403
  • Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) has several study groups where members share ideas and discuss market developments. Find WRSA details under the next heading.

Statutory / parastatal

South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Standards Information Centre Tel: 012 428 7911 The Game Standard SANS 10331, obtainable from SABS, covers aspects of the translocation, such as the capture, transportation, temporary accommodation and release, of wild herbivores such as antelope, elephant, rhino, hippo, giraffe and zebra. SANS 10391 covers the translocation of wildlife by sea. Visit


Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier in this chapter.

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