Colour variant hunting: Not all black and white

Issued by
North West, Feb 9, 2016

No other term has dominated the hunting industry in the last couple of years as much as 'colour variant hunting'.

It is the topic of fierce debates on digital platforms and around the campfire. The perception persists that hunters are left irate at the sometimes exorbitant costs hunting these animals entail.

Animals are often priced at a king's ransom, and while many in the international market can afford to pay these prices, local hunters' pockets only go so deep.

As it turns out, they are much more open to the breeding and hunting of these animals than previously thought. This, according to a new study by Prof Peet van der Merwe and the team at TREES (Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society) at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University.

The majority of respondents (81%) from the hunters' survey from which the report was formulated indicated they never hunted colour variants, while 19% said they have. It is estimated there are approximately 200 000 local hunters, meaning 40-plus hunters had hunted colour variants in 2015.

The main reason is that it is far too expensive to hunt colour variants for meat and biltong purposes. The costs of the animals are simply not accessible. Trophy hunters are by far in the minority, meaning it is not economically for the average local hunter to hunt colour variants. Moreover, the hunters feel they have no need to hunt colour variants and they are of no value to the biltong hunter (meat hunter).

There is also the issue of principle. The hunters prefer to hunt normal or natural looking animals and some feel it is against their principle to hunt selectively bred animals. It is evident from the survey that many local hunters are not well-informed about colour variant animals, as some think these animals are artificially genetically altered. This is not the case, as these animals do naturally occur in the wild.

The colour variant species that have been hunted most by local hunters are white Blesbok (92%), black Impala (75%), golden Oryx (75%), golden blue Wildebeest (75%) and black Springbok (64%). A total of 51% of respondents that do hunt colour variants said they would hunt colour variants again. Interestingly, 54% of hunters feel that breeding colour variants are unacceptable; 26% think it is acceptable; and 20% are not sure.

Hunters strongly feel the hunting of animals that are bred in small camps harm the reputation of hunters and hunting, that growth stimulant and/or supplements have a negative impact on the conservation of game, and that the hunting of colour variants impact on the availability of hunting packages for an 'ordinary hunt'.

Interestingly, hunters have no qualms about hunting colour variants if they are priced the same as non-colour variants, but are more and more opposed to it once the price goes up by 10% or higher. They will, however, pay increased prices for colour variants if they form part of an affordable hunting package. The majority of hunters agreed there is a future for colour variant hunting (39% agree to an extent and 38% somewhat).

Therefore, the hunting of colour variants by local hunters are price-dependent. If correctly priced, they will hunt colour variants. This is also true for all animals available for hunting; as previously indicated, local hunters are price sensitive.

"It should also be remembered that the input costs for colour variant game farming are much higher than for the alternative. The game is more expensive to buy, more expensive to ensure, smaller camps with costly security is needed, and the overall management costs are higher. If colour variant game isn't priced right for the local hunter, the colour variant game farmers won't be able to sustain their businesses," says Van der Merwe.

Expert name: Professor Peet van der Merwe Telephone number: 018 299 1812 E-mail address: [email protected]