Up to 2014 game prices in South Africa soared, driven by a small number of wealthy buyers. Some game species saw prices at auctions soar by 5 times over the course of six years. In that year game ranching was valued at over 12 billion Rand. One saw the likes of billionaires Anton Rupert paying the obscene price of R 40 million for a single Buffalo bull, Cyril Ramaphosa joined the fray paying similar prices. Then along came the mutant colour forms, the ‘Golden Wildebeest’ (we have blogged about this before), ‘White Kudu’, not to mention the common, or garden, ‘Copper’ and ‘Black Springbok’. A small number of very rich people (the 1%-ers) were driving the market, as they do with any other commodities.

Then along came the economic slump in 2015 with expensive game species losing value by 30-40% - cheaper but not cheap. To aggravate things further, South Africa is in the depths of a severe drought. For those 1%-ers like Rupert and Ramaphosa, who first drove the market, paying for feed or off-loading a value-declining asset is pocket money, but for those smaller operators that switched from cattle to game it takes on a more serious hue.

How much does all this have to do with conservation? Our feeling is not much - but game will only continue to survive if it retains value. Those that dabbled in rare, high priced, game such as Buffalo and the increasing number of colour mutants beware! The ‘bubble’ is about to burst. We note that the game industry pundits claim that it is all tied to the general economic decline and it is not a ‘bubble’. But then they would, wouldn’t they?

We are not against game farming, culling or trophy hunting but it might be time for wise heads to ponder the future! We hope a balanced and realistic view will prevail! Balanced game farming is what is required and not the extremes that we have been seeing in recent years!