The Role Of The Department Of Agriculture In The Development Of A Sustainable Wildlife Ranching Sector In South Africa
Keith A Ramsay and Victor Musetha (Department of Agriculture)
Until fairly recently – and despite the fact that a number of Acts
administered by the Department of Agriculture (DoA) apply equally to
domestic livestock and wildlife – the breeding and sustainable use of
eminently suitable wild herbivore species in farming systems was seldom
seen as an agricultural activity.
This was largely due the fact that the use of wild herbivores in
farming systems was generally seen as an activity regulated by
legislation administered by nature conservation structures at
Government and Provincial level.
This started to change in 1987 when the then Department of
Agricultural Development recognised wildlife ranching as a
fully-fledged agricultural activity with the potential to produce both
meat and a range of value added products and activities as a viable
alternative to more conventional forms of animal agriculture.
Despite this, the sector remained relatively unknown, as many potential
stakeholders and decision makers were unaware of the real potential of
wildlife ranching. Fortunately, there has been a radical paradigm shift
over a relatively short period – largely as a result of accessible
information on the strategic advantages of wildlife ranching.
These include the following:
• Opportunity to convert marginal agricultural land into productive farming systems.
• Wildlife resources are often better adapted to limited water supply and high temperatures.
• Diversification – the potential to produce a wider range of products per unit area
• A wide range of employment opportunities including scope for more
specialized activities that carry higher remuneration packages
A fundamental difference between wildlife conservation areas (reserves) and
wildlife ranching is the fact that wild animal species are managed and moved
through human intervention.
In addition, unless the ranching area is large enough for wildlife to
move freely. When necessary (largely determined by the availability of
water and herbage), the maintenance of any ecological balance depends
largely on management decisions taken by the land user.
In many of the high potential areas, wild herbivores are now competing
with domestic species for resources. Where this happens, care must be
taken to ensure that resources are used in the most economically and
ecologically effective way.
This calls for a combination of information on the resource, species,
production systems and markets to enable users to make informed
In addition, the success of wildlife ranching is dependent on effective
governance, guidance and support from a number of functionaries at
central and provincial government level.
As a number of Government Departments administer legislation that has
both a direct and indirect impact on this sector, any organized and
sustainable development will depend largely on the ability of the
responsible Departments to work together as a team to provide the
necessary legal and logistical infrastructure.
Taking these facts into consideration, DoA took the initiative to
develop a wildlife ranching policy with direct links to policies such
as veld and forage and animal improvement – as well as the national
Livestock Development Strategy (LDS) to facilitate the development of a
sustainable sector with the potential to accommodate new entrants along
the entire value chain.
In the process, critical links have been established with key
Departments such as Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and Water
Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and Trade and Industry (DTI) in an effort
to move towards an integrated one-stop service for the sector.
The most important Acts controlling the wildlife ranching sector are
summed up in Table 1 and Table 2 reviews some of the services provided
by the two lead Departments (DoA and DEAT) Effectively, DoA provides a
development infrastructure while DEAT provides the necessary framework
to regulate activities such as ecotourism and hunting.
Table 1. Current Legislation Affecting The Wildlife Ranching Sector
|Animal Disease Act, 1984 (Act
No. 35 of 1984):
|Health Ccontrol, imports and
exports of animals
|Animals Protection Act, 1962
(Act No. 71 of 1962):
|Housing, transport, capture,
care of wild herbivores
|Animal Improvement Act, 1998
(Act No. 62 of 1998):
|Breed evaluation and improvements
|Animal Identification Act, 2002
(Act No. 6 2002):
|Legal identification of animals
|Marketing of Agricultural
Products Act, 1996 (Act No. 47 of 1996):
|Market access, optimizing export
|Meat safety Act, 2000 (Act No.
40 of 2000)
|Standards of hygiene in the
slaughtering of animals for meat for human and animal consumption.
Management: Biodiversity Act (Act No. 10 of 2004)
|Management and conservation of
South Africa's biodiversity
|National Environmental Magament
Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998):
|Framework for the orderly
management of wildlife resources and related activities.
Table 2. Services And Service Providers
|Veld evaluation and monitoring
|Animal health services
|Animal care guidelines;
|Animal nutrition - supplementary
feeding; feedlot rations
evaluation and improvement
|Water reticulation planning
|Marketing - animals and animal
|Agric. Marketing NAMC
Support for the Wildlife Ranching sector can be divided into: Policy and Institutional support
Veld and Forage Policy The National Veld and forage policy was
developed over a period of five years through an extensive and
inclusive consultation process. This policy makes provision for the
following: The development of an integrated set of Biome-Specific Norms
and Standards for the sustainable management of Veld and forage
resources. The development of an inclusive National Veld and Forage
The establishment of a fully representative National Veld and Forage
Working Group (NVFWG) - a stakeholder-driven forum and mouthpiece for
the sustainable management of all Veld and forage resources. The
establishment of an Interdepartmental Technical Working Group (ITWG) to
facilitate optimal coordination and collaboration at Government level.
The development of an inclusive (communal and commercial) National Veld
and Forage Strategy and Implementation Framework including a National
Veld and Forage Monitoring and Improvement Program with biome specific
Centres of Excellence to address critical issues such as Veld
degradation, the loss of biodiversity, cover and species, bush
encroachment and invasion of alien plants.
Land tenure and farmer settlement and support issues – including
financial support and the involvement of Non Governmental Organisations
(NGO’s) such as the Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA), the
Wildlife Ranchers association of South Africa (WRSA) and the National
Agricultural Marketing council (NAMC).
Policy for the development of a Sustainable Wildlife Ranching Sector in South Africa
As wild herbivores often share resources with domestic livestock and as
Wildlife ranching is often a more viable alternative in certain biomes,
this policy was developed at the same time as the Veld and Forage
policy – and therefore shares a common goal of sustainable use of the
The broad objective of this policy is to cover all the current
anomalies and shortfalls hampering the development of an economically
and ecologically viable wildlife ranching sector by developing a
multi-disciplinary framework that can be endorsed by cabinet and all
affected Departments for implementation at all levels of governance.
This policy will:
• Support the effective management of ecologically and economically viable wildlife ranching systems.
• Ensure the sustainable management of natural resources used by the wildlife ranching sector.
• Facilitate the development of a set of Norms and Standards,
• Guidelines and a Framework for a sustainable wildlife ranching sector.
• Promote and support equitable access to and participation in the wildlife ranching sector.
• Provide a framework for effective management of animal health and welfare
• Establish a National Wildlife Ranch / farm and Animal Database
• Facilitate the promotion and marketing facilities and strategies within the wildlife industry.
• Support relevant poverty alleviation and food safety issues
• Promote research and development, and training and support services
Animal Improvement Policy
This policy provides support for the animal improvement act as well as
the livestock development strategy. It also supports the development of
a wildlife ranching policy
“Farming with certain wild animal species instead of conventional farm
animals is becoming increasingly popular – particularly in marginal
areas. It has the potential to provide food and income to farmers - and
a labor force in the developed and developing sector and the orderly
development of this industry, as a viable animal production activity
should be encouraged.
There is also a growing wild animal breeding industry – with a need for
some form of recording and evaluation. Conventional facilities
operating under the Animal Improvement Act can provide such a service.
While legislation makes it possible to declare wild animal species as
animals for specific sections of the Animal Improvement Act, relevant
National and Provincial Environmental legislation and ordinance should
be taken into consideration as well.”
“An Inter – Departmental working group (DEAT- NDA) should be
established to facilitate the development of the game farming industry
within an acceptable legal framework that takes cognizance of all
relevant legislation – but recognizes the fact that game farming is a
legitimate agricultural activity. As a recognized as an agricultural
activity, game farming should have a policy to facilitate the
development of the industry at all levels.“
This policy also supports the establishment of animal improvement
schemes and a National database that could include certain wildlife
“Basic but accurate data – basic information on animal identification,
location of owners/keepers, breed distribution and composition, mating,
births, birth weights, weaning and post weaning weights - on the
different breeds used for food and agriculture can be used to identify
and trace superior animals in registered and non-registered herds and
flocks. This data can be processed into information that could be used
to broaden the reference base of specific breed evaluations.“
A National Animal recording scheme/ National database for all animals
used for food and agriculture should therefore be declared when the
Animal Improvement Act, 1998 (Act No. 62 of 1998) comes into effect.
This scheme will enable all breed Societies to download pedigree and
other data onto the Integrated registration and Genetic Information
System (INTERGIS). This information can then be used to evaluate and
identify superior breeding animals and to determine and predict trends
in populations to avoid problems such as inbreeding. These facilities
are available for breeders of wildlife species as well.
Animal Care And Protection (Welfare)
As custodians of Animal care and protection legislation, the
Department effectively endorses the internationally recognized ‘five
• Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
• Freedom from fear and distress
• Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
• Freedom from pain, injury and disease; and
• Freedom to express normal patterns of behavior) provide valuable guidance in animal welfare.
The various wildlife ranching sub sectors have been encouraged to draft
self-regulatory codes of practice that could be used to develop legal
norms and standards The SABS code for the translocation of wild
herbivores is a good example of what can and should be done.
Institutional Support - The National Livestock Development Strategy
The National Livestock industry and implementation strategy (LDS) was
developed over a period of 12 Months as a coordinated National
Department of Agriculture (DoA), Provincial Agriculture – Agricultural
Research Council (ARC) process – within the framework of Presidential
Imperatives and the Strategic Plan for South Africa with regard to the
need to enhance equitable access and participation in agriculture,
improve global competitiveness and profitability, and ensure
sustainable resource management.
Actions included an in depth review of both the livestock sector as
well as the resource base - and sector working groups were established
to use information on current status, constraints and challenges as a
framework to develop strategies to rectify problems and to mobilize the
respective sectors towards more equable and sustainable production.
After consultation, the strategy was approved at the highest possible
level to ensure optimal support from all relevant sectors.
Effectively, therefore, an integrated policy and strategy framework is
now in place to support long term interventions aimed at mobilizing
rural communities towards economically and ecologically viable animal
agriculture. This should go a long way towards addressing the challenge
of the commons and ensuring food security through the provision of much
needed animal protein as well as the creation of livelihoods and
generation of income to buy food.
Tables 4(a) to 4(d) highlight some of the planned strategic
interventions with specific reference to Animal agriculture off natural
This would include wildlife ranching
Table 3(a). - Policy / Legal / Regulatory Framework Interventions
use of Veld and Forage resources
|A funcional and economically
sustainable Veld and Forage Improvement Scheme linked to the National
|A Functional and economically
sustainable National vegetation database and plant genetic resource
centres and Gene Banks to support the conservation and use of
indigenous and adapted forage cultivars
Early warning and decision
support system linked to a holistic drought management plan to reduce
the risk of environmental degradation
Table 3(b). - Structural / Institutional Framework interventions
Potential and Efficiency of Veld
|National Veld policy and a
Functional National Veld assessment and monitoring system
|Compensation for communities
that conserve and improve natural resources
|Land ownership systems and
secure rights to resources for viable production systems.
|Business plans and projects for
holistic development of rural communities and farmers
Table 3 (C). - Service Provision Interventions
|Infrastructure in Rural Areas
|Government financial support for
projects from institutions (e.g. engineering firms, Transnet and Eskom)
providing infrastructure in rural areas.
Table 3(D). - Research and Development (R&D) Interventions
Extension and Training
|An integrated and sustainable
system for long term funding of R&D and technology transfer
|Optimal resource capacity
(highly skilled staff) for R&D and technology transfer
|A national programme for
technology transfer with a national co-coordinator
use for national resources
|R&D for Pastoral risk
management and decision support to increase livestock productivity
|Functional decision support
system for managing climatic impact and risk to livestock production
|New and alternative forage crops
and production practices to reduce risk of degradation
|National R&D and technology
transfer programme for biome management
|Biological Efficiency of
|R&D on sustainable farming
systems for livestock (Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape)
|R&D to increase access to
commercial markets and R&D into sustainable extensive and intensive
livestock production systems to increase livestock productivity.
Technical farmer support with
increased participation of farmers in the commercial sector
Expected outcomes from the LDS with the potential to contribute
towards more effective production and marketing of animal products –
locally, regionally (SADC) and internationally:
• Better statistics – leading to more effective management of the entire supply chain
• A united approach to common problems
• Sector and Sub Sector specific development programs
• More effective disease surveillance and control
• Increased local, regional and international trade as a result of
guarantees on product health and traceability as well as animal care
Strategic Non-Governmental Sector Partners
Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA)
Wildlife Ranching – South Africa (WRSA) - currently the mouthpiece for
this sector has been very active in the development of the Veld and
forage as well as the closely linked Wildlife ranching policy.
A sector working group has been established along with a section 27
committee that is administered by National Agricultural Marketing
The National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC)
The NAMC forms a critical link between DoA and the sector and has
already provided invaluable inputs. The most recent being a Section 17
company that has drafted a report on the sector to clearly define
activities and propose interventions for the sustainable development of
wildlife ranching in South Africa.
The Section 17 report of the NAMC identified the following activities under wildlife ranching
• All animal and bird species (feathered and furred), excluding
• Domesticated animals- including:
• Endemic South African species
• Alien species
• Invasive species
• Damage causing animals
• Free roaming ostriches
• Thick-skin animals (including crocodiles)
• Exotic animals
• Critically threatened, threatened and endangered and protected species
Many wildlife species have multiple value traits – live animals, trophies, and skins.