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Exploring the Role of Private Wildlife Ranching as a Conservation Tool in South Africa: Stakeholder Perspectives

Jenny A Cousins, University of Manchester
Jon P Sadler, University of Birmingham
James Evans, University of Manchester

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Abstract

Rich in biological diversity, South Africa’s natural habitats are internationally recognized as a conservation priority. Biodiversity loss continues, however, and limited scope to enlarge the state-protected areas, combined with funding shortages for public parks, means that conservationists are increasingly turning to private landowners for solutions. The recent boom in privately owned wildlife ranches in South Africa has the potential to contribute to conservation in South Africa. This paper explores the benefits, limitations, and challenges of private wildlife ranching as a tool for conservation in South Africa through interviews with key stakeholders working within conservation and wildlife ranching, and through case studies of threatened species programs. Respondents suggested that wildlife ranches contribute to conservation positively by maintaining natural areas of habitat and by providing resources to support reintroduction programs for threatened species. However, they reported a number of limitations centered on three themes that generally arise due to the commercial nature of wildlife ranching: (1) tourist preferences drive the industry, (2) predators are persecuted to protect valuable game, and (3) inadequate resources are made available for professional conservation management and planning on ranches. In addition to challenges of combining economic gain with conservation objectives, ranchers face a number of challenges that arise because of the small, enclosed character of many ranches in South Africa, including the need to intensively manage wildlife populations. In order to enhance the role of wildlife ranching within conservation, clear guidance and support for ranchers is likely to be required to boost endorsement and minimize economic loss to ranchers.

Key words

conservation; private wildlife ranches; qualitative research; South Africa; stakeholder views
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087