The Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) launched a new humanitarian programme at the conclusion of its Empowerment and Conservation Fund annual general meeting held in Polokwane this week.
Called Hunters Care, the initiative is aimed at consolidating the existing social responsibility initiatives of all its members under a single umbrella with a view to providing a fuller understanding and account of the professional hunting industry’s contribution to community development, food security and rural education.
Since its establishment in 2003, PHASA’s Conservation and Empowerment Fund has donated over R15 million to the training of rangers and guides from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, wildlife research and anti-poaching initiatives, as well as other social responsibility projects.
However, members of the association have their own social responsibility programmes and those who operate in provincial parks are required to submit a community development plan in order to win a government-held concession.
Feedback from some members present at the AGM indicated that the average annual spend on humanitarian efforts amounted to around R100 000 per member.
PHASA Fund chairman Johann Combrink said the total contribution of professional hunting to community upliftment in South Africa had been significantly understated and PHASA’s ability to give a full assessment of the industry’s humanitarian impact had been hampered as a result of the diverse nature of its members’ contributions.
“In the wake of increasing criticism levelled at our profession – taking place against a background of a general misunderstanding of what we do and how this benefits both conservation and empowerment – it is no longer feasible to talk about our humanitarian efforts in terms of rands and cents alone,” he said.
“It doesn’t help to give anecdotal evidence when asked to substantiate our claims of community engagement. All the schools, roads, clinics and crechés we build, all the monetary donations we make, all the jobs and dependants we support, and all the carcasses we give for food – all of these have to be measured so that we can give the public a proper account of our positive impact on rural development.”
According to Combrink, the food security that professional hunting provides, particularly in areas where livestock-reared meat is expensive and difficult to access, is key to countering the misperception that professional hunting is a wasteful activity. It is estimated that professional hunting produces around 2.6 million tonnes of meat every year, a significant proportion of which is donated to schools, orphanages, old age homes and villages.
Local consumption hunting enjoys far greater support than its professional counterpart, despite the fact that both sustainably use their quarry. “At the end of the day there is little difference between the two: a local hunter will keep the skull to hang above his bar and a professional hunter will take the meat for his own use, sell it or donate it to a charitable cause. It’s a misperception that needs to be addressed or we risk losing our social licence,” Combrink said.
“The beneficial spin-offs of hunting are evident to the communities living in wildlife hunting areas but less so to urban society. Unfortunately, public opinion is formed by cityfolk and unless we properly account for our humanitarian work we risk not only our profession but the livelihoods of those who depend on hunting.”