Hunts OK'd In Kruger


Published: March - 2000

Quietly, almost without notice, the court system in South Africa has handed down a blockbuster decision authorizing a community in the northern part of the country to sell safaris inside Kruger National Park. Two test hunts for elephant and two test hunts for buffalo have already been authorized - and sold to clients, one of whom will be hunting there as early as next month.

The Safari Company that won the right to conduct the hunts is Wayne Wagner Safaris in Hoedspruit. Owner Wayne Wagner says his right to hunt a 24,000-hectare block in the far northern corner of the park is without restriction, meaning either of his elephant clients may have the opportunity to take world-class trophies. The same is true of his buffalo clients.

So how did these precedent-shattering hunts come about? The roots of the matter go back to the days of apartheid, when black communities were uprooted and forced to move to what were called homelands. One of these uprooted communities (the Makuleke Community) used to reside in the area that has now been opened to hunting. With an all-black government in power, Makuleke Community leaders simply asked the court for their land back. Their wishes were granted this past November, albeit with some strings attached. Seems community members are not permitted to live on the land, or even subsistence-hunt it. All they can do is commercialize the area's natural resources in certain agreed-upon ways. In effect, they are free to create game-viewing facilities and sell limited hunting rights, all under the watchful eye of park officials.

What will world opinion be about this development? Are other communities going to lay claims to other parts of Kruger National Park? Is a new conservation paradigm emerging here that will spread throughout Africa? Less optimistically, are opponents of this plan still going to emerge at this late date and scuttle it? Hunting leaders in South Africa won't admit, it but everyone is more or less holding their breath to see what happens when anti-hunters and preservationists the world over find out about........(continued)

 
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