SOUTH AFRICA HUNTING
Hunting in South Africa is nothing new. Between 3 million years ago and 120 thousand years ago, primitive men in the form of Australopithecus and Homo erectus roamed the South African Highveld. Many years after them, the Khoi-San Bushmen, Khoi Strandlopers and Khoi-Khoi Hottentots have thrived and survived by hunting and gathering in Southern Africa for more than 40,000 years. They used their legendary bows and poison arrows to hunt every animal, from a duiker to an eland very successfully and selectively. Records of the Khoi-San in about 15000 rock art paintings and engravings, ranging in age between about 27000 and 150 years, mainly depict aspects of hunting which are scattered al over the country with many being discovered in the Drakensberg mountain range.
The Nguni tribes arrived here form up the east coast between 600 and 500 years ago, bringing with them a new method of hunting namely throwing spears and hunting dogs. Although they were cattle farmers, they only slaughtered and ate their animals on special occasions. To substitute their diet of sour milk and millet with some meat, they hunted regularly, either in small groups with their dogs, or on big drives, using fire to drive animals over cliffs or into pits. This hunting was strictly regulated by kings and chieftains, who “owned” the game, and large areas were put aside for personal hunting, thereby in effect introducing conservation areas for sustainable utilization.
During the 1400’s Portuguese explorers landed at Saldanha, Table Bay and Mossel Bay and recorded in their ships’ logs incidents of shooting “deer” for fresh meat.
Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape in 1652, and within a year the Cape Lion and the Hippo in the Liesbeeck River became a threat to the V.O.C. livestock and vegetable gardens. Within another year, the hippo was shot into local extinction, and the Cape lion was never to be seen again. Later, Governor Simon van der Stel was on a copper exploration into Namaqualand, when his coach was attacked and wrecked by an irate Black Rhino near Klawer. Rhino hunting in South Africa was born. Areas in the Western Cape such as Elands Baai and Buffelsfontein was was most probably given these names for a reason. We have hunted some very large Eland on the West Coast of South Africa and they seem to thrive in this area.
By the early 1700’s the Dutch trekboers started moving north into the Karoo and Klein Karoo meeting up with the vast herds of Springbuck, Kwagga, Blesbuck and other antelope, and virtually lived off these for 200 years. “Wildschietboeken”, or permits issued to the first South African farmers of European descent, are still in the Cape Archives, reflecting that regulatory measures became necessary to conserve the game. Even today still there are free roaming Springbuck and Kudu in this area that comes and go where there are no high fences for kilometers and kilometers.
Towards the beginning of the 1800’s the Eastern Cape was reached and ivory hunters started working on the herds of Elephant, making their fortunes in selling ivory. The Eastern Cape at this point became the gateway to Africa for explorer recreational hunters such as Gordon Cumming, Charles Baldwin and Cornwallis Harris, the latter who fortunately kept meticulous notes, sketches and journals. The latter regularly referred to assistance rendered by the local inhabitants during his hunts, and the knowledge they displayed on the habits of the various game species. Hundreds of fortune-seeking ivory hunters of European as well as indigenous (mainly Griqua, Hottentot and Nguni) origin who thought that the game would never run out, depleted the herds considerably.
At about 1837, the Voortrekkers started moving through the Free State, settling along the way to the Transvaal, thus starting the great South African love affair with sustainable hunting. Boer ivory hunters started to operate and legends like Jan Viljoen, Petrus Jacobs, Hendrik van Zyl and Piet Botha became very well known. In the 1870’s they were joined by hunters like Selous, who learned from Jacobs and – amongst others – one Cigar, a well known Hottentot ivory hunter. All of the “legends” made mention of the indispensable assistance rendered by indigenous hunters accompanying them on their hunts.
During the “Victorian” era of the 1800’s, South Africa was seen by Europeans, as a hunting paradise. In 1860 “The Great Hunt” was organised for Queen Victoria’s middle son, Prince Alfred, on the farm Bainsvlei, just outside Bloemfontein. On this occasion, a 1000 mounted Barralong tribesmen drove about 30000 head of game towards the Bainsvlei homestead, where more or less 5000 head were killed. The lion’s share of the meat was utilised by the families of the local tribesmen.
By the turn of the 1900’s, hunting had become a great part of South African traditions, and the deprivations of the Boer War had forced an impoverished population of Boers to utilise their legendary shooting skills to provide for their families off the veld. Following this, there was a period of 70 years of social, sport and biltong hunting hosted by farmers, for their relatives and friends from the cities and towns. Biltong and droêwors are now considered part of our national heritage and even though some try to duplicate this in other countries it is just not the same.
It was only during the early 1970’s that it was realised that overseas hunters were willing to pay in foreign currency to come and hunt here. Earlier political unrest in Kenya (Uhuru) and elsewhere in Southern and East Africa frightened hunters from there, to the benefit of South Africa. Game farming and commercial hunting became a viable way of land use. The fact that a financial value was attached to the life of an animal and the privilege to hunt it, assured the survival and prosperity of species like the Black Wildebeest and Bontebok. The regulation of the trophy hunting industry promoted thousands of people in the game industry to qualify themselves as professional hunters and outfitters, but regulation of recreational hunting remained virtually stagnant.
The poor economics of domestic stock farming in some areas, aggravated by the declining value of the local rand, the proliferation of stock theft, droughts, etc. stimulated the growth in the game ranching industry, driven by the demand for recreational and trophy hunting. Scarce and expensive game became sought after, and with huge investments by game farmers, and local as well as overseas investors (mainly trophy hunters), breeding stock was acquired and these rare species were bred up to sustainable numbers. Further growth was stimulated by the changes on the political scene causing an influx of foreign tourists to the new South Africa.
Hunting in South Africa is evident to be one of the biggest past times since the beginning of its existence. With the variety of game it possesses and the people that manage, conserve and utilize it, it is second to none. Africa and South Africa are still one of the best hunting destinations on the planet and African Dreams Hunting forms part of this heritage and we believe in the concept of conservation through effective utilisation.