Monday, 31 July 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Simbavati Does Not Support Trophy Hunting And Statement From Lodges Of Timbavati

This statement is a response to the recent article by Mr. Don Pinnock, published by The Daily Maverick on the 8th of March 2017. Pinnock’s article triggered a debate on social media and as the commercial game lodges within the Timbavati Reserve, we want to set the record straight on some issues higlighted by the article. We specifically want to outline and reaffirm our contribution to the protection of the wildlife and ecosystems within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.

Regarding the article:

1. Statements made in the article about hunting, especially of a so-called ‘super tusker’ elephant, are a misrepresentation of the facts. This is very disappointing, considering that the Timbavati shared information with Mr. Pinnock before he published the article. Mr. Pinnock was also invited to visit the Timbavati to see its conservation policies in action, but chose not to respond.

2. The hunting numbers that are referred to in the article are for quotas within the Associated Private Nature Reserves - APNR – an area which is over 200,000 hectares. The Timbavati is only one of 4 reserves in the APNR and comprises 53,000 hectares of this greater area. The quotas for the Timbavati are far lower than those quoted in the article.

3. The reference to the possibility of a leopard being hunted in the Timbavati is incorrect. The Timbavati management confirmed – as they did in correspondence with Mr. Pinnock - that no leopard hunts will take place whilst a nation-wide moratorium is in place.

4. The reference in the article to the potential hunt of a “Super Tusker” and “Iconic Tusker” is also factually incorrect. Timbavati management has confirmed that nobody will be hunting a “Super Tusker”, nor any “Iconic Tusker”, nor any named or collared animals.

Facts about the commercial lodges in the Timbavati:

1. The commercial game lodges which operate within the Timbavati are independent businesses, which have their operations located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. Whilst all of the commercial game lodges operate within the rules and regulations set down in the constitution of the reserve, their operations are entirely independent of the Timbavati reserve management. The commercial game lodges are not responsible for the management of the reserve, nor are they able to make decisions on how to fund the conservation efforts within the reserve.

2. Commercial game lodges which operates within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve are not involved with trophy hunting in any way. The commercial game lodges offer photographic safaris and we do everything in our power to be sensitive to the animals and plants which we have the privilege of sharing the wilderness with. As a result of this, and the excellent management of the Timbavati reserve, game viewing is of a very high quality.

3. No guests of any of the commercial game lodges have had their safari experience negatively impacted by hunting that is undertaken by the reserve management, and none of the safari activities take place within any hunting areas.

4. It is important to note, that there are only 19 commercial game lodges operating within the Timbavati reserve, whilst there are a total of 47 landowners. Commercial lodges do not get involved with reserve management decisions - those decisions are left to expert managers and scientists. In addition, many of the commercial lodges within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve are tenants in the reserve, in much the same way as the game lodges that operate as concessions within the Kruger National Park itself.

Facts about the Timbavati revenue streams:

1. The commercial lodges also recognize that, as with the Kruger National Park, the Timbavati reserve management needs to raise revenue to manage the conservation efforts of the reserve. Furthermore due to wildlife crime (such as rhino poaching), the reserve faces sky-rocketing increases in its security costs - up by over 800% in the past 5 years alone. However, unlike the Kruger National Park, the Timbavati reserve management does not receive any government or other funding for such efforts. At the same time, without any contributions from government, the Timbavati serves as a security buffer to the Kruger National Park.

2. The commercial game lodges within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve are responsible for attracting paying guests to the Reserve, and in raising income through conservation levies. This forms part of the much needed revenue for the Timbavati to protect rhino, and to survive as a protected area. Through the conservation levies, the commercial operations currently contribute 17% of the total Timbavati income budget, which is significant, but in no way comes close to funding the full conservation effort of the reserve.

3. The commercial lodges also provide significant benefits to the reserve and surrounding areas in terms of protection of wildlife and by creating livelihoods for members of local communities. The commercial lodges in the Timbavati employ around 300 people from surrounding communities, and with an average dependent’s ratio of about 1:10, we are financially supporting around 3000 people, thus achieving a direct financial injection of over R20 million annually into those communities. Skills transfer and training is also an added benefit that cannot be overlooked.

4. We believe that it is important to understand that any negative impact on public support of the commercial lodges in the Timbavati would adversely affect the substantial support that the commercial lodges do give to the Timbavati Reserve; added revenue to support conservation and anti-poaching, as well as vital support to the local communities and their families. Less tourism in an area opens the door wider to more hunting, or in the worst case, results in more poaching. This is the time that the travel industry should be galvanizing their support and sending more clients who bring valuable contributions through their conservation levies.

5. Together, the commercial lodges of the Timbavati are continuously driving to change the revenue streams which are available to the reserve. To make this possible we need the support and commitment from our trusted trade partners and guests. The commercial lodges are fully committed to making a significant improvement to the conservation contribution from photographic tourism, so taking pressure off other revenue streams and working towards a future where the reserve has a stable and sustainable income foundation.

Tourism Observer

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