A severe drought is threatening South Africa’s wildlife industry, with game farmers keeping fewer animals and tourists visiting game lodges in smaller numbers.
Parts of the country have been affected by consecutive years of abnormally hot weather and below average rainfall that have scorched grazing lands and dried up watering holes since 2015, the driest year on record.
Industry body Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) estimates the Northern Cape province has lost more than two-thirds of its game over the last three years. It is conducting a countrywide survey to determine the scale of animal losses and the financial impact on the country’s more than 9,000 wildlife ranches.
“It’s been an extraordinary drought,” said WRSA chief Adri Kitshoff-Botha. “It’s not a one-year or two-year drought. In some areas we’ve seen it has been going now for six years.”
The wildlife industry generates revenue for South Africa through tourism, hunting, breeding and meat production. Trophy hunting alone generated 2 billion rand ($140 million) in 2016, according to research carried out for the environment ministry.
Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average rate, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, and in much of South Africa the level of water in reservoirs is dwindling.