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Run on numbers: African buffalo have been a concern globally

The motivations behind illegal wildlife trade can include financial gain. Picture: David Ritchie Independent Newspapers

The motivations behind illegal wildlife trade can include financial gain. Picture: David Ritchie Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 18, 2023


1. If one thinks of buffalo, the image that comes to mind immediately is that of African buffalo, also known as Cape buffalo, which are robust and powerful. If the Springbok emblem is ever replaced, I certainly hope it will be replaced with that of a buffalo. Many a hunter in our country met his fate hunting this animal. At the last Rugby World Cup, the size and strength of the Springboks were widely admired, and the argument was settled: “Size matters”.

South Africa also made headlines when a buffalo called Inala sold for a price of R168 million, while another called Horizon was considered the most expensive buffalo in the country after it was valued at over R176m at an auction in February 2016. This buffalo registered the largest horn span at 1.39m. Breeders are trying to restore top genetics through breeding programmes as it is said that in years gone by horns were as wide as 1.5m.

2. Food information, transparency, and traceability are becoming more important in the global food landscape. Consumers today are highly interested in the origins and production processes of their food, with a strong focus on ingredient quality. Food traceability is identified as a leading trend for 2023, with substantial investments projected to reach $31.7 billion by 2028. The traceability process begins at farms and fields, where strict marking and coding of products take place, ensuring that critical information about production, origin, and even feed is accessible to consumers. Traceability serves the dual purpose of assuring food safety and ethical production while improving operational efficiency and enabling effective recalls. Advanced technologies such as blockchain, smart labels, and integrated platforms are transforming the food traceability sector, enhancing food safety standards, and boosting consumer confidence.

The traceability journey commences in farms and fields, where primary production undergoes meticulous marking in adherence to local regulations. Examples include producer codes on eggs or ear tags on livestock. These codes encode critical information about the production process, facility, country of origin, and even details about the feed consumed by livestock. They accompany the product through all stages of production, remaining visible in the final product and offering consumers insights into its origin and production methods. It’s essential to note that traceability serves a dual purpose: not only does it provide consumers with assurance regarding food safety and ethical production, but it also plays a pivotal role in enhancing food safety measures and operational efficiency. Traceability empowers food producers to operate precisely and confidently by enabling effective product recalls when necessary and identifying potential production process flaws.

In legal and regulated transactions, such as those involving captive-bred buffalo for conservation or commercial purposes, prices can still vary based on factors like the age, health, and genetic quality of the animal. Conservation initiatives may involve the buying and selling of buffalo for restocking or maintaining genetic diversity, and prices in such cases can be influenced by conservation goals. Once the Phala Phala investigations are complete, it would be interesting to see the genetic history and the information from whom the animals to be sold were acquired and at what prices. Sars for one would find this information valuable. There are almost 50 000 buffalo in the Kruger National Park and it would be a great asset if these animals could also be tagged, and their information be digitised.

3. Illegal trades involving wildlife, including African buffalo, have been a concern globally. These activities may not only involve poaching and trafficking for body parts but also the illicit trade of live animals. The motivations behind illegal wildlife trade can include financial gain, and in some cases, these activities may be associated with tax evasion and money laundering.

Illegal wildlife trade, including the trafficking of live animals, can be driven by the high demand for exotic species, trophies, and traditional medicines, among other reasons. Criminal networks may exploit weaknesses in regulatory frameworks, enforcement, and oversight to facilitate these activities. In some instances, wildlife trafficking has been linked to broader criminal networks involved in money laundering and other illicit activities.

Efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade involve a combination of law enforcement, international collaboration, and initiatives to address the root causes of the problem. Governments, conservation organisations, and law enforcement agencies work together to strengthen regulations, improve enforcement capabilities, and raise awareness about the consequences of illegal wildlife trade.

4. Price Discovery As a Process – According to Investopedia

Rather than consider price discovery to be a specific process, it should be considered the central function in any marketplace, whether it be a financial exchange or the local farmer’s market. The market itself brings potential buyers and sellers together, with members of each side having very different reasons for trading and very different styles for doing so. By allowing all buyers and sellers to come together, these marketplaces allow all parties to interact, and by doing so a consensus price is established. Without knowing it, all the players do it again to set the very next price, and so on.

The price of buffalo meat can vary substantially from country to country. A live animal can weigh up to 850kg, but once slaughtered will produce about 50% of its weight. Current prices for buffalo meat vary between $2.5 and $5. The sale value per animal in rand terms is there for anything between R19 000 and R38 000 per animal. This value is a far cry from the top prices earned for breeding stock. Over R2m on average for the sale of the Phala Phala animals did not conform to the standard required by the president.

Obviously, no article relating to buffalo will be complete without touching on the unpleasant unbelievable, the questionable deal that took place at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm. According to Al Jazeera, “In November 2020, animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) accused Ramaphosa of having ties to South Africa’s trophy hunting industry. PETA claimed to have conducted an undercover sting on the small industry. The total value of meat traded exceeds R31 billion, with the USA the largest participant. The table below shows that South Africa is not even in the top 10 countries. Investigation and obtained corroborating statements from farm workers. ‘Wild animals are bred specifically to be killed for trophies’.

5. The criteria for selecting a stud animal, particularly in the context of breeding livestock, can vary depending on the specific goals of the breeding program and the characteristics desired in the offspring. However, there are some general criteria that are commonly considered:

Genetic traits: The stud animal should possess desirable genetic traits that align with the breeding goals. This includes characteristics such as conformation (body structure), size, colour, temperament, and any specific traits relevant to the species or breed.

Health and vigour: A healthy stud animal is essential for successful breeding. It should be free from genetic disorders, diseases, and physical abnormalities. Vigour and stamina are also important, as they contribute to successful mating and overall reproductive success.

Reproductive soundness: The stud should have sound reproductive organs and a history of successful mating. This includes assessing the animal's fertility, semen quality (in the case of males), and overall reproductive performance.

Pedigree and lineage: A strong pedigree with a documented lineage of desirable traits is often important. Knowing the ancestry of the stud animal can provide insights into the genetic background and potential for passing on specific traits to the offspring.

Conformation and structure: The physical structure of the stud animal, known as conformation, is crucial. It includes the animal’s overall body shape, bone structure, and musculature. This is particularly important in breeding for specific purposes, such as meat production or show quality.

Temperament: A good temperament is desirable for ease of handling and management. Aggressive or overly nervous animals may be difficult to work with, and these traits can sometimes be hereditary.

Adaptability: Consideration should be given to the animal’s adaptability to the local environment and management practices. Animals that thrive in their surroundings are more likely to produce healthy offspring.

Performance records: If available, performance records of the stud animal and its progeny can provide valuable information on its ability to pass on desirable traits. This could include growth rates, milk production (in the case of dairy animals), or other relevant performance metrics.

Age: The age of the stud animal is a factor, as both very young and very old animals may have reduced reproductive capabilities. It’s often recommended to use animals in their prime reproductive years.

Ethical considerations: Ethical breeding practices, including the humane treatment of animals, should always be a priority.

* Corrie is an independent analyst.