How Can Animal Skin Rugs and Handbags be conservation friendly?

Following the furore of the anti-fur campaign it has long been regarded as politically incorrect to don the skins of wild animals. Interestingly enough, conservation in South Africa has been so successful it is the ever-increasing numbers of wildlife themselves that is arguably the biggest threat to their ongoing survival.

When you consider there are more wild animals in South Africa today than in the past 100 years, then it stands to reason that control and regulation is imperative.

Increased land use for the conservation of wildlife

Apart from the increasing number of conservation areas set aside by government, there has also been an unprecedented increase in the number of private game reserves, particularly in the Eastern Cape where over 20% of all the land is used for the conservation and proliferation of wildlife.

The recent trend, unique to South Africa, of former cattle farmers converting to wildlife ranches has only served to exacerbate the problem and harsh measures have had to be introduced in an effort to spare the land from overgrazing. It is estimated that over 500 000 ha are being converted from cattle to game each and every year.

Although the vast majority of us baulk at the suggestion of culling, it has proven to be the most successful method of game control.

Regulated big game hunting is actively encouraged

Regulated big game hunting is also actively encouraged and it is the skins, meat and other body parts of these animals that are legally used to create man-made articles such as ostrich skin handbags, zebra skin rugs, crocodile wallets and snakeskin belts.

It is also important to bear in mind that the vast majority of conservation-friendly pelts and skins have come from wild animals specifically reared for their meat and skins. A percentage of the income generated from the culled animal is ploughed back into the industry and is used in conservation programmes as well as the management and upkeep of important wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

Wildlife ranching on the up and up

The live trade of wild life at legitimate game auctions is an indication of the growth of the wildlife ranching sector and in 2003 nineteen and a half thousand wild animals were sold live at almost 60 auctions throughout the country.

The large amounts of money that change hands at these auctions for the so-called rare animals like leopard, lion and cheetah has had an enormously beneficial effect on the sustainability of these formerly endangered species. More and more effort is being made by wildlife farmers to increase their numbers and thereby their bank balances.

So before your throw all your toys out of the cot when you see a trendy lady gliding by in zebra skin shoes, bear in mind the animal was reared specifically for its meat and skin or more than likely had to die for the balance of the greater good.