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Zambia holds debut sable auction

WILDLIFE auctioning is a new phenomenon to Zambia. The beauty is that it has now started.
Last week Swansvest 234 Limited and Vleissentraal of South Africa held the first-ever auction of the Kafue sable antelope at Kyindu Ranch, South-east of Lusaka.
The highest bidder bought Lot 1, comprising two pregnant females and one calf for US$7,500 each while the lowest bidder chanced a bull for US$1,000.
Tourism permanent secretary Stephen Mwansa’s expectations were not met, but said it is better that wildlife auctioning had taken off.
“I expected more, I thought the pricing was very good and there were nice bulls, so I thought we could have done better,” he said.
Mr Mwansa said despite not being a wildlife farmer himself, he was happy to witness the event that was the first of its kind in the country.
“The farmers themselves have more understanding of the industry. As a ministry, we are in the process of reviewing the game ranching policy,” he said.
He hopes the policy will be ready by the end of this year so that it can give direction on issues like wildlife ranching and auctioning.
And Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) acting director general Andrew Kombe said there is need to encourage more local participation in wildlife farming and auctions.
“We were here just to observe that the bidders are in a position of looking after these animals that they are buying,” he said.
Mr Kombe stressed that the authority would not hesitate to enforce regulations on those who would choose flout the law.
“ZAWA’s role is to ensure that animals in captivity are kept well because actually, those in captivity have been seen to have a longer lifespan than their peers in the wild,” Mr Kombe said.
The sables that were auctioned have a long polemic record. In 2009 ZAWA caught 153 antelopes in the Kafue National Park and sold them to Swanvest 234 Limited who were acting on behalf of a consortium under the name of Ecological Management Services.
The South African wildlife producers objected, complaining about genetic contamination.
Experts, however, believe they were afraidtheir prices would be under-cut and the case ended up in a South African court.
The antelopes were then quarantined at Lusaka Park until 2012 when they were moved to suitable holding facilities at Kyindu Ranch where they have now multiplied in number to over 540.
The original transaction remains swathed in allegations of bureaucracy, unscrupulous operators and a total disregard for conservation principles.
Voluminous commentators point out that Zambia has lost out in the original deal because Swanvest 234 bought the sables for US$734,000, averaging about US$4,900 per animal.
In South Africa, according to a Wimpie Numessis, the managing director of Vleissentraal of Bloemfontein, the firm that conducted the auction in Lusaka, a sable bull fetches much more.
“We had an auction three months ago and the highest cost was about R64 million,” he said.
In 2012, Charlie, a prime sable bull with 127cm horns of Zambian descent, but bred in South Africa, went for R12.2 million.
But, I wondered, what is the reason for the disparity? The answer I was given is that there are few ranches in Zambia, which renders the industry small. So the bigger the industry the more lucrative the prices.
Zambia, with the government’s assurance, has an opportunity to grow this industry and harness its full potential because as far as sable goes, it is gold.
Till next week, enjoy your weekend.
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