Traditionally, when considering a Safari as a form of vacation, one may think of the African Savannah, teeming with wildlife. Unfortunately, until recently, due to poaching and government regulation, in many places this was no longer the experience visitors discovered. The population of native game had dwindled and many species were decimated to extinction.
Led by the 1991 Game Theft Act which permitted private ownership of game significant investments were made by land owners, game numbers have increased from less than 100,000 to approximately 24,000,000 today. For more than 15 years, the industry has grown by more than 20% per year and today is a highly profitable sector that has restored South Africa to the diverse ecosystem that it once was.
In recent years, breeding practices have become highly technical due to endless demand for restocking game farms as well as the need to grow high quality trophies. This has resulted in values sky rocketing to unthinkable heights. In February 2016, a single Cape buffalo has been valued at $11,000,000 when Peter Bellingham purchased a 25% stake in the bull for $2,800,000. In September of 2016, another transaction set a new record when Inala, another Cape Buffalo bull, was sold at auction for $12,500,000. These type of transactions, although recent records, have become the norm for the wildlife industry in South Africa.
With enormous capital investments being poured into the business by wealthy businessmen, it appears that no limit that can be reached with respect to the demand for high quality breeding stock, says Brian Gilroy, WildLife Partner’s Founder and Director of Ranch Operations.
In the 1930s, with the introduction of Nilgai Antelope on the famed King Ranch, the Exotic wildlife Industry seeded itself and has continued to rapidly branch out. Today there are more than 5000 ranches in Texas that have exotic wildlife. In many areas of the state, there are free ranging populations of Axis Deer, Fallow Deer, Black Buck Antelope and Aoudad. Throughout Texas and behind high fence ranches, you can find more than 100 species of game from Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Iran and numerous other countries from around the world. The factors that have driven ranchers to leave traditional investments such as cattle and sheep are tax incentives, breeding potential, live sale income and value speculation. With consistent growth year after year, this industry has become a choice investment for landowners seeking higher returns than traditional ranching operations.
As has been seen in South Africa, Texas has seen witnessed growth and astronomical values for white tail deer, a game animal native to Texas. Due to scientific breeding and genetic engineering, over the last 20 years, there have been 1300 deer breeders enter the industry. Driven by high demand for large trophies, wealthy investors have cashed in and the values of these animals has ballooned. Quite frequently deer are sold for $500,000 to $1,000,000.
As the result of recent regulation on the whitetail deer industry, more and more money is being poured into the exotic wildlife business. As deer breeders take their profits and deploy them into various other species to avoid the burdensome regulation associated with whitetail deer, we are seeing a dramatic and sharp increase in the values of these exotic species. Recently a fallow deer which usually sells for $3,500, sold for $100,000 to an investor seeking high quality breed stock. Currently South African businessmen are looking for avenues to take advantage of the untapped market that exists in Texas.
This influx of cash and the high demand for these animals appears to be setting up a similar boom as the one witnessed and continually growing in South Africa.