Climate change and wildlife utilization on private land: evidence from wildlife ranching in South Africa

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis focuses on the economics of climate change and wildlife utilization in privately owned parcels of land in South Africa. A significant proportion of agricultural land in the Southern Africa region has undergone transition with many farmers opting to move away from livestock farming to either wildlife farming, ranching or conservancies. In other instances, farmers in areas which were predominantly under irrigation are also switching to wildlife land use. One of the biggest claims to this transition has been the effects of climate change on livestock and crop production. The increasing cost of production associated with worsening climate continue to force farmers into abandoning livestock and crop production in favor of wildlife, which has been considered more profitable in the marginal areas in the southern Africa region. However, several uncertainties engulf wildlife utilization on private land, this may hinder its ability to bring about development that might improve the welfare of the communities and those individuals who directly participate in wildlife conservation in the private areas. The most pressing issue in wildlife utilization on private land includes; i). Its effects on the welfare of the communities living around the wildlife farms, ranches or conservancies. The livelihood of these communities revolved around livestock and livestock production for employment, food provision and other socioeconomic and cultural provisions. Therefore, the transition from livestock to wildlife production inevitably can improve or worsen the living standards of these communities, ii). Sustainability of wildlife production as alternative land use in the face of prevailing and future climate scenarios. While it has been cited that wildlife and wildlife revenues are more resilient to climate change, there is every indication that climate change affects wildlife conservation, iii). The role of wildlife in climate change adaptation. Farmers in South Africa are known to mix wildlife with livestock as one way of adapting to climate change. Over time, such farms have transited into wildlife ranches. The issue therefore is how vulnerable are wildlife ranches compared to livestock and mixed wildlife-livestock ranches?