And game ranching can be profitable. George Style, of Buffalo Range Ranches, Ltd., in Rhodesia, told me he had cropped 5,786 wild animals, representing a dozen species, from his property over a nine-year period—and he now has more wildlife than when he began. Those hides and meat, at today’s prices, would bring $96,000. “Game ranching could be more profitable today than cattle ranching,” he said.
In South Africa’s Transvaal Province alone more than 200 ranches combine raising cattle with managing game herds. As a sideline, many Rhodesian ranchers conduct “mini¬safaris”—two- or three-day hunts for trophy seekers or photographers at prices far below what they would pay the big safari firms.
Zambia, with the help of the FAO and other groups, set up a large cropping program in its game-rich Luangwa Valley. Experts supervised the disposal of carcasses, includ¬ing inspection of meat and the design and building of an abattoir.
If game ranching catches on in Africa, con¬servationists hope it will do much to reduce land misuse, now widespread in many na¬tions and areas. “Marginal land is fragile,vulnerable land,” said one observer. “Put too many cattle on it, and it can literally be beaten to pieces; it becomes fine dust and washes or blows away.”
I have seen just such areas in countries as widely separated and diverse as Kenya and Rhodesia, Somalia and Botswana. Destruc¬tion of habitat affects wildlife as well as cattle. Indeed, some of the severest damage occurs in wildlife reserves, a number of which are also tribal homelands.
But wild animals themselves, if too numer¬ous, can damage habitat. This is particularly true of elephants. Many of Africa’s great sanctuaries have noted large increases in their elephant populations as family groups and herds retreat from human pressures.
Unfortunately, they can’t all be protected by a stroke of the pen, as is the case with Ahmed, a famous old bull that roams in and about Marsabit National Reserve in north¬ern Kenya. Ahmed may have the biggest tusks of any elephant alive; each is estimated to weigh 180 pounds or more. He is so huge and distinctive that he cannot be mistaken, and President Kenyatta issued a decree that Ahmed “may under no circumstances be hunted or harassed by any person.”