Given the recent price escalations in so called"exotic game" or Crowned Game one must ask the question whether the balloon is being blown up much too quickly. Twenty one years ago in 1991 there were recorded sales of only 7 Sable antelope in auctions in the whole of South Africa. The price of those Sables was R25,285. By August 2012 the number of Sable auctioned (excluding Zambian, West Zambian and Tanzania bloodlines) had risen to 440 and we still have two months of sales to report! The average price for last year appears to be R177,966 with the latest record price being R12,200,000 paid for a Zambian bull and R525,000 for a Matetsi bull!
There are added factors that one has to give careful consideration to. What is the end game plan for the animals? Are they to be hunted? If so, who is going to pay the high prices to shoot them? There will always be a select few hunters who could afford them at the current high prices but for the average hunter it is surely out of the question.
Another question that should be asked is: will the breeder risk putting his R150,000 Sable out into the veld when there is a good chance that it may be taken by a leopard or be infected by ticks and now needs to fend for himself without special diets? It would certainly be an interesting exercise to see what would happen to these highly priced and pampered animals if they were to be set free in their natural environments. Has anyone tried? Is anyone prepared to take the chance? If not, why are they being bred?
Although we have used Sable as an example in this article surely the same arguments can be made for the other so called exotic species such as Buffalo, Roan, Nyala, etc? The question of colour variants is a whole different issue but I would expect the same logic must eventually apply?
More recently there have been a number of articles comparing the growth in prices in exotic game to the stock market indices, the price of gold and other measurables. Again history has shown when that begins to happen we are nearing the end of the cycle. In case we think we are immune I refer you to a wonderful book written by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841, and called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
The simple law of economics dictates that supply is soon going to exceed demand. If we take the high number of applications that only Limpopo Province receives this can happen very soon. What is then going to happen to the price? With the maturity of the game industry in South Africa we are already seeing the prices of regular plains game tailoring off.