THE record R40m price reached on Wednesday for stud buffalo bull Mystery was an indication of the "robust underlying demand" for trophy animals for the hunting industry, wildlife economist Michael ’t Sas-Rolfes said yesterday.
Mystery’s auction price overshot by far the previous record for a buffalo bull — R26m attained on auction last September, manager of auctioneers Vleissentraal Bosveld, Johan Vosser, said.
Last year African National Congress deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa raised eyebrows when he bid R19,5m for a buffalo cow, but he was outbidded by another bidder who forked out R20m for the animal.
Trophy hunting is a major industry in parts of Africa, creating incentives for wildlife conservation over vast areas which otherwise might be used for alternative and less conservation-friendly land uses, according to an article in science journal Biological Conservation.
Thaba Tholo Game Farm marketing manager Andrien White said Mystery had an unusually large horn spread — 53.4 inches (135.6cm) — which was why such a good price had been attained. "He’s the biggest buffalo ever sold in South Africa," she claimed.
Ms White said the demand for buffalo was skyrocketing, a claim borne out by the way in which buffalo prices were escalating, according to Mr Vosser. Before last September’s R26m for a stud bull the record price had been R18m, reached on an auction in September 2011.
Mr ’t Sas-Rolfes said buffalo prices were escalating because demand for trophy animals was growing faster than supply.
"There is a strong prestige element in hunting a dangerous animal like a buffalo, it’s in the same ballpark as houses in Clifton and rare wines ... the super-rich are doing very well for themselves," he said.
An advantage with buffalo was that the animals were not endangered like lions and rhinos, which hunters also paid big money to hunt, Mr ’t Sas-Rolfes said.
"They are still one of the Big Five, but they are the least controversial to hunt from an animal rights point of view," he said.
Buffalo fetch the highest prices of all wild animals on auction, having in recent years taken the place held by sable and roan antelope. A Zambian sable bull sold at the same auction this week also reached a high price, R11m, said Ms White. The record for a sable bull was R12m, reached last year by another owner, she said.