Hunting History in Southern Africa

Pre 1652
Bushmen hunted game with bow and arrows to feed themselves. They were called Hunter-Gatherers. They largely hunted for food in a sustainable manner. They illustrated their hunting experiences through their paintings which can be found on rocks and in caves.

The 1st Europeans arrived on South African shores, under Jan van Riebeeck. They started to hunt big game that threatened their livestock. The Cape Lion and the Hippo were top on the list.

In the Karoo and Klein Karoo the Dutch lived off healthy herds of Kwagga, Blessbuck and many other antelope types that were found in the area.

The English arrived on the Cape shores. Many took up professional hunting rather than traditional farming. They started to hunt purely for profit, mainly from ivory. Hunting adventures were acceptable and encouraged.

The last known cape lion was killed in this year. By this time, the bluebuck was already extinct.

South Africa became known as a hunting mecca. Even Queen Victoria's son, Prince Albert, arranged a great hunt in the Free State. Some records prove that some hunters shot more than 1,000 elephants in their lifetime. One hunter recorded 900 killings in a 9 month period, resulting in 5,000kg of ivory.

One hunter described that he had read in a book about the wealth of game in the Free State, which he did not believe, until he saw it with his own eyes.

A company in Kroonstad exported almost 160,000 blesbok and wildebeest skins.

1870 - 1871
Records confirm that 500,000 blesbok, wildebeest and zebra skins were exported from the port of Durban in 1 year.

The year in which president Paul Kruger proposed a wild animal reserve. Soon afterwards the Kruger National Park was established on 2 million hectares in the north-eastern corner of South Africa.

1800 & 1900s
The Kudu's were mercilessly hunted for their hides, but they have defied the odds. They were mainly hunted for their hides as the hides were thin but very tough.

The biggest impact on game populations was during the Anglo-Boer war. The British started to scorch large areas of land, which resulted in the total loss of wildlife in the midlands of South Africa. Thankfully the actions taken in 1884 by Paul Kruger helped to restore game populations after the war. At the time the bontebok, sable, roan and black wildebeest were highly endangered.

Of the Cape mountain zebra, only a few dozen were left. Two families, with the help of SANParks saved the species from extinction.

The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (Now Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) was established on 31 July 1931 mainly to protect the migrating game, especially the gemsbok, from poaching.

Private game ownership was passed to the private sector for legitimate hunting. This restored to a degree the game populations as there was now an incentive to protect natural habitats and game.

South Africa is still home to 200 mammal species, 112 freshwater fish, 100 snake species and 850 bird species.

There are all but 4,800 critically endangered black rhinoceros remaining in the wild. They declined by 98% since 1960!.

The pangolin is the most illegally trafficked species in Africa.

African Hunting, from Natal to the Zambesi - 1863

The recollections of William Finaughty, elephant hunter 1864-1875
(He killed 400 elephants in his lifetime)

Five years hunters life far interior South Africa - First Edition
(He killed lion, leopard, white & black rhino's, buffalo, giraffe, hippo & 105 elephants)