The primary point of departure for wildlife management is an inventory of all the natural resources, including the presence and numbers of game in a given area. Every fenced ranch should have a plan to guide its management and to ensure the effective use of its limited natural resources. The aim of an ecological management plan for a game ranch is to give scientifically based advice regarding the management options and recommendations on how to achieve the set objectives. This will allow a sustainable use of the ranch without deterioration of the environment.
An ecological management plan is based on the evaluation of the following:
- An inventory of all resources including geology, hydrology, phytosociology, fauna and flora,
- the establishment of the potential of the specific area,
- determining the thresholds of change for the area,
- identifying the specific objectives as given by the owner or manager,
- recommendations on matching these objectives without adversely effecting the environment, and lastly
- monitoring the effects of the management plan.
When working in an uncertain and ever changing environment like nature, where decisions are usually made before scientific proof can be obtained, a flexible and adaptive approach to management is essential. Key aspects of game and their habitat should be monitored so that trends will be noted in time, and management adjustments can be made accordingly. This process is known as an active adaptive management plan.
Correct habitat management remains a key component of managing wildlife populations in production systems with free-ranging wildlife. Regardless of the specific goals that a rancher set for his ranch, it is of great importance to know and understand the ecology of the area. This will ensure that the correct management decisions are made at the correct time, and that ranching is done in an ecologically, as well as economically sustainable manner. In the long run, no game ranch can exist unless it pays for itself, or is subsidised from external sources. For this reason a private game ranch should be a fenced-in profit-seeking production unit.
Each game ranch owner has his own personal reasons and motives for owning the farm, but when setting objectives knowledge of the ecological and economic limitations is important. Despite the availability of detailed ecological knowledge for sound game ranching, various enterprises with great potential still fail due to inadequate financial planning. The current economic conditions in the country are partly as a result of tougher competition, uncertainty in interest rates and uncertainty in economic stability, which necessitate game ranch owners to plan and manage according to sound ecological and financial principles.
The first step in the planning process is to do an ecological evaluation of the ranch. Mapping the vegetation of the ranch, followed by a map of the infrastructure are minimal requirements for the evaluation. Aerial photographs and direct observations in the veld are necessary to produce the maps. The next step will be to evaluate the vegetation and other natural resources on the ranch. This will help in determining the current condition and potential of the ranch. A game count should also be conducted in order to determine the current stocking density of the ranch. Objectives can then be set or refined, and infrastructure planned to match the set objectives. Finally, a veld management and game management plan should be set up in order to achieve the set objectives. This must include a monitoring system to evaluate the success or failure of the veld- and game management plans in achieving the required results, and to adapt the management plans as new data becomes available. Once the ecological evaluation of the ranch has been undertaken, proper financial planning can be done and different options can be evaluated.
Wild Route’s services offered include the planning of infrastructure, habitat analysis for the reintroduction of protected or specially protected animal species, habitat evaluations, veld condition assessments, determination of ecological carrying capacity and stocking rates, compilation of veld and game monitoring programs, camera trapping to determine the presence of animals (especially predators) and the compilation of general management plans for game ranches or reserves. Contact us for professional service.