Thank you for the many phone calls, emails and comments concerning the last newsletter (newsletter no. 89). They are much appreciated and apologies that I cannot answer each and every one, however, I will try to answer some of your questions.
As a businessman, you will ask the question: “What is the return on my investment?” The answer is, it is not a good one compared to other investments. Money can be made out of tigers by photographing them, filming them and hunting male tigers. I will immediately dismiss the hunting, although lucrative, it is illegal and unethical.
The photographic potential is huge and growing rapidly for the simple fact that the tiger countries in Asia have not conserved the tiger. Even in India, the traditional stronghold of the tiger, tourists are having bad experiences. Large amounts of money are being laid out on safaris that produce no good sightings and few good pictures. The last remaining habituated tigers are surrounded by many vehicles, all jostling for position. This further destroys the experience.
The alternative to Asia is to invest in an ex-situ conservation project in South Africa. However, to get to view the tiger, one must first buy suitable land. This is expensive. Once you have the land, you must then fence it with a 3.3 metre electrical fence. This cost is around R130,000 per kilometer (a lion only needs a 2.4 metre electrical fence). Having fenced the land, you need to stock with suitable prey. (A blesbuck will cost you R1,500 per head, a blue wildebeest R2,500 per head).
After stocking and fencing, you need to build a lodge to accommodate your guests. Therefore, at a million rands per bed, an 8 bed lodge will set you back R8 million.
The most efficient way to get your guests in, is to fly them, so you need a tarmac runway suitable for jets. This will set you back several million rands.
To run your lodge and tiger safaris, you will need trained staff and you will need to pay them well to compete with other operations. (Tourism remains the best way to create jobs in Africa).
Staff need proper accommodation and this too is expensive. The old staff accommodation on sheep farms is unacceptable.
Only now can you start to get a return on your money and you will have to run high occupancies to be profitable.
The fact that you have wild tigers, gives you a competitive edge but it doesn’t guarantee you success. You are competing against many fine established private lodges and National Parks in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania.
The key is to build the tiger experience into a package to the south which includes shark diving, whale watching and the garden route. To the north, packages with Kruger National Park, private lodges and Mozambique will be very successful.
The areas around Tiger Canyons have been subjected to sheep farming for over a hundred years. Man-made desertification has damaged the ‘Garden of Eden’. (Fortunately, sheep farming is a failing land use system). The good news is that the land can be restored if you are prepared to partnership with nature.
One of the most rewarding things that I have done in my life, is to release large tracts of land by removing sheep fences. In addition, by closing the windmills, the water table lifts and fountains begin to flow. Mini migrations return as the animals can now move. Birds, fish, frogs and insects all respond as step by step the ‘Garden of Eden’ returns to its former glory.
All of this is dependant on the tiger and the people who will come to see and photograph it. If large enough tracts of land can be assembled, lion, leopard, tiger and cheetah can all co-exist in one park. This would be unique in the world.
As the worlds human population moves towards 10 billion, more and more people are looking to move away from the mega-cities to the small towns and rural areas. People are searching for a healthier, simpler and more spiritual existence. People are searching for projects which bring meaning to their own lives and to those of endangered species.
To take a tiger (there are 1,000 wild tigers left and we are losing one wild tiger every day), nurture it, release it onto the land, protect it, and see it produce cubs, is certainly the most spiritual thing that I have ever done in my life.
If you are looking for a good financial return on your money, you are looking in the wrong place. If you are looking to speculate by raising land prices, this is not for you.
If you have dollars or euros which are strengthening against the rand, you start with an enormous advantage. If you are prepared to buy into the ‘Greater Cause’ which includes:
1) Helping save the tiger.
2) Creating jobs in depressed communities.
3) Up-skilling and uplifting people to work in the tourist industry.
If you are prepared to include the financial, environmental and spiritual investment and are like-minded, then feel free to contact me.
In the last newsletter (newsletter no. 89), I listed at random, several wealthy individuals and the investments they have made. This was not criticism. They are fine and worthwhile investments. I was merely pointing out that no one individual has picked up the ‘Tiger Cause’ and there may be an opportunity there.