Mutant trophy breeding becoming billion-dollar big game industry in South Africa.
135 miles east of Johannesburg, Africa, Barry York is breeding color variant – or mutant – large game on his 2,500-acre ranch to be hunted at pretty pricey figures by hunters who covet the unusual coloring.
York is raising gnus, or wildebeests, that are golden-colored instead of the common dark brown appearance.Other hot commodities being raised for hunters are white lions, black or white impalas, white kudus and coffee-colored springboks. York keeps his top trophies for breeding, sells the next group at auction for other ranchers to breed, the next tier he sells to hunting ranches and then allows the last bit to be hunted by locals.
A golden wildebeests hunt would set a hunter back $50,000, which includes a 7-14 night stay at a luxury lodge with hunting permits and gourmet food, all orchestrated by Africa Hunt Lodge, a US based tour operation. For a white lion hunt, a hunt would cost $30,000, and a black impala, $45,000.
York began by raising cattle but the cost of vaccinations and upkeep proved to be more costly than the revenue so he switched over to raising and breeding color-variant gnus and now boasts an increase in their population, with over 600 on his ranch alone. Where there was pesticides and very little vegetation before, York says his land is teeming with wildlife, grass and beautiful color-variant creatures.
However, critics argue that the increase does not count as they are mutant animals, incapable of surviving in the wild and incapable of contributing to the population due to the fact that they are mutants.
South African Hunter and Game Association say that the breeding is “unnatural manipulation” of animals, and local hunters say these ranchers are only domesticating wildlife which is a threat to the hunting industry altogether.
National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have conducted studies on the issue and say the problems that arise in these mutant mammals are many. White lions tend to contract skin diseases and foot problems, the white springbok acquire skin cancer and the black impalas suffer from heat stroke.
York stands by his ranching and raising the mutant trophies and says naysaying hunters only want cheaper hunts. He says his land is healthier and that these color-variant creatures are found in the nature but that they are only extremely rare.