New Zealand’s high-quality game animals and spectacular scenery make it popular for trophy hunting, where hunters keep the animal’s head and antlers as a trophy. The industry has developed rapidly, with marketing strategies aimed at overseas clients. In the early 2000s New Zealand’s safari industry earned more than $20 million a year, and it was estimated that trophy hunters spent a further $5 million. In 2007 New Zealand ranked second only to South Africa in the safari business. A trophy head can command around $8,000, with a few reaching more than $30,000.
A right balls-up
Controversy erupted over the testicles of a champion red stag in late 2007. The stag, Brusnik, was shot by a Qatari sheikh on a trophy-hunting trip to New Zealand. The animal’s semen – estimated to be worth over $100,000 – was to be removed and frozen, remaining the property of Brusnik’s original owner. But he claimed that the procedure had been bungled, and the semen was worth only a fraction of its expected value. Court action against the safari company looked likely.
The New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association and the New Zealand chapter of Safari Club International have set out an ethical code of practice. Some leading safari-park operators have formed the Association of Game Estates and developed ethical hunting and operating procedures, for example for fencing, containment and health. They aim to maintain high standards, and to have poor operators removed from the industry.
Deerskin makes excellent leather. Unlike sheep or cattle hide, deerskin can be machined as thin as 0.5 millimetres and still retain its strength. This very thin leather can be used for making fashion garments.
New Zealand’s deerskin industry developed as deer farming expanded. The most important markets for deerskin products are the US and Japan, although much of the raw product is shipped to Italy for manufacturing.
Deerskins from early hunting operations were often of very poor quality, with scratches, cuts, gun shots and putrefaction. Skins from farmed deer also have faults, including damage from antlers and hooves. The farmers, truck operators and slaughter-plant staff who handle deer are unwilling to accept responsibility, all claiming that the other parties cause the damage. Codes of conduct have improved the trail from the farm, so skin quality is improving.
Export earnings from deerskin have risen from $16 million in 2002 to $23 million in 2006.
In Asia, over 30 parts of the deer are believed to have medicinal properties. In Chinese medicine the deer is a symbol of luck, health and longevity, and is the most widely used animal. Tails, pizzles, testicles, sinews and blood are all used, and contribute about $20 million a year to New Zealand export earnings. All these co-products come from slaughterhouses, so they are covered by strict codes of hygiene.