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Feedback On Native Tanzanian PHs: Are they better?

     In the December 2011 issue of The Hunting Report, I received some feedback regarding native Tanzanian Professional Hunters. I had mentioned in the November issue that despite a new requirement that safari companies hire a native Tanzanian PH for every expatriate PH on staff, there would be no immediate changes in staffing at most companies. That's because there simply aren't enough Tanzanian PHs to meet the requirement. That prompted a letter from a subscriber who has asked to remain anonymous. He says Tanzanian PHs are not getting the recognition or opportunities they deserve, and that the system that would have given it to them has long been broken.

     He writes, "In the old days, TAWICO had a very good program for the young citizens of Tanzania who wished to enter the hunting profession. The government provided them the opportunity to go to Mweka Wildlife College to get them qualified as professional hunters. Then they provided a way for block holders to hire them as a second PH. In some cases, these individuals would become the top PH. This was the case with Cotton Gordon and Hilary Daffi, who was much in demand by clients who hunted with Gordon every year.

     "When the International Monetary Fund stepped in and forced the government to sell off its parastatals, TAWICO was a casualty. This should never have happened because it has all but eliminated any opportunity for the black Tanzanian professional hunters in their own country.

     "The black professional hunters who came out of this system, and are dwindling fast, do not need to take a photograph of a lion and then come back to camp to send it by satellite to the office in Arusha for approval the following morning to shoot it. They can tell within 30 seconds if the lion is shootable. This, of course, is important to the client because the lion may not show up the next afternoon!

     "The black professional hunter out of this system does not need his trackers to tell him every move to make, every step to take, all the while speaking in broken Swahili to cover his ignorance in front of his English-speaking client. The black professional hunter from this system speaks very good English and insists on speaking in front of the client so that the client understands exactly what is going on, as he explains to his trackers and his client what he intends to do. The system the government has recently put in place has no teeth and no supervision."

     He goes not to say that some companies only have a Tanzanian PH on staff as a show piece and to meet the minimum requirement. He claims these PHs are not actually being allowed to guide clients.

     I asked Hunting Report subscribers who have hunted with native Tanzanian PHs to weigh in on this issue. Are Tanzanian PHs as good as the subscriber above says they are? Would hunters ask to hunt with them again and would you recommend them? Anyone who has been to Africa knows that a PH can make or break a safari. Good PHs should be recognized for their efforts and skills, no matter their origins. Following are the few comments that I received. You'll note they are all on the same operator. If you would like to file a comment, email it to me at - Barbara Crown, Editor & Publisher.

Comment 1:
From: Hunting Report subscriber who requested to remain anonymous

I have hunted with three native Tanzanian PH's, including Hilary Daffi. The bottom line is that I am not at all impressed. I certainly do not think they are any better than the average non-indigenous PH. Let me give you some examples:

1- They build lion blinds too close to the baits. Hilary would be asleep and snoring within five minutes of getting in the blind.
2- They will go into places where hunting buffalo is damn near impossible due to limited visibility. One cannot see 10 feet. They revert to old poachers' methods. They move slowly, slowly. If one is lucky enough to spot a black spot in the bush, they want to shoot at the spot not knowing if it is male, female, small, large, young old or even what part of the animal it is! Not my idea of a good time.
3- They suck at trophy judgment. For example, I saw an elephant bull that I was certain was well above the legal requirements. They said it was not. I didn't shoot. I have shown pictures of that elephant to many experienced elephant hunters. Consensus opinion is that it is greater than 60 pounds.
4- They want you to take extremely risky shots.
5- The camps are not run well. One has to stay on top of things such as trophy preparation to make sure everything ends well.
6- The logic, or lack thereof, that they use is astounding. For example, every day, while lion hunting, we passed a particular place. Later in discussion, they revealed that a lion had killed a giraffe at this place. Yet, they never stopped to check it out.
7- They routinely do things or offer to do things that are a direct violation of the Tanzania game laws. Pre-baiting, hunting cats at night, shooting near water, etc.
8- Paperwork is often flawed. It appears money is being pocketed, particularly on lost animals. The fee is paid and mysteriously disappears, yet these critters are not listed on the official paperwork.
9- They routinely oversell their quota on things like lions. Clients have purchased lion hunts only to be told that no lion was available upon arrival.

The bottom line is that they are a train wreck. They are on the edge financially. If one is experienced and will stay on top of things, it is possible to get a good hunt at a low price. An inexperienced person should stay away.

Comment 2:
From: Jim Harrison, President, Northern Outfitters

As always, thanks for the great publication. I had the opportunity to hunt with Cotton Gordon several times in the 80s and 90s, when he was hunting the Loliondo and Ikoma blocks. Cotton was, well, Cotton, and I enjoyed immensely the opportunity. He had a great eye and was a wonderful storyteller and host, but when it came to actual hunting-getting out of the safari car and tracking and stalking a nice animal through the bush -- it was Hilary Daffi who took the lead.

Hilary was (and is) a perfect gentleman, always ready with a great smile, and even then he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the animals we were hunting. He was the hardest working member of the staff, first up and last to bed. He certainly made our safaris together much more pleasant and enjoyable, and I would not hesitate to recommend him today as the primary PH on a Tanzanian safari. As a bonus, given the outrageous cost these days to hunt there, he isn't charging as much as some of the better known PHs. He learned from a master, and he's a great guy to boot.

Comment 3:
From: Hunting Report subscriber, Jan Irwin

In a recent edition of The Hunting Report you requested that readers who had hunted what a Tanzanian PH send you information about their experience. After our 2008 hunt in Tanzania with Hilary Daffi Safaris and PH Bariki McCombe I wrote an article for Safari Magazine.

Hilary ran a first-class operation, and Baraki was very professional and courteous. He had a great sense of humor and was a joy to be with. He became a friend, truly. I cannot adequately express just how wonderful that hunt was and how pleased we were with all aspects of it.

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