Literally as this issue went to press, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa was mobilizing to prevent a potential disaster with leopard permits this season. Seems the Department of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism suddenly decided to change the way it issues hunt permits for leopard while some operators were still away at conventions in Europe and North America. Instead of issuing the hunter permits as operators present their applications, the department had decided it would not process any applications until 30 days before the scheduled hunt. This change in procedure has the potential to leave booked hunters without a leopard permit this season, as the entire quota potentially could be issued early on in the season. This could create a situation reminiscent of Namibia’s leopard permit moratorium last year. Complicating matters further, hunters could be stuck with airline tickets for a safari they can no longer do.
By the time you read this, I am hoping that PHASA will have straightened out the situation. Eduard Katzke, newly inducted president of PHASA, and Richard Lemmer of the organization’s executive committee were already in talks with the conservation authorities and were scheduled for a sit down the day after The Hunting Report went to press. E-mail Extra subscribers should have already gotten an update by e-mail. Check our web site under the Email Extra Bulletins section on the left-hand column of the home page where we post bulletins 24 hours after Email Extra subscribers get them. I’m indebted to booking agent Charlie Goldenberg of Premier Safaris (407-889-9778; firstname.lastname@example.org) for bringing this situation to my attention.
If you have booked a leopard hunt to South Africa for 2010, there are a couple of things you should know regardless of how PHASA resolves this issue. First, only operators who have received an allocation for CITES leopard permits can legally market these hunts. Your safari operator or booking agent should be able to produce a copy of the letter from the Department of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism indicating that he has an allocation. Just be aware that this allocation does not guarantee you a hunt permit. The operator must apply for your permit, which must be issued prior to your hunt. The permit issued to you must display your name, hunt dates and passport number among other details particular to you and your specific hunt. Before you leave for your leopard hunt, make sure your operator has secured this document…
In Zimbabwe, someone is marketing illegal PAC lion hunts in the Matabeleland North areas. We received word of this in mid-February from Sally Bown of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ). The Hunting Report immediately sent out an e-mail bulletin warning E-mail Extra subscribers. No such permits have been issued for lion. The only licenses issued for lion hunts in Matabeleland North are for trophy lions.
PAC lion hunts are supposed to take place when there is a complaint from tribes people of marauding animals killing livestock or threatening humans. Typically, the National Parks and Wildlife Authority calculates a number of these problem animals per region depending on the populations. While this system has been abused by some, the idea is that PAC lion hunts should be suddenly emerging opportunities that need immediate action. They are not the kind of hunts you can market ahead of time, and they are not supposed to be sold as cheaper alternatives to a trophy lion hunt.
“Zimbabwe went through a voluntary lion moratorium for two years once in order to raise the trophy quality of lion,” Bown said in a follow-up e-mail. “There were enough lion, but the bigger trophies had been taken out and lesser quality animals were being hunted. They needed time to mature into good trophy size. Parks does not want to let the quality drop again, hence the stoppage on PAC animal hunts, which can be abused.”
If you have purchased or are considering a lion hunt in Zimbabwe represented as a Problem Animal Control (PAC) hunt you should demand your agent or operator provide you with a copy of the PAC Permit or the Authority to Hunt a PAC lion. To ensure the permit is legitimate, forward a copy to Sally Bown (email@example.com) and copy me on that at Barbara@huntingreport.com. Bown and I will check the legitimacy of the permit with sources at the National Parks and Wildlife Authority.
On a related topic, a Hunting Report subscriber whom I will leave unnamed contacted me last month for information on an elephant cull hunt he had been told about in a national park. As I reported last month, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority suspended all hunts in the national parks over a year ago. Anyone offering a hunt of any kind in a national park is selling an illegal hunt. I have that straight from Director General of Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Morris Mtsambiwa. Safari operators can no longer conduct any of those non-trophy ration hunts nor cull hunts that were offered in 2008.
Also, hunters need to understand that the shooting of one or two elephants does not constitute a cull. When elephants are culled, entire family groups must be eliminated – cows, calves, young bulls, everything must go! It is a grim business to conduct an elephant cull, and it is also a dangerous situation for a paying client. Once the shooting begins it cannot stop until all the elephants are down. Jumbo of all sizes start running, and the shooters must be in the thick of it. Getting trampled or tusked is a real possibility. Personally, I would be leery of anyone trying to market this kind of an experience. While elephant culling is occasionally necessary work, it is NOT sporthunting. And in this case, conducting such a “hunt” in Zimbabwe is illegal. Illegal operators are a detriment to hunting as a sport, to the hunting industry and to the hunting clients they place at legal and financial risk. They need to be outed….
On a more positive note, I have received a post-season report on another one of those government hunting concessions that Namibia auctioned last April. Allan Cilliers (011-264-67-232676; www.cilliershunting.com), you’ll recall, acquired the hunting rights to the East Kavango Concession bordering Bushmanland, which is where Kai-Uwe Denker has been producing great jumbo for years. The eastern part of Cilliers’ concession borders Khaudom National Park. That’s where Cilliers says all of those big elephant are coming from. Cilliers is very familiar with this area, having been the senior game ranger there in the 1980s. He oversaw road work, water projects, anti-poaching and other activities there. Based on his prior knowledge of the area, he expected to take some very good elephant in East Kavango this past season. Indeed he did, including an 80 x 77 pounder taken this past August by an Italian client. Another client in September shot a 67 x 65 pounder. (See photos in the Trophy Gallery section of our web site.)
Cilliers writes in an e-mail note he sent me, “I only managed to accomplish six hunts; time was short and very late for marketing. This specific concession is mainly frequented by bulls and very few cows. While constructing the camp in May, I saw a number of bulls in the 60-plus-pound range and two very large bulls in the high 70s. After returning from one hunt in September, I found three bulls together, two definitely in the 70-pound range and one extremely large bull that was definitely in the high 80s or more. Over the years I have observed that elephant bulls normally return to the same areas. With good rains and plenty of food, these bulls will most certainly concentrate and be found in the same area this year. It will definitely be one of my challenges in 2010 to hunt these bulls. I still have three openings left, and taken the rainfall this year, a good time will be mid-April through to June for big ivory.”
Moving to Botswana, I’ve heard back from two more operators regarding available hunting concessions. (See my January Africa column on Botswana elephant hunting.) Graeme Pollock of Safaris Botswana Bound (011-267-686-3055; firstname.lastname@example.org) says he still has a three-year lease on NG 47. “We have been assured by the government there will be no change to our rights until our area comes up for renewal. Our quota on elephant, buffalo and plains game was increased for 2010, so we take this as a positive statement from government. We further own a game ranch adjacent to the concession, and through the game farmers association we have been advised that hunting will continue in all game ranches. Furthermore, at a meeting with the government and the Botswana Game Producers Association (game farmers) we were advised that the system for leopard hunting was proving successful and that there was no plan to interfere with the leopard allocations to the farmers.”
The other operator is Peter Holbrow of Holbrow Hunting Safaris (011-267-686-1260; email@example.com). He says, “Obviously it is very sad for me not to be hunting in the Delta anymore, but I feel privileged to have been able to operate there for such a long time. My partner secured the Chobe Enclave (CH1/2) Community Trust area last season, well known for its huge elephant population. Elephant and buffalo hunting, as can be expected in this area, was very good in 2009. I am hoping that 2010 will be even better.”
I am told that the plains game quota in numerous areas was increased for 2010, and there is hope that the government will approve a proposal for hunting in some new areas that are not conducive to photo safaris. I don’t have any more details than that, but if it’s approved I will pass on the news….
Safari operator Werner van Noordwyk made a point of finding me at the Dallas Safari Club convention in Dallas and bringing me up to speed on some significant changes with Nsonga Safaris (011-260-97745-3415; www.vannoordwyksafaris.com) in Zambia. Seems Nsonga is under new ownership, and we had some negative reports in our database that were over five years old and reflected the previous owner’s management. Van Noord- wyk tells me he bought out all the shares in Nsonga Safaris back in 2006 and has invested more than $200,000 in the last two years alone to build up the company and its concessions. Nsonga has the Nkala and Manwala hunting areas along the eastern boundary of Kafue National Park. Subscribers who purchased The Hunting Report’s Zambia Country Report know that these areas have had some serious problems, namely heavy poaching and human encroachment from a nearby town. Their locations next to the national park and another prime GMA, however, afforded some hunting opportunities. For the past four years, Van Noordwyk says he has been working with the local communities, building schools, clinics and water projects – basically, all the community development projects that the previous owner was supposed to do but did not. He has also hired 10 additional game scouts and built scout houses to increase anti-poaching efforts in the area. Those efforts are paying off, he says, with increased game numbers, increasing trophy quality and increased good will with the surrounding communities.
Van Noordwyk, who is originally from South Africa, says he is committed to the area as the managing director and resident-registered PH. In fact, he is establishing his full-time residency there. Van Noordwyk is taking about 22 hunters for the season and says he has been under-shooting his quota to rebuild the areas. The two concessions offer lion, leopard, buffalo, sable and a variety of plains game. The buffalo, he says, have come back in large numbers and his leopard hunters have been 100 percent. He says he is also taking good lions, although the success rate has been 60 to 65 percent. “We sent three hunters home without a lion,” he told me, “because we will not shoot any lions that are not at least five years old. Our goal is to take six-year-old lions.”
We have three subscriber Hunt Reports on Van Noordwyk. Two are for hunts in South Africa. The third is on a 2008 safari in Zambia in the Nkala GMA (Report ID 7094). It’s from subscriber Justin Ruthven, who gives Van Noordwyk an all-excellent rating and describes the concession as a great area with abundant game. He took a 39-inch buffalo from a herd of about 150 animals, and says he saw large herds of zebra, plus wildebeest, sable, waterbuck, oribi, leopard and lion. Anyone else hunting with Van Noordwyk is encouraged to send me a report.
Van Noordwyk also shared some other news with me from Zambia, specifically that the government is finally doing something about the human encroachment in the Kafue areas. By law in Zambia, Game Management Areas (GMAs) are supposed to be devoid of human habitation and domestic livestock. Seems the Kafue Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) office has taken aggressive action and succeeded in getting orders issued by the High Court to move thousands of people out of the Kafue and into the open areas around the GMA where they are allowed to live. That’s good news for the game in the Kafue and hunters venturing there in the future. Unfortunately, the office that oversees the Luangwa area has not followed Kafue’s example. I hear there are about 19,000 people living in one GMA there.
While chatting with Van Noordwyk I also had the opportunity to speak with Alister Norton, the new president of the Professional Hunters Association of Zambia (PHAZ). Norton says that PHAZ is working with ZAWA to penalize PHs who allow clients to shoot young lions (younger than five years old) or soft-bossed buffalo. According to Norton and Van Noordwyk, ZAWA is taking the lion situation seriously, and thanks to the work of Paula White, director of the Zambia lion project, they have a much clearer idea of what to look for in mature lions….
Moving to central Africa, US hunters planning to hunt in Came- roon should be aware of some demanding and off-the-wall requirements for a visa and gun import permit from the Embassy of Cameroon in Washington D.C. A subscriber, who shall remain anonymous, contacted me when he was asked to provide a copy of his bank statement, a resume, a list of charitable donations and a letter from his physician certifying that he was healthy enough to hunt in Cameroon. He had traveled to Cameroon just two years prior and had not been asked to supply this information. Suspicious of any requests for bank information, even from an embassy official, I contacted several operators to see if they had heard of these requirements. I won’t name the professionals I contacted either in the interest of protecting them and their clients from any possible retaliation.
From what I’ve gathered, embassy and other government personnel from Cameroon are replaced every few years, and those replacements often proceed to implement whatever changes to procedures they see fit. That seems to be the case with the person in charge of issuing visas at the US Embassy. Already this person has simply not bothered issuing visas for a number of hunters. I’ve been advised that hunters should start the process three to four months ahead of time and use only a passport service that has a history of dealing with Cameroon authorities. Hunters trying to get their visa on their own, I’m told, are likely to experience more problems. When providing your bank statement, remove all account numbers. One source recommended cutting the numbers out and making a photocopy. Do not simply black out the numbers on an original print out as they can still be obtained that way. The subscriber who called me went as far as to open a bank account with a few thousand dollars and submit a statement from that one so that his main account could not be compromised. As for that resume they want, be careful. Certain jobs or certain kinds of companies draw attention, oil company executives, for example. Ditto for charitable contributions. Be as vague as possible.
I have it on good word that the Minister of Wildlife in Cameroon is looking into this matter with an eye toward making it easier for hunters to get their visas and gun import paperwork. But there’s no guarantee that anything will actually be done. For the record, I’m told these kinds of problems have occurred with Cameroonian embassies all over the world. A word to the wise should be sufficient….
And finally, congratulations are in order for several African PHs honored recently by the African Professional Hunters Association. Of particular note is Eric Pasanisi of Tanganyika Wildlife Safari, who received the John Sharp Award for Dangerous Game, as well as The Ox of Okavango Award. The dangerous game award was for that 82 x 83 pound jumbo Pasanisi lead a client to in Tanzania this past season. You can see the photo in the Trophy Gallery section of our web site. The Ox of Okavango Award is for Pasanisi’s generous support and leadership in heading off the lion crisis this past year. You can read more about that in this issue of John Jackson’s Conservation Force Bulletin delivered with your Hunting Report.
For the best trophy non-dangerous game taken, Harpreet Brar received the Robin Hurt Award. Brar led Hunting Report subscriber Mike Ambrose to a lesser kudu that measures 35½ inches and 36 inches long with bases of 7½ inches. The trophy is a contender for the number one spot in the SCI record book.
(See photo in the Trophy Gallery section of our web site.) Other APHA Award winners include Johnny Chipman for the Young Professional Hunter Award, and Roger and Katherine Flahive for The APHA Hunter Conservation Award. You can read more about APHA’s award program on their web site at www.africanpha.org. – Get in a good safari somewhere on the Dark Continent this season. - Barbara Crown.