To start with, I am hearing that the Congolese government is truly interested in making hunting safaris work and that several NGO's there are coming to the position that safari hunting could have a positive role in conservation, especially in buffer areas around the parks. One source said, "I think this was always the case, and the closure of bongo hunting in 2000 was an individual's motivation (by a WCS researcher) and not WCS policy per se." This person went on to say that the timing of operator Gert Saaiman's problems on his first safaris there and the subsequent publicity came just as the Congolese government has re-opened bongo hunting and is working with at least one other organization to establish safari hunting. "This bad publicity will undermine marketing and attempts to find interested safari operators to occupy hunting concessions. I do not believe the picture portrayed is a true reflection of conditions in Congo, but rather the result of shortcuts, absentee management, connections'&"
Apparently, there are several efforts in the works in Congo, and they are developing slowly but surely, I'm told. Even though bongo has been downlisted there, Congo still has a way to go before safaris can be conducted under these other efforts. "Any new operation will have teething problems," I was warned. That's exactly why I told readers that only experienced, adventurous types with a high tolerance for things going wrong should try these first safaris.
So, what does Gert Saaiman (email@example.com) have to say about all this? He wrote me to express his disappointment with my November report. "It's never easy opening a hunting operation in........(continued)