I was aghast to read about the allegations of corruption at Johannesburg International Airport in your October report. As a proud South African and confident that corruption was no more widespread in our country than in any other western democracy, the allegations of corruption at the airport gave me real pause for thought. Were we becoming yet another African basket case where shakedown artists start at immigration and customs control and never let up until you leave the country?
I was delighted to read in the November report of the response, both by the airport and the security company. Having said that, however, it was the uncompromising approach of the subscriber concerned and the follow up by The Hunting Report which triggered the reaction by the two companies. I would like to commend both you and the subscriber, as I believe this is the only response to corruption. To give in is the thin end of the edge.
On another matter completely, I returned four days ago from a three-week hunt with Nassos Roussos of Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris. I spent nine days in the Omo Valley, where I shot lesser kudu (32 inches), Abyssinian bushbuck (10 inches), northern Grant's gazelle (26 1/2 inches), tiang (22 inches), Beisa oryx (27 inches) and Guenther's dik-dik (3 1/2 inches). I then spent the rest of the time in the Munessa Forest (south-east of Addis Ababa - five hours by car) and shot mountain nyala (30 inches) and Menelik's bushbuck (14 1/2 inches).
I hunted for four weeks in Ethiopia two years ago with another safari outfitter for mountain nyala and Menelik's bushbuck and, after three weeks, of extremely hard and diligent hunting, did not see an adult male of either species. This was, without doubt, my worst safari experience in Africa. As such, it was with fear and trepidation that I followed the recommendations of an experienced Mexican, Alejandra Cuellar and booked with Roussos. To date, I have had the privilege and pleasure of hunting with exactly 31 different professional hunters in Africa. Of these, I have hunted with nine on more than one occasion, Nassos Roussos is, in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best, of all these professionals.
My recent safari in Ethiopia was a mirror image of my previous efforts in that country. Right from the start things were different. Roussos was at the airport at 6:00 in the morning to meet me, personally, and on his knowledge of the hunting areas, knowledge of the animals and their habitat, his equipment, camp facilities, well trained staff and good food -- to name but a few of the major topics upon which I base my assessment of a professional hunter and a safari outfitter--Nassos scored extremely high. However, what I liked most was how hard he worked to obtain really good trophies for me and, unlike the "whack `em and stack `em" older, jaded and cynical professional hunters one meets occasionally in Africa, Nassos seems to have as much energy and enthusiasm for hunting as a young man fresh out of college. I will always remember the whoop of delight and the excitement on his face as he held up the head of the old and battered Abyssinian bushbuck ram which I shot on my last morning in the Omo Valley (we had to catch a charter flight at mid-day). I had been tempted to call hunting a day, the night before (if that doesn't sound too confusing) and take the following morning off! Many pros would have welcomed the break. Nassos merely looked down his nose at me and said, `fat chance!'
Yes, I did have my disappointments I bought a license for Neumann's hartebeest and never saw one, as they had not migrated from the Mago National Park. Nassos, however, has promised me one on the house should I return. I wanted an eastern bush duiker to complete my collection of African bush duikers and we saw only two and, fleetingly, at that. However, they were low on my list of priorities. Finally, I shot a mediocre Beisa oryx but this was the best I could do given time pressure and I shot the animal because I had enjoyed the hunt and stalk and it seemed a logical and fitting conclusion despite the size. Having said that, the quality of the rest of the animals was outstanding and the tiang, dik-dik and Menelik's bushbuck should make the SCI top 10 based on our careful field measurements.
On my first full day in the Munessa Forest, I saw three Menelik's bushbuck rams and two females as well as two mountain nyala bulls and eight females. If I had been prepared to gamble, I am sure that I could have shot a larger mountain nyala. As it was, I shot the smallest of the five mountain nyala that Nassos has taken this year. My decision to take the mountain nyala in question was strongly influenced by my lack of success on my previous hunt and my reluctance to risk returning home empty handed yet again. In addition, the bull was a magnificent, mature with very heavy (10 1/2 inch circumference) bases to his horns. He also offered me a classic three quarter pose as he looked at me from the opposite side of the ravine a mere 120 meters away. I could just not resist. The only disappointment here was that, despite repeated promises and assurances, the Ethiopian Wildlife Department failed to issue me with a license for Abyssinian greater kudu in the Aluta Mountains. I had paid for this license a full month before my arrival in Ethiopia and Nassos refunded me the cost of the license.
There is talk that Ethiopia might open Nile lechwe and white-eared kob and the regional authorities have expressed their keenness, in writing, to the Ethiopian Wildlife Authorities. It is really difficult to understand the attitude of this department. Unfortunately, the only words I can find to describe them are lazy, ineffective, inefficient and corrupt. They do not seem to care about the fate or future of wildlife in Ethiopia, nor seem to understand the tremendously positive effect that carefully controlled hunting could bring to the wildlife and people in the more remote regions of Ethiopia. If I look at the improvements that Roussos has produced for the people and wildlife in the Omo Valley (where he has been operating for 17 years), it should be plain for even the blind to see. He employs 25 people and the results of his conservation and anti-poaching efforts can be clearly seen in the abundant and tranquil wildlife as well as the improving trophy standards. Roussos employs his own game guards, all year round, in each of his concessions and, for example, despite the relatively small 250 square kilometer Munessa Forest concession employs six full time game guards in this region along. You have only to see the enthusiasm of these people for hunting and their relative prosperity to their neighbors, to realize how important the knock on effect of hunting is in these regions.
Suffice it to say, that despite having now completed successful hunts for all nine spiral horned species, I will, God willing, return to Ethiopia to hunt with Nassos Roussos, for the experience of hunting in this most extraordinary country and for the sheer pleasure of hunting with a true professional.