(Editor Note: In the March 2010 issue of The Hunting Report, we informed subscribers of the murder of PH Andre De Kock, who was shot by professional poachers in Tanzania on February 18th. Following is the detailed account of what happened. It was sent directly to The Hunting Report by Robin Hurt of Robin Hurt Safaris, for whom De Kock served as a Professional Hunter.)
"It is with a heavy heart, that I must inform you that tragically, Andre De Kock, one of our most senior Professional Hunters, was killed yesterday the 18th February at about 9 am, by elephant poachers armed with AK47 automatic rifles, in the Maswa Game Reserve area of Tanzania. I understand poor Andre was killed instantly. This was all reported and relayed to me by telephone. This is as accurate a report as possible, given the circumstances.
"Two trackers and one game scout were also wounded in the shootings. They are in hospital in Arusha and in stable condition, with veteran tracker Eliamani Marugwe being shot in his wrist and legs with three bullets, and tracker Isiah Katambi shot in the thigh. Eliamani does not need any operations, but Isiah will undergo an operation on Monday. The Government Game Scout Ngassa Kitela was shot in the arm and his foot, but fortunately his wounds are minor.
"Derek Hurt flew up to Maswa to recover Andre. David Markham and Jonathan Howells, in our respective Nairobi and Arusha offices, sent in aircraft to bring the clients and their photographer back to Arusha, and the wounded trackers to hospital. Needless to say, everyone has been shaken by this incident. Only one client was in the field, hunting with Andre. The other client was in camp. Luckily the client in the field and the photographer, and the vehicle mechanic were unhurt. Derek said that at least 20 bullets had hit the car, many more would have passed amongst the passengers in the rear. He said it was miraculous that no more people were hit by this hail of bullets.
"Apparently the hunting group was driving along looking for game, as normal, when the trackers spotted some movement in the bush. They drove the Land Cruiser over to check what it was, saw a blue bag on the ground, stopped, and were immediately fired upon with no warning whatsoever by the heavily armed poaching gang of eight or nine people, all with weapons, at point blank range. The poachers shot at the car and the occupants, without any warning, or provocation from the hunters, resulting in the fatality and injuries. Andre was driving the car. The client, photographer, mechanic (all three uninjured) and one tracker, and the Game Scout (even though both were injured) managed to run off into the bush and escape. The other tracker, Isiah, crawled into a bush 20 yards away for the car to conceal himself. The others walked back to camp, a couple of hours away, and raised the alarm.
"This is a most unusual occurrence, as poachers normally avoid hunting parties. This definitely was not a retaliation by the poachers, as they were NOT threatened in any way. Being such a well armed gang indicates they were not local Maswa people, as they would not have access to such an arsenal of automatic weapons. These were obviously highly professional poachers, who followed the large number of elephant that congregate in Southern Serengeti and Maswa Game Reserve at this time of the year. It was most unfortunate that the hunting party ran straight into this gang of poachers, who reacted in such an aggressive way.
"Derek on returning to the scene of the incident, together with Tanzania Government officials and anti-poaching teams, found four elephant tusks, approximately 200 rounds of AK47 ammunition, spare loaded magazines, knives, axes and weight scales, all which the poachers abandoned after the shooting, having fled. A Friedkin Conservation Foundation anti-poaching microlight, a Mwiba Holding's light aircraft, and a Serengeti National Park aircraft all scoured the area looking for the culprits, with no result. Assisting our Robin Hurt Safaris personnel on the ground were anti-poaching teams from neighbouring Mwiba Holdings & Freidkin Conservation Foundation, a team of Maswa Game Reserve field officers, the Meatu District police representatives, and a dozen or more residents from Makao village. So many people have been of incredible help and support, from aviation companies, the Knight Support paramedics who flew to the field, our neighbouring safari operators, Tanzania National Parks, and so many more friends offering their personal support, all at such short notice. A big thanks for that timely support.
"This has been, as you can imagine, very upsetting for all of us, and I can't even begin to think how this is affecting Andre's immediate family. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Andre's wife Lesley, and to his children Claire, Mathew and Kelly, and also to Andre's son-in-law Jonathan Howells. Not only was Andre a loyal and loving husband to Lesley, and a most caring father to his children, but also a superb and well respected horseman.
"I am very sorry to have to be the bearer of this awful news, and Andre's friends and loyal clients from all over the world have been deeply shocked by his untimely passing. He will be much missed by us all around the camp fire. A superb hunter and conservationist, Andre, who did so much for wildlife with his clients, did not deserve such an end.
"Now it is up to the Tanzania Government to bring these murderers to face justice. Also, it is time for both the Kenya and Tanzania Governments to deal forcibly with the escalating elephant poaching going on in eastern Africa (and in Kenya, rhino as well).
"The family will announce Andre's memorial date and venue shortly. Some of Andre's friends have already asked if they can help Lesley with school fee funding. Thank you to those who have asked, and please contact Jonathan Howells at email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Tz" - Robin Hurt.