Why hunt Africa?
Why hunt Africa?
by Kevin Thomas
There are a number of reasons why I'd recommend sport hunters consider Africa a good hunting venue. It goes without saying; the sheer variety of plains game available (and dangerous game) can become truly confusing to the first-timer (and even to 'old' Africa hands). Not everyone understands that Africa is made up of sovereign nations, and is not a 'United States' like the US.
However, and as is the case in some US states, each African nation has its own unique habitat and terrain, which in turn allows a variety of different species to survive and proliferatethus for the dedicated trophy hunter, it might mean a number of visits over time to different African nations to secure all the trophies sought.
Africa has a lot to offer other than just hunting, although this too will vary from nation to nation. South Africa and Namibia in particular afford a host of interest activities in a developed world environment. There are superb National Parks, wonderful modern shopping malls, fantastic scenery and places of interest to visit, art galleries, and excellent beaches with great shoreline fishing by way of rock & surf and challenging deep-sea fishing.
Hunting wise, these two countries more than any other in Africa have an organized highly developed and well-managed game ranch driven safari industry. South Africa has a wider selection of huntable plains game (antelope) than any other African nation. South Africa and Namibia are the ideal venues for a first time hunter visiting Africa, it is the perfect way to 'grow' into, and become 'tuned' to hunting in Africa (a case of learning to walk before you can run).What's more, both destinations are the ideal for young hunters and for family groups because wives and non-hunting observers will never become bored.
From certain sectors of the international sport hunting fraternity, there has been, and still is an element of negativity towards the concept of 'game ranch hunting' or as it is more often referred to in the US, 'hunting behind wire?'. This is both unreasonable and unfortunate, because no matter how we look at it, the future of Africa's wildlife and now more than ever before, lies in the 'Game Ranch or larger landmass 'Wildlife Conservancy' concept. Poaching is now rampant in much of Africa, governance in many places is grossly corrupt, and unaccountablemore like criminal syndicates than governmentsand human encroachment, habitat destruction through development, logging, and mining is also having a truly negative effect on our remaining wildlife reservoirs outside of conservancies and game ranches.
China's footprint in Africa is growing by the day, and is definitely, despite denials, a new form of colonialism creeping subtly, yet determinedly across the face of Africa. With it has come a huge demand for illegal ivory and rhino horn, two days before I sat down to write this, 41 elephant were found dead in Zimbabwe's renowned Hwange National Park, with their tusks chopped outthey'd died as a result of their waterholes having been poisoned with cyanide by local tribesmen.
Granted, arrests were made, yet this is merely the tip of the iceberg, more than a 100 elephant will now also possibly die, not to mention the many other species, including birds, including scavengers and other opportunistic predators feeding on the carcasses. South Africa this year alone has also lost more than 600 rhino to poachers (mainly in the Kruger National Park); it is rapidly reaching a tipping point if the poaching continues at this rate.
Readers might wonder what the poaching aspect has to do with a question asking why hunt Africa. I'm merely using these figures and incidents to reinforce the undeniable fact that Africa has reached a stage whereby wildlife available to paying sport hunters is ultimately going to be doomed outside of conservancies and game ranchesit is a truism and cannot be denied.
There is no stigma to hunting behind game fences, and it can be just as 'fair chase' as hunting an unfenced game block in a concessionthe criteria though is size. How big is the game ranch? To my mind and experience anything of 8,000 acres plus, offers ample opportunity for a fair chase hunt, and also affords a physically demanding hunting experience. Prospective clientele, however, must thoroughly research the area they are going to hunt, look at the species they are going to hunt, and all else linked to what the safari operator or his agent are offering.
True plains dwellers like springbok, gemsbok, hartebeest, black wildebeest, zebra etc need space and plenty of it. Savannah and woodland dwellers like eland, kudu, blue wildebeest, warthog, and impala also need space; however, and unlike their more northern cousins the southern greater kudu, here in South Africa's Eastern Cape, the kudu dwell in valley bushveld thickets and along densely wooded kloofs (cliffs), as does the challenging bushbuck, therefore a hunter may not traverse as vast an area as he might for the true plains dwellers. If he is seeking southern mountain reedbuck and the grey rhebuck, he is in for a physical challenge in rugged mountainous terrain, and needs to be fit.
Our diminutive blue duiker lives in the coastal dune forests and can be effectively hunted in these smaller island type thickets. Nocturnal bushpig are shot from a blind over bait at night, or bayed with hounds during the day (one needs to be fit for a hound hunt, be it bushpig or caracal (lynx). The list goes on and visiting hunters must ensure they get all of the answers they require before going on safari.
Types of Safari:
Africa basically offers two types of safari hunting experiences viz. the conservancy/game ranch experience (behind game fences), and the true 'classical safari' experience (vast open concessions or hunting blocks) in the more remote unfenced hunting areas. Classical safari isn't available in its true sense in South Africa, because the country is well developed. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Tanzania are the main classical African safari venues. These classical safaris use as their main attractants, the hunting of dangerous game such as elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, hippo, crocodile etc plus antelope, warthog and other sundry species like hyena.
South Africa does offer buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion (some on excellent landmasses)however one must research thoroughly, how and where these hunts are to take place because the 'put & shoot' system (buying game at wildlife auctions and releasing it prior to the client's arrival) is not an ethical hunting practice at all, but it does happen, and more particularly so with buffalo and certain of the larger plains game species.
If a hunter isn't afforded the opportunity to see at least a few herds of healthy looking buffalo on his hunting venue, and numerous solitary bulls or bachelor groups, all may not be well. Shooting the first and only buffalo seen for the entire hunt duration, isn't exactly a 'safari' experience. The shooting of captive bred lion too, is also controversial; however, it has not been legislated against in South Africa, and therefore is legal, so a hunter who is not comfortable with this form of lion shooting must ensure he isn't sold a hunt of this nature prior to arrival.
African classical safari is always a lot more expensive than game ranch hunts by way of daily rates and related costs, this is because of the logistical problems involved with stocking, supplying, building camps & roads (seasonally) and accessing by charter flights the remote areas in Africa, where a classical safari normally takes place, also because of game department license fees, hunting block conservation fees (an anti-poaching levy) trophy fees etc.
South Africa and Namibia (and Zimbabwe to a slightly lesser extent) afford inbound hunters easy collection and drop-off, which is normally done by vehicle due to the hunting venues proximity to the point of arrival, which also offers a saving on costs. South Africa and Namibia also have first class private hospitals and medical facilities within easy reach.
I'd also venture that the most expensive part of coming to Africa on a plains game hunt only, is the airfare/return from the US or anywhere else for that matter. The variety of plains game and the cost thereof to shoot say 10 trophy animals here in southern Africa on a 10/day hunt still costs less than some hunts in the US for one animal.
In closure, I'd say hunting Africa is a good safari venue choice, a lifetime experience, and it invariably leads to one being bitten by the Africa 'hunting bug'which means you'll return (often)! Good luck & Good Hunting.