First Indigenous Big Game Professional Hunter

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First Indigenous Big Game Professional Hunter

WINDHOEK – History in the making. It’s groundbreaking. That is Abiliu Hihuilepo. Being the first indigenous Namibian registering as a big game professional hunter, he is now set to plough back into his homeland.

Abiliu succeeded where none of his peers have. He fits the profile of a professional hunter like a glove, being multi-skilled – a tracker, marksman, mechanic, chef, expert on fauna and flora and multilingual. Personal traits such as endless patience, high integrity, being steadfast in the face of danger and never losing sense of humour add to his expertise as a big game professional hunter.

Abiliu’s breakthrough came when he tied the knot with Savannah Safaris Namibia as an economic partner. As director and shareholder in Savannah Safaris Namibia, he is a prime example of how – when provided with the opportunity – a combination of natural talent and hard work leads to success.

Hands on Knowledge Paves the Way to the Top
From herding cattle in Owamboland to mingling with sophisticated guests from all over the world, he makes it look so easy. Born in Ombalantu in 1953, the fourth of 11 children, he grew up hunting with the traditional bow and arrow, acquiring his skills in tracking and knowledge of the veldt.

Col. Bill Williamson from Austin, Texas, wrote: “I have hunted with guides and professional hunters throughout north America, Africa and Asia. None is more knowledgeable about the flora in their area than Abiliu. He has an uncanny knack of thinking like the quarry and predicting its every mood. He is as good as they come – a real professional. I am proud to call him my friend.”

As a young man, Abiliu worked mostly on farms in Angola and Namibia, before teaming up with Bryan Connock. They were together for 30 years as friends and partners, catching birds for export, doing commercial fishing and later hunting. Together they offered hunting safaris all over Southern Africa. He describes Abiliu as a natural marksman and a better tracker than the San –“he can track a mouse over a tennis court”.

He remembers failing his first attempt at passing the stringent examinations set by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).

Through perseverance he passed his theoretical and practical examinations to register as a professional hunter 10 years ago. Ben Beytel, currently Director: Scientific Services at the MET was the examiner. “He complained that I knew too much!” chuckles Abiliu.

This was a historic breakthrough for a indigenous Namibian who only attended school up to Grade 6.

Savannah Safaris acquired one of the first trophy hunting concessions in a Namibian Conservancy area. Since 1998 they have been involved in a highly successful joint venture with the Torra Conservancy in Damaraland, north-western Namibia, where trophy hunting, eco-tourism, conservation projects and the local community’s farming activities have managed to thrive together. The Torra Conservancy has received numerous awards and international recognition for successfully managing this complex balancing act.

Trophy Hunting and Conservation in Harmony
Whereas it often seems incongruous to uninformed outsiders that trophy hunting can harmonise with conservation, Abiliu regards it as most logical and natural. He believes most trophy hunters are passionate about conservation, and the beauty is that mostly older animals are removed without disturbing reproduction.

Game has now become a valuable asset and his personal experience is supported by scientific surveys that game numbers in Namibia has increased significantly since his younger days. He observes a rigorous growth, not only in common plains game like oryx and springbok, but also the more fragile species like cheetah, lion and elephant. Damaraland also has a thriving population of black rhino.

Abiliu is proud and feels fortunate to be involved in the trophy hunting and tourism industry. This is a career with opportunities, where competency is more important than luck, race or politics. Apart from his own passion for the veldt and the positive effect it has on conservation, he sees hunting as benefiting Namibia as a whole. Increasing numbers of influential guests are visiting the country, creating jobs, spending money and leaving impressed and as good ambassadors. He regards Namibia as the best place in the world, although he is keen to travel more extensively.

His roots are still in Ombalantu where he has land, but he also owns a house in Swakopmund where he spends the off-season break with his family. Apart from his own partnership with Henk Fourie and Willem Annandale in Savannah Safaris, it has also become a family affair. His wife Johanna is the camp manager, while his eldest son Ambrosius (26) is also a PH and working for the company. The other son Ludwig (24) is a tour guide, while Beatrice (22) recently completed her IT studies in South Africa. Rosalia (20) is currently studying in Wellington, South Africa.

Source: New Era Namibia
 

Shallom

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Great news for indigenous people all over Africa... It is a worthy step forward. Really good to hear that Abiliu has embraced everything that comes with Professional Hunting as many have the misconception that it is only about bush skills. My trackers are amazing hunters and posess natural bush skills and instinct - but the language barrier and lack of adaptation in the other areas (medicine/mechanics/PR/cuisine/entertainment) are the only factors that will stop them becoming a modern-day PH.

I say 'adaptation' because they have the knowledge of medicine/cooking/fixing, and very effective I must say, but not to the taste of modern expectations. Slowly, but surely, the gaps will be bridged and I just hope that BOTH sides of the bridge realise their responsibilities and both work equally to bridge the gap sooner rather than later.

Born and raised in Tanzania and starting my outdoor life at a very early age, i am still in awe of the stories and experiences of the indigenous people who live in the field from day one! Their skill is from on-hands experience and cannot be beat! I grew-up with my tracker from our teenage years to now and his late father, was my fathers tracker! Nothing will compare to the knowledge we have gained and skill we have experienced from these two great Tanzanians! It is a pity they could not engage as well with the many guests we have had over the years - but we do our best to convey their character and personalities - the skill and knowledge is there to be seen everyday spent in the field. More indigenous africans should be given the chance to directly engage with guests to this special continent.

Once again Jerome - thanks for keeping us all informed on hapenings around Africa.
 

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