REPORT: Trophaendienste Taxidermy Namibia - Beware

Discussion in 'Taxidermy' started by blacks, Oct 20, 2017.

  1. blacks

    blacks AH Veteran

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    Apologies in advance for the lengthy report, but I feel this is important to share. In May 2016 I took my first safari to Africa. We chose to hunt at Kowas Safaris in Namibia and everything about the hunt was absolutely first class, more than I’d ever hoped for. I’d repeat the hunt in a heartbeat and recommend Kowas to anyone, first safari or fiftieth. I'm a blue-collar guy who has to save for a few years to go on safari, working two jobs, and every dollar spent at Kowas was well invested.

    However, this fantastic experience has unfortunately ended on a bitter note due to my decision to follow a recommendation to use Trophaendienste Taxidermy in Windhoek, who destroyed all of my skins. I don’t intend this to be a beat-up, however if I was considering which taxidermy company to use on a hunt, this is info that I’d want to know, and I think I owe it to my fellow hunter to pass it on. I will stick to the facts, give credit where credit is due, and vice-versa. Everything I state here I have saved in email form to back up what I am saying.

    Just a little background, I am a Taxidermist from Australia. It is almost impossible to import green salted capes here, hence my decision to have capes tanned in Africa and return them to me with cleaned skulls for mounting. I did a lot of research into this, including thoroughly questioning Trophaendienste on their methods/materials etc; and upon landing in Windhoek we undertook an extensive tour of their facility during which they were very helpful. I won’t say too much on the quality of their mounts as it doesn’t affect me, but let’s just say that what I saw varied quite a lot. The showroom was certainly in interesting place to look around however.

    Following the hunt I emailed a complete list of my trophies with instructions sheet to Trophaendienste, and Kowas arranged for my trophies to be delivered there promptly. All good so far with clear communications, a deposit of 50% was paid and the wait commenced. I was pleasantly surprised when in late October 2016 I received notification that my trophies were ready to ship. I made arrangements with Raitt International to handle the import here in Australia, with Namibia Safari Services doing the freight. All payments were transferred promptly and I collected my carton from Melbourne airport freight on November 3, 2016. Almost 6 months from the day that I started my hunt, I was impressed.

    In total I had 8 trophies: Kudu skull & cape, Oryx skull & cape, Impala skull & cape, Red Hartebeest skull & cape, Warthog skull & cape, Springbok skull & cape, Springbok skull & full body skin, Steenbok skull & full body skin.

    My trophies were packed in a large cardboard carton. Horns were wrapped in plastic on top of the folded capes, all packed in shredded paper. Everything appeared OK, all trophies were most definitely mine and still carried the tags in Ansie Strauss’ handwriting that she most diligently placed on each part immediately after each hunt. Skulls were well cleaned, the smaller guys were a little chalky from bleaching but on the whole I was happy with the skull preparation.

    The capes however, were a different matter. It soon became obvious that they hadn’t been shaved properly, with a large portion of the face on each cape not thinned, a thick lump of rock hard hide being the result. But it got (much) worse from there as I started to rehydrate the capes to prepare for mounting. Using my usual salt water mix I dropped in a Springbok cape first. After 20 minutes I gave it a test and my heart sank. As I lifted the cape out of the water it literally tore under its own weight – like wet cardboard, straight across the face.

    Immediately I emailed Louw Nel, the owner of Trophaendienste with a couple of photos of this springbok. I hoped it was just the one bad cape, but I feared the worst. Louw replied back that I needed to rehydrate the capes in tanning solution. I knew this should not be necessary with properly tanned capes, but to avoid any comeback on myself I rehydrated the other 7 capes in the recipe of tanning solution suggested.

    Long story short, all 8 capes were ruined and unusable, tearing like wet cardboard, and having large sections that were rock hard and would not rehydrate at all. I was absolutely gutted. At that point I honestly felt like I never wanted to venture to Africa again. My worst nightmares were realised.

    A couple of photos to illustrate the condition :

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]


    After some back and forth via email, Louw did some tests and in mid-December 2016 got back to me. They had been using a softening liquor in the tanning solution, and following advice from the company that supplies it, they had given them an additional coat of this liquor after tanning. Tests revealed that this is what was destroying the capes. And worse still, they had already used it on many other customers tanned capes, including my mate Mark’s 10 trophies from the same hunt. I’ve since discovered that at least ten more Australian clients have had their capes destroyed in this stuff up, probably totalling into the hundreds of animals.

    To his credit, Louw accepted full responsibility and offered to replace our capes. I appreciated him going to the effort of finding out what was at fault. In a way I am happy that a cause for the fault was found, as it will hopefully now not affect any other customer's hard-won trophies. But this obviously doesn't help replace mine and I'll forever have half of someone else's animals on my wall.

    As a taxidermist myself, I did a lot of research before entrusting my trophies to Trophaendienste. I also kept a close eye on the excellent job that Kowas and their staff did with my trophies from the moment they were on the ground. Being my first safari to Africa, this was a lifelong dream come true for me, and I'm devastated to have to end it on a sour note, and this has certainly weakened my desire to return. Tanning of capes should be a very routine task for any large taxidermy company, our work was not out of the ordinary nor should not have caused any difficulties, and I'm simply astounded that they would use a chemical on customer’s skins that wasn't thoroughly tested beforehand! In hindsight, the varying quality of mounts I witnessed in their showroom should have been a warning to the obvious lack of consistent quality control that this company displays.

    At this stage I had already paid the full amount in good faith to receive my trophies in the condition one would expect, and this had not occurred. I consider the cape to be 50% of the trophy, all of my animals had unique features that cannot be replicated, and neither can the memories. So at the end of the day, while I appreciated the offer of replacements, it still meant that we had paid full price for a less than satisfactory outcome, which is not really fair in my books.

    After some more negotiation, we all agreed to the terms of replacement capes and a partial refund to cover the tanning portion, meaning that I paid for skull cleaning, packing, shipping and of course, clearance here. I figured this was about the best of a bad situation. This was prior to Christmas 2016 and our replacement capes were promised to arrive around March 2017.

    Over the coming months of the New Year, communications from Trophaendienste dried up, and at all times it was us that had to initiate dialogue. March came and went and no capes. I had trouble getting my refunded portion paid back, as their bank seemed incompatible with mine, even though it was the same account I used to pay my bill via online transfer. Over the coming months I suggested several different options for the refund and eventually received a VISA refund at the end of June 2017, six months later.

    In July 2017, we received notification that our replacement capes were ready for shipping, but that export permits now needed to be reapplied for. Another frustrating few months went by trying to get straight answers, before finally some good news; I received my replacement box of capes on October 10th, 2017; seventeen months after my hunt, and almost a year after discovering the issues with my original capes.

    During this frustrating time I must acknowledge the assistance I received from the Strauss family at Kowas, who were following the process and actively assisted on a number of occasions, both in helping with cape replacement, and some timely emails rattling a few cages when we were struggling to obtain updates on our shipments. Once again an example of how they will go ‘above & beyond’ for their clients. Also I will give credit to Harald from Namibia Safari Services, as he always gave us straight answers and was good to deal with.

    I’ve now had time to rehydrate my replacement capes and begin to prepare them for mounting. Nothing can replace my original skins and the replacements certainly weren’t caped to the same high standard that Christian from Kowas exhibited with my originals. However, I’m happy to say that the majority appear useable notwithstanding a couple of ssues. Luckily I have fared better than several other Aussies it seems, whose replacement capes have been far less than satisfactory. In fact, some I've seen are complete garbage….but that is not my battle to fight and I guess I am fortunate to have what I received. As I mentioned, quality control is certainly not their strong point!

    My replacement 'quality' Springbok cape...this one I'll be able to fix...

    [​IMG]


    I don’t wish to discourage anyone from hunting in Namibia. It’s a beautiful, friendly country, and the hunting there is outstanding. By all means, you should hunt in Namibia, and by all means, you should certainly hunt with Kowas Hunting Safaris. But I could not in all good faith recommend that you ever consider using Trophaendienste Taxidermy.

    Thanks for reading. I hope nobody else has to go through the same saga.

    Regards

    Tim
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2017
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  2. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH Legend

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    Heartbreaking sir. I really feel for you. I would hope Kowas will not use them in the future. No one should go through this no matter where the hunt is. If you ever go back I suggest Kings Taxidermy in Windhoek.
     
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  3. CAustin

    CAustin BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Very sorry this happened to you sir!
     
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  4. reedy0312

    reedy0312 AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for sharing this unfortunate account with us. Sorry for you and hope the replacement capes work out.
     
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  5. Mark R

    Mark R AH Senior Member

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    It has been pretty heartbreaking to say the least. I was told everything that was fully tanned was 100% in this debacle. Then this turns up.......

    20171008_080938.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2017
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  6. blacks

    blacks AH Veteran

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    Indeed Mark. If that butchered and painted zebra skin is what they call '100%', I'd hate to see 75% :(

    Blacks
     

  7. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH Legend

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    I can really sympathize. What a pain to have to go through. I've had some problems myself. Good luck on getting them cleaned up and put together. Bruce
     

  8. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Bloody sad news. :sick:

    Thanks for passing the news along.
    Glad the Outfitter stuck with their client until the end of the nightmare. (As they should)

    They may want to find someone else to "suggest".
     
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  9. Mark R

    Mark R AH Senior Member

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    The end of the nightmare isn't here yet unfortunately :(

    Cheers,
    Mark.
     

  10. sierraone

    sierraone SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Man I am so sorry this BS happened to you!
     

  11. Nyati

    Nyati AH Ambassador

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    Sorry to hear that. I´ve had a couple of issues with RSA taxidermists myself, and I only do skull mounts !
     

  12. 85Tecate

    85Tecate AH Senior Member

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    Well shit! I'm in ATL airport right now heading to Namibia and planned to use this company. May have to rethink that decision
     

  13. Wheels

    Wheels AH Legend

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    Bummer. That is absolutely horrible.
     

  14. Adrian

    Adrian AH Enthusiast

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    Interesting. My trophies from a couple of weeks ago are with them.
    I would be interested in any more views on this company.
    Good or bad.
     
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  15. Wheels

    Wheels AH Legend

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    Tim,

    Sorry you have had such problems. I too have had problems with Trophaendienste. It all happened before I was a member on AH, so I never wrote up the problem like you have just done.


    I have mentioned my problems with them in 3-4 threads. Here are a couple of those that I found with a quick search:

    https://www.africahunting.com/threads/namibia-windhoek-taxidermy.39140/#post-369366

    https://www.africahunting.com/threads/namibia-it-is.24944/#post-235130



    I feel bad for not making a complete write up long before now. Perhaps you wouldn't have had the experience you had. So, here are the major problems I had with Trophaendienste Taxidermy. They include:


    Hartman's rug - They shaved/tanned apx. 20 holes all the way through the hide and made no attempt to sew them back together. The size varies from pencil diameter to half dollar diameter. Also, face is sewn on at an angle. If you get up close, the overall quality is extremely poor. I have a burchell's rug in my office as I write this that is over 50 years old that is in much better condition than the Hartman's. It has had a chair and peoples feet on it for years and the hair isn't breaking off or slipping. The quality doesn't compare.

    upload_2017-10-20_16-57-38.png






    Gemsbok - The one I shot isn't the one they shipped to me. It is a completely different animal. Hair on the cape slipped badly. A lot of airbrush to make it look like hair. Notice different horn shape.

    upload_2017-10-20_16-55-47.png

    upload_2017-10-20_16-56-43.png


    A Jackal skull was way over boiled. It came in apx. 20 pieces of bone with no attempt of reassembling it. Teeth were all out as well. Total of probably over 40 pieces in bubble wrap. I have no photos. I just threw it away.

    Kudu horns were way over boiled and dried out with splits 1/8 " wide all the way through the horn. 4-6 applications of linseed oil got the horns looking presentable. Hair on cape had slipped badly. I threw it away.

    Trophaendienste just didn't care. They ignored my emails. I was told they were the best in Windhoek. Would hate to know what second best was at the time. My recommendation would be to not use them if you have any other choice.

    Thanks for the post. Hopefully it will help future hunters to Namibia!
     

  16. Wheels

    Wheels AH Legend

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    This is the photo of the cockeyed face on the zebra. For some reason it wouldn't print on the above post.

    upload_2017-10-20_17-38-6.png
     
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  17. Luis Medina

    Luis Medina New Member

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    I highly reccommend Otjandaue Hunting Safaris. Janet does a very professional job and of very good quality
     
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  18. Mekaniks

    Mekaniks GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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  19. Dr Ray

    Dr Ray AH Elite

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    Omg what a disaster.
     
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  20. Dr Ray

    Dr Ray AH Elite

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    Thank you for this post. I’m sure we will all be very wary of the company now.
     

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