The Sum of the Parts.
By Zig Mackintosh

According to the anti-hunting lobby, hunters do nothing for wildlife conservation. Even when irrefutable proof that controlled, sustainable hunting is an effective conservation tool is shoved under their noses, it’s dismissed as “fake news”. It is no secret that the animal rights’ agenda is to make as much money as possible out of unsuspecting donors through demonizing hunters and hunting. They will never admit that hunters can be conservationists. There is no point in trying to change the minds of these people, but we do need to make our case to the general public.

The objective of the “Custodians of Wilderness” video series is to document the anti-poaching operations and community work of select hunting outfitters across Africa. To date four episodes have been completed.

The Tanzanian episode relates the daily trials and tribulations of four outfitters who operate in different areas of the country. Their government firmly believes in the sustainable use of natural resources and has categorized wildlife areas according to how they are utilized. If wildlife cannot be sustainably utilized in these areas, the cattle herders and farmers will move in and the game will disappear. This has already happened in areas where safari operators have had to pull out, and 60 700 sq. kilometers of wilderness has been lost in this way.

The Dande Anti-Poaching Unit, DAPU, was set up by Charlton McCallum Safaris in the Dande Safari area in the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe. This is a strategic conservation area because it forms a vital corridor between the Zimbabwean National Parks controlled areas to the west and Mozambique to the east. With a limited budget this anti-poaching unit has had tremendous success, but the viability of safari hunting has been seriously compromised by the US Fish and Wildlife Service ban on the importation of elephant and lion trophies into the USA.

Jason Roussos is a native fourth-generation Ethiopian and co-owner of Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris. He is a professional hunter, but also has a degree in wildlife biology. He has spent his whole life in the Ethiopian wilderness and has a deep understanding of the land and its people. In “Custodians of Wilderness: Ethiopia” Jason explains the link between safari hunting, mountain nyala, and the preservation of the Afro-montane woodland of central Ethiopia.

During Mozambique’s protracted civil war, the security situation made safari hunting impossible. Anarchy reigned as wildlife across the country was decimated. The Zambezi delta became a butchery to feed the troops on both sides of the war. The local bush meat trade thrived. Buffalo populations that were estimated to be in the region of 45 000 fell to around 1 200; waterbuck numbers shrank from 100 000 to 2 500. Species such as sable, hartebeest, eland, nyala and zebra were just about wiped out. In 1992 Mark Haldane and Zambeze Delta Safaris took over Coutada 11 and set about rehabilitating the area. The company’s anti-poaching and community work has proved a tremendous success, and today the buffalo population in the whole of the Zambezi Delta region has increased to around 20 000. Sable numbers are now up to 6 000 from a low of 44. It is now one of the greatest concentration of the species in Africa today. Waterbuck, zebra, hartebeest and other smaller game species have also dramatically increased in numbers. But it is the capacity to generate money through safari hunting that enables Zambeze Delta Safaris to invest in the area. If the company is not able to turn a profit, there is no incentive to be there at all. There is a real and present danger that foreign laws such as those enforced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service will be the single factor that puts the company out of business, thus ensuring that the area is turned back into a desolate wasteland.

The “Custodians of Wilderness” series is focusing on the higher profile hunting outfitters to clearly illustrate what is happening on the ground. But there are numerous hunting companies across Africa whose work goes unheralded. These are the guys who may not have same resources as the bigger companies, but who understand that anti-poaching and community work is critical to the survival of their areas and the wildlife within. These outfitters are more vulnerable than the bigger companies to the machinations of foreign organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Safari hunting companies, big or small, that undertake anti-poaching and community work need to be supported. So next time you are considering an African hunting safari, keep that in mind.